By Esther Durand, BVI News Staff
Residents affected by smoke emissions from the Pockwood Pond waste facility will have no recourse if they develop complications due to the improper use of the government-issued carbon filter masks.
Chief Environmental Health Officer Lionel Michael told BVI News on Thursday that each resident must sign a letter resembling a non-liability agreement before being assigned one of the 400 masks being distributed.
At least 13 masks have been distributed to residents so far.
“We explained to them how to wear it, and we impress upon them to follow the instructions. We gave them a letter signed by me, and we said in the letter we are not accepting liability for the improper use of the masks. So the fit [of the mask to the face] is critical to ensure the smoke is sealed out,” Michael told BVI News.
He further said residents can feel free to contact the department with any questions they may have.
“It (the mask) is just a temporary measure because the [Pockwood Pond waste management] site needs to be fixed,” he added.
Masks not suitable for children under 10
Michael also underscored that the masks are not ideal for very young children.
“Children who are 10 and above can wear it, but children below that age — these masks are not suitable for them. We are sourcing other types of masks to supplement these. But these are what we have at the moment, and we are giving them out to help people to deal with the smoke,” he said.
Filters to be changed regularly
Michael said the filters embedded into the masks must also be changed regularly.
“We don’t anticipate the concentration of smoke going down to the neighbourhoods. It will be diluted. So people will still smell it, but the mask will help to reduce that. But the filters have to be changed every month, especially if you are in the smoke itself,” Michael noted.
According to the Chief Environmental Health Officer, his department will keep in contact with mask recipients, and when necessary, new filters will be provided to them.
Presently, residents must visit the department’s base of operations near the BVI Red Cross building on Station Avenue in Road Town to receive their masks. However, Michael told BVI News that community meetings are being considered for residents living in smoke-affected areas.
More about the masks
Elipse GVS masks, as they are called, were approved for meeting the appropriate safety standards by the National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health in the UK.
They can give 95 per cent protection against smoke and particles that may be in the air, and are considered generally efficient.
The Elipse Mask website says the device is the most innovative patented concept of the re-usable mask and is among the lightest and most compact masks on the market.
These masks are made in the UK and sold in more than 100 countries and came at a cost of $20,000 to the Government of the Virgin Islands.
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