Monitoring Persistent Volcanic Emissions from Sulphur Springs, Saint Lucia: A Community Approach to Disaster Risk Reduction

Friday, 19 December 2014
Erouscilla P Joseph1, Denise M Beckles2, Leonette Cox2, Viveka Brian Jackson3 and Dominic Alexander4, (1)University of the West Indies, Seismic Research Centre, Kingston, Jamaica, (2)University of the West Indies, Chemistry, St. Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago, (3)University of the West Indies, Seismic Research Centre, St. Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago, (4)Soufriere Regional Development Foundation, Soufriere, Saint Lucia
Volcanic and geothermal emissions are known natural sources of volatiles to the atmosphere. Volcanogenic air pollutants known to cause the most serious impact are carbon dioxide (CO2), sulphur dioxide (SO2), hydrogen chloride (HCl) and hydrogen fluoride (HF). Some studies into the potential for volcanic emissions to produce chronic diseases in humans indicate that areas of major concern include respiratory problems, particularly silicosis (Allen et al. 2000; Baxter et al. 1999; Buist et al. 1986), psychological stress (Shore et al. 1986), and chemical impacts of gas or ash (Giammanco et al. 1998). Sulphur Springs Park in Saint Lucia has a very high recreational value with >200,000 visitors annually, while the nearby town of Soufrière has >8,400 residents. Residents and visitors have raised concerns about the volcanic emissions and its health effects. As part of the volcanic surveillance programme undertaken by the UWI, Seismic Research Centre (SRC) in Saint Lucia, a new monitoring network has been established for quantifying the ambient SO2 in air, to which staff and visitors at the volcanic park are exposed to. The implementation and continued operation of this network has involved the training of local personnel in the active field sampling and analytical techniques required for the assessment of ambient SO2 concentrations, using a low cost monitor as well as commercial passive samplers. This approach recognizes that environmental hazards are a usual part of life and productive livelihoods, and to minimize post-disaster response and recovery it is beneficial to promote preparedness and mitigation, which is best achieved at the local level with community involvement. It is also intended that the volcanic emissions monitoring network could be used as a method to establish and maintain community-based initiatives that would also be helpful when volcanic threat manifests.