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Tuesday, April 04, 2006
Chlorine gas leak at GWI's Bartica site
Chlorine gas leak at GWI's Bartica site

Another accidental chlorine gas leak occurred yesterday morning at one of the treatment plants operated by Guyana Water Inc (GWI) just outside Bartica.

This follows an earlier incident in October last year on the West Coast Demerara.

According to a GWI press release yesterday afternoon, a chlorine gas cylinder was found to be leaking releasing gas at the plant located outside Bartica. One of the company's employees was admitted to the hospital for observation after being exposed to the leak.

Christopher Cathro, Health and Safety Officer of the company, is investigating the gas leak.

Swift action, the release said, was taken to evacuate all persons from the immediate vicinity of the leak. The company has also taken measures to ensure the safety of the area.

In October last year a similar leak occurred at GWI's treatment plant at Fellowship, West Coast Demerara.

The escaping gas had destroyed foliage and had affected two pensioners living nearby, one of whom died one month after the incident. In that incident, the company's Health and Safety Officer Christopher Cathro had reported that the leak had occurred about six inches from the base of the cylinder.

He called it "unconventional" as corrosion may have taken place from the inside and could not have been seen "with the naked eye."

The cylinder which had sprung the leak then was last tested in 2001. The expiry date on the cylinder showed that it had three months before another test would have been necessary. He had noted too that the dates were usually very conservative.

Managing Director of GWI, Michael Clark had said that in his 40 years' experience in the water industry, it was the first time he knew of such a chlorine leak as had occurred. He said the matter had been reported to GWI's supplier of chlorine, Allied Trading.

He had told this newspaper that the autopsy of the dead pensioner, 69-year-old Samuel John had showed that the man's death was not chlorine-related.

He said the couple had been taken for a medical examination and a report from this examination stated that the incident would have had no "long-term effects."

A relative of John had told Stabroek News that she did not fully understand the cause of death stated on the death certificate. "I got to go and get it read tomorrow," she had said, "But it say something about poisoning."

John had related how his companion, Clothilda James, had been in the yard at the time of the leak and she ran into the house grabbing her throat and coughing while yelling that she was going to die.

Chlorine is a highly corrosive gas and was used in World War 1 as a weapon.