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EMA: Gas emissions not harmful to people

Published: 
Thursday, February 15, 2018
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Members of UWI Geological Unit, from left, Stephan Harrypersad, Varendra Rambaran and Xavier Moonan. collect samples of mud at Devils Woodyard Mud Volcano, Hindustan, Princes Town, yesterday after it erupted on Carnival Tuesday. Photo by:KRISTIAN DE SILVA

Low levels of nitrogen dioxide continue to spew out of the Devil’s Woodyard mud volcano but experts say it poses no risk to humans.

Teams from the Environmental Management Authority conducted another round of air quality tests yesterday and found no evidence of methane, which is highly flammable, or hydrogen sulphide, a very poisonous, corrosive, and flammable gas.

Nitrogen dioxide can cause respiratory problems such as wheezing, coughing, colds, flu, and bronchitis but sources at the site said the levels were very low and were not dangerous.

When the T&T Guardian visited yesterday police continued to keep watch over the park, preventing people from entering the area. Members of the University of the West Indies Seismic Unit led by Dr Ilias Papadopoulos also conducted tests.

Papadopoulos said: “We are here to do some forensic tests on what we can observe and we will see how we can progress after that.”

He offered no more details. Seismologist at the University of the West Indies (UWI) Seismic Research Centre, Dr Joan Lutchman, said the seismic unit has been working in a private capacity at the site and was not the authority to make pronouncements on the volcanic activity.

However, she said the recent earthquakes may be linked to the eruptions.

Interviewed yesterday, caretaker of the Devil’s Woodyard site Premchand Boochoon said residents had a sleepless night.

“Many people did not evacuate as we got clearance from the ODPM that we could stay in our homes,” Boochoon said.

However, many of the 25 families who live on the periphery of the volcano said they had already packed their bags in case they needed to leave unexpectedly.

Boochoon said he expected hundreds of people to flock to the site once the ODPM lifted the traffic restrictions.

Geologist Stefon Harrypersad from the University of the West Indies Seismic Unit said they will continue monitoring the gas levels over the next few weeks.

He said the EMA has been recording the kinds of gases that are being emitted and nitrogen dioxide has been identified.

Saying mud volcanoes usually erupt every 20 years because of a build-up of gases below the Earth’s surface, Harrypersad said it is important to keep regular checks of the gas levels. Geologist Curtis Archie who has been studying the Devil’s Woodyard mud volcano is expected to visit the site over the weekend along with a team of foreign geology students.

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