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Vehicle recyclers visit from US Pollution at airport dump causes concern

Bermuda has been disposing of waste at the airport dump for nearly 40 years with little thought of the impact on the environment.

The resulting damage to Castle Harbour and surrounding marine habitats is irreversible coral reefs and the black grouper population have been notably affected.

However a group of auto industry workers is offering hope that we may be able to limit our impact moving forward.

They visited the Island last month and presented plans to establish a facility at LF Wade International Airport that recycles vehicle parts.

According to the group, a tour of the dump brought to mind what they would expect in a Third World country.

“We were surprised as what we know of Bermuda is that it is a place that has a history of making the best of what you have when you look in terms of catching your rainwater on your roof and building tanks to keep the water,” said Greg Wilcox, president of Midway Auto Parts in Kansas City, Missouri.

“This is an appalling situation and it is setting a terrible image. When you think of the fresh fish and the oil and antifreeze that is going into the ocean. I looked at the menu [at dinner] last night and I was thinking, ‘Do I really want to eat this local fish?'”

Fluids are supposed to be drained from vehicles and other contaminants removed from air conditioners and refrigerators before such things are dumped. The team was shocked to learn that many of the items currently at the dump had not been disposed of correctly.

Even when fluids had been drained, things like mercury light switches objects often found in the trunks of cars often made their way into the water, they said.

Millions of cars end up in landfills around the world every year. In the US there are auto parts recyclers who process cars and other “white material” such as appliances, and sell off the second-hand parts.

Weaver Automotive president Kent Rothwell and vice president Bruce Byrne and Tom Denton of Knox Auto Parts joined Mr Wilcox in partnering with environmental group Greenrock. Together they will campaign for an alternative solution to the airport dump.

The men are all members of United Recyclers Group, a US-based organisation that regulates the auto recycling industry. And they believe that a vehicle recycling facility that manages the processing of vehicles and white material could work in Bermuda.

“Greenrock believes that vehicles and other metal wastes should be recycled using ‘best practices' that meet international standards,” said Greenrock president Andrew Vaucrosson. “We believe there is a viable long-term solution economically and environmentally which can provide an alternative to the process we currently use, and we are working with international and local stakeholders to create such a solution for Bermuda.”

He added that Bermudians needed to accept responsibility for how we dispose of vehicles and other metal waste in order to create a more sustainable and healthier solution.

Recent data provided by the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences (BIOS) has indicated a high level of contaminants in the area surrounding the Castle Harbour dumping site.

Water samples taken by BIOS, and recent reports made to the Department of Environmental Protection, show a potential threat to our environment.

The samples were compared to reference sites based on sediment and water quality guidelines in similar marine habitats in Florida and Australia.

“What we found represents a potential threat to our local environment,” the report states. “The contaminant levels in water leaching directly out of the airport facility on a falling tide regularly exceed relevant water quality guidelines for Florida and Australia before it is subsequently diluted in Castle Harbour to below these guidelines.

“Contaminant levels in sediments beside the airport facility are also highly elevated and decrease with increasing distance from the facility; this indicates to us that it is an unequivocal point source of pollution.”

BIOS said there have been various studies done to investigate the amount of heavy accumulation in marine animals. However they stressed the importance of investigating on a local scale and are now seeking additional funding to do so in the future.

Greenrock is hoping to examine solutions and develop a standard of best practices that would benefit all sectors of the community including insurance companies, auto repair shops and government.

“We need to recognise that we have to start doing something now that will be sustainable for the future,” said Mr Wilcox. “But it's not about a bunch of Americans coming down here and telling people what to do.”

To find out more about the proposal for a vehicle recycling facility as well as what the Ministry of Works and Engineering's Materials Recycling Facility has done to decrease the amount of waste at the airport dump, read the Green Pages in tomorrow's paper.

Environmental issue: Old cars stacked up at the airport dump. Contaminates from the disposal of rusting vehicles and old 'white goods', such as refrigerators, are having a detrimental impact on corals and fish in the area that surrounds the dump site at Castle Harbour. Read the Green Pages, in tomorrow's Royal Gazette, for the full story.

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Published December 01, 2010 at 1:00 am (Updated December 10, 2010 at 3:40 am)

Vehicle recyclers visit from US Pollution at airport dump causes concern

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