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High Court quashes EPA permit for Schlumberger to store, use radioactive chemicals

Justice Nareshwar Harnanan on Friday quashed an environmental permit issued by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to Schlumberger to construct a radioactive substances and materials storage and calibration facility at Houston on the East Bank of Demerara.

The High Court Judge declared that the decision of the EPA to not conduct an environmental impact assessment into the effects of the construction of the facility was illegal, ultra vires, unreasonable, and irrational, thereby breaching the Environmental Protection Act, Cap.20:05.

Judge Harnanan also granted an injunction refraining Schlumberger from continuing the possession, use, and storage of radioactive chemicals at its facility until it could obtain a lawful permit under the EPA Act.

The Judge ordered that the respondents pay the costs to the applicants, but the costs were to be assessed before being granted unless they could be agreed to among the parties.

This came after Attorneys-at-Law Siand Dhurjon, Ronald Burchsmith, and Malene Alleyne in February of this year mounted a lawsuit on behalf of three environmental activists and residents who live nearby the radioactive facility: Vanda Radzik, Danuta Radzik, and Raphael Singh.

The lawsuit named and sued the EPA, the Environmental Assessment Board, and Schlumberger Guyana Inc.

In January last, Schlumberger was approved by the environmental watchdog without any inkling of a notice given to the public to use, store and possess radioactive materials at its facility.

The public was not notified that such a permit was under consideration or sought at all by the EPA.

However, on April 11, 2022, the EPA had given notice to the public in the newspapers that Schlumberger wanted to construct a building to house the radioactive materials and that the construction process would not require an environmental impact assessment.

Upon seeing this, dozens of residents of the East Bank formally objected to the waiver of the need for an environmental impact assessment of the construction process on the grounds that an EIA was inherently necessary and that radioactive materials should not be used and located close to schools and neighbourhoods.

The EPA had convened a meeting with the residents and their attorneys, Dhurjon and Persaud-McKinnon. The EPA assured that this was only for the construction aspect of the undertaking by Schlumberger and that they would get a better opportunity to speak on the merits and demerits of the actual radioactive storage facility’s operation when Schlumberger seeks an application for it.


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