Environment

NEPA hosts workshops for new waste regs

BY MIGUEL THOMAS Associate editor — opinion miguelt@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, December 04, 2013    

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HIGH on the laundry list of issues facing industry players at the recent series of workshops to sensitise owners and operators of plants that generate, store, treat and/or discharge effluent into the environment, was the leap in licensing and registration fees from $10,000 to $75,000 in some cases.

According to the Natural Resources Conservation (Wastewater and Sludge) Regulation 2013, which took effect on April 24 "a person who intends to operate a treatment plant for the discharge of trade effluent or sewage effluent shall apply to the authority for a licence" as per a prescribed form.

"An application made pursuant to this regulation shall be accompanied by the application fee prescribed, a compliance plan where applicable, an environmental impact assessment and any other document requested by the Authority," the Act continues.

The new fees are based on an internationally acceptable formula, which takes into consideration the level of impact a plant's wastewater and sludge effluent has on the environment, and applies discounts for good discharge practices that create benefits.

A large input of the formula, however, is the cost of industry regulation.

Oswald Chinkoo, manager of NEPA's Pollution Monitoring and Assessment Branch, explained that plant owners will have to share in the costs associated with monitoring operations and guiding them towards full compliance of the regulations. As he reviewed the details of the formula, he encouraged attendees to familiarise themselves with the "inputs as they affect respective plants", so that each operator could independently calculate licensing fees.

Renewal fees will also apply under the new regulations, which are scheduled for review every five years.

But attendees at the Kingston leg of the workshops expressed some reservation that compliance could become a moving target, but NEPA officers assured that modifications to regulations come after much consideration of best practices.

Staged across the island, the workshops were designed to foster greater understanding of the new provisions.

Marie Chambers, manager of the legal services branch at NEPA, advised that the regulations "may be subject to adjustments, if deemed necessary". She added that NEPA intends for operators to arrive at the tertiary standard of waste treatment by December 2015, noting that most plants were already designed to meet that standard.

The move comes as consciousness of the impact of waste disposal on the environment grows, particularly across middle and low-income developing countries. For its part, Jamaica has adopted the Land-Based Sources (LBS) of Marine Pollution Protocol and the Rio 20 declaration.

Customer Service Officer Levonne Hendricks-Newsome, in her walk-through of the application process, advised that operators will now be required to submit applications for specific licences to operate or modify plants, as well as to dispose of wastewater or sludge.

As part of new regulations, plant operators, upon application for the licences to operate plants and dispose of effluent, must prepare and submit audits of their present operations accompanied by compliance plans detailing the steps and timelines of plans to arrive at full compliance.

Chambers informed that plants are now expected to be equipped with flow measuring devices (meters), which will be inspected to assessment level of discharge. That, too, will impact applicable fees upon re-licensing.

She continued that "the maximum penalty for non-compliance was capped at $50,000, as it is bound by the provisions of the NRCA Act," but efforts would be pursued to have this reviewed to act as more of a motivator to compliance.

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