Constant noise, flames perturb quality of life in Venezuelan oil communities

By Genesis Carrero Soto

Monagas state, Venezuela, Apr 7 (EFE).- A noise akin to a passenger jet lifting off greets those arriving in the northwest part of the Venezuelan state of Monagas, where local residents keep their ears plugged at all times and communicate by shouting.

But there’s no airport.

The source of the thunderous din are giant, tower-like flare stacks, known locally as “mechurrios” or “mechuzos,” that produce an incessant natural gas fire.

And in addition to the deafening noise caused by the mixing of gases in the flare stack and the steam being fired in to keep the flames clean, the stifling heat from the fires makes life in Musipan, Santa Barbara and Tejero, the rural communities surrounding that oil zone, doubly unbearable.

Walls, floors and trees, and even the clothes local residents hang out to dry on their patios, are stained gray and black from drops of oil and residue from the smoke billowing out of the flare stacks.

“It’s horrible living in Musipan with this grating noise,” Emely Acevedo, a local resident of that community near state-owned oil company Petroleos de Venezuela’s Muscar-Soto Gas Pipeline, told Efe. “I’m really tired now of the noise from that flare stack. It’s making children, adults ill. We really can’t stand this noise.”


Around 30 flare stacks surround these communities in Monagas, a northeastern state where around 1.7 billion cubic feet per day of unwanted flammable liquids or gases were disposed of through combustion in 2019, or roughly 85 percent of the total nationwide, according to Peru-based consulting firm Gas Energy Latin America.

Although for visitors the sight makes for an interesting once-in-a-lifetime spectacle, local residents have been coping for around two decades with the noise and pollution the flare stacks produce 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

“Many have left for that reason. There have been a lot of illnesses here. Many people in fact have stains on their skin, face or arms, and I think it could be that, because they’re really strong chemicals,” Carol Guaipo, a 43-year-old resident of Musipan, told Efe.


The lone physician in Musipan, Lisbeth Suarez, said the main health problems affecting the local population are asthma and other respiratory tract infections, as well as ear conditions, arterial hypertension and different degrees of anxiety.

The doctor, who lives farther from the flare stacks than most residents, said noise is not the only problem and that constant pollution, gases and high temperatures also take their toll.

Residents of Tejero and Santa Barbara, two nearby areas that are more populated than Musipan, also experience similar effects from the flares.

The Pellicer family, who live in Santa Barbara, say they use cardboard and cloth towels to protect windows and doors and prevent the vibrations produced by the flare stacks from shattering the glass.

The members of that household no longer wear white clothing and even avoid eating from their mango tree, whose black-stained fruit is a tell-tale sign of the pollution that mars their daily existence. EFE


Related Articles

Back to top button