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Residents claim cars damaged by shipyard spray

Car owners yesterday went to the Cospicua police station to asses the damage caused to their cars that were covered in fine white specks. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

Car owners yesterday went to the Cospicua police station to asses the damage caused to their cars that were covered in fine white specks. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

Fine specks of white paint, resembling dust, coated the cars of about 150 Cospicua residents who claimed their vehicles were damaged when a large Italian ship was being sprayed at the nearby Palumbo Shipyard.

Angry residents yesterday took their cars to the Cospicua police station where a court-appointed expert assessed the damage to the cars. A Palumbo spokesman said the company was looking into the matter.

“My son’s Ford Fiesta is covered… He also suffered damage to four traditional wooden balconies which he recently restored with government subsidies,” said Salvino Giusti, as he stood outside the police station.

At first glance the parked cars only look dusty. But the “dust” stayed put when touching the cars’ paintwork and felt like sandpaper.

Surrounded by other residents Mr Giusti explained that the cars were damaged over the past three days when Palumbo started using white spray on the large Italian ship.

The people whose cars were damaged filed police reports and were told to get estimates of the damage. They expect Palumbo to foot the bill.

The huge vessel, that reached the height of the bastions, had been at the shipyard for about three weeks and was grit-blasted before it was painted, he said.

Cospicua mayor Joseph Scerri, who was also outside the police station, said he had informed police and the Malta Environment and Planning Authority that Palumbo was not respecting regulations on grit blasting.

Grit blasting consists of copper particles blasted onto ships to remove paint and rust, leaving a smooth and clean surface. This was only meant to take place in Dock 6, however, the Italian ship was grit blasted in another dock.

Mr Scerri added that, according to regulations, Palumbo should not carry out works when the wind blew in the direction of residences. However, over the past days this regulation had been ignored, he said.

A woman pointed out that the problem was not limited to cars. She was concerned about the effects that grit blasting and other works at the yard were having on residents’ health.

“I have two children, aged four and five. When I clean their nose and ears black dust comes out,” she said.

A spokesman for Palumbo said: “We are working to understand the nature of this issue and a meeting has been set with the mayors concerned for next week.”

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