ST. LUCIA-ENERGY-St. Lucia to discuss preliminary findings on harmful volcanic gases

CASTRIES, St. Lucia, Jan 20, CMC – Health and environmental stakeholders in St. Lucia are studying the preliminary findings of a University of the West Indies (UWI) research project into the potentially harmful volcanic gases at the Sulphur Springs, west of here.

They are also discussing the preliminary findings of the volcanic gas network established to monitor potentially harmful volcanic gases from the Soufriere volcano.

Led by the UWI Seismic Research Centre (UWI-SRC), the project was launched in March last year, with the primary objective of gaining a better understanding of volcanic emissions or gases at the Sulphur Springs and the potential impact on environmental and human health.

The project was funded by the UWI Trinidad and Tobago Research and Development Impact Fund (RDI) The Soufriere Regional Development Foundation, the National Emergency Management Organization and the Montserrat Volcano Observatory.

UWI-SRC volcanologist, Dr. Erouscilla Joseph, who is also the principal investor on the project, said the study sought to measure the ambient concentrations of sulphur dioxide at the Sulphur Springs Park and in the west coast town of Soufrière, in response to concerns raised by both visitors and residents regarding the possible health effects of the volcanic gases.

One of the gas monitoring methods used was a low-cost, low-technology sampler developed in collaboration with the Department of Chemistry at the St. Augustine campus of the UWI.

Staff of the Soufrière Regional Development Foundation (SRDF) was trained in the use of the low-cost samplers as part of the project’s attempt to foster community participation in scientific research being conducted in the area.

“The success of this novel volcanic gas monitoring project here has laid the foundation for a programme of community engagement in emissions monitoring and health hazard management that could be adopted in the other volcanic islands of the Lesser Antilles,”  Joseph said.

He noted that one of the outcomes of the project is the preparation of public awareness materials, brochures and posters that can be used by local stakeholders to provide volcanic gas hazard awareness information to the public.

“The role of volcano tourism is recognised as an important contributor to the economy of volcanic islands in the Lesser Antilles. However, if it is to be promoted as a sustainable sector of the tourism industry, visitors, tour operators, and vendors must be provided with information about potential volcanic hazards to which they may be exposed in volcanic environments.”

Joseph said that recent studies have shown that providing them with this increased knowledge will allow for a more accurate perception of risk and consequently lower risk-taking attitudes and decrease the probability of ignoring potentially hazardous situations.