Angry residents want action on Belco pollution
Pollution from the Belco power station was condemned by householders in the area yesterday — including a veteran environmentalist who has highlighted the problem for decades.
Gary Hayward, a lifelong resident of Twin Lane Place, which overlooks the power plant's new generation plant on St John's Road, Pembroke, said: “We want a survey to find out if people in this area are getting sick.”
Mr Hayward, 68, added: “All the seniors around here have passed. If this has something to do with it, we don't know.”
He pointed out oily yellow blotches that dotted rooftops, yards and cars in the neighbourhood, including the driveway where he was working with cement.
Mr Hayward said the area MP, Jason Hayward, had been “appalled” by the acrid smell from the plant at a community meeting last week.
He added: “It has a tendency to blow early in the morning.”
The householder added that the problem had worsened since the North Power Station went on stream earlier this year.
He said: “We were not expecting this.
“This has been going on for years, but early July she shot up a big load of stuff.”
A spokesman for the company said yesterday that Belco was setting up extra monitoring stations in Pembroke “to capture the data necessary to further analyse the level of emissions from the North Power Station”.
Mr Hayward said the company had washed residents' roofs, but said the rust-coloured droplets soon returned.
He added: “It's oily and as it dries there's a powder, like a kind of metal or rust, and it's all over every roof around here.
“People are drinking this in their water, washing in it, cooking with it. We don't know how far it goes.”
Mr Hayward said the area contained seven schools, from Mount Saint Agnes Academy in Hamilton out to West Pembroke Primary on North Shore.
A senior woman near by, who declined to give her name, said she had lived in the area since 1982.
She said she was “very concerned” about the problem, even though Belco cleaned her home's roof.
Her granddaughter added: “My car gets soot on it sometimes. I don't know what it is. Depending on how the wind blows, it's worse.”
Two workers from Homemade Maintenance, who were emptying a domestic water tank on Swans Bay Road, said the area provided plenty of work.
One worker said the fallout from Belco was “like a kind of rust” and was removed with “bleach and a little ‘elbow grease'”.
An expatriate worker who has lived about six months in a rented apartment on Ridgeway Road said the emissions had appeared to become worse.
He added: “When the sun goes down, that's when you can see this dark emission. I don't know how it's affecting the environment here.”
Stuart Hayward, a former MP and environmentalist who lives on nearby Berkeley Road, said he had campaigned against pollution from Belco as the independent MP for the area more than 30 years ago.
Mr Hayward, who won the Pembroke West Central seat in 1989, said it was “an ongoing battle”.
He added: “It's a probability that there is a concentration of adverse health effects in this area.
“Given an opportunity, those that can afford it can move out.”
Mr Hayward said that with three Belco chimneys in the area, discharges meant that “people who arguably use the least electricity pay the biggest penalty”.
“There's no doubt that there are health effects. Belco knows as much about them as anybody.
“It's a combination of economics, and having the will — we fought hard to get fair compensation for the economic and health costs.
“It's been a long uphill battle. When I ran for election, one of our campaign videos showed what was then a new Belco stack in the background.”
Mr Hayward added: “Lately, I have been too occupied with personal issues to continue the campaign.
“That newest stack has been a real disappointment to me. Belco's economic success depends on maximum consumption.”
But the Belco spokesman said: “At Belco, we take the health and safety of our employees and the community very seriously and will continue to take every measure to ensure that any damage to affected properties is mitigated to the highest environmental standard and that such incidents are mitigated in future.
“Belco is committed to providing a reliable, affordable electricity supply while working with the Regulatory Authority and the Department of Energy to implement the integrated resource plan that will ensure a cleaner, more renewable energy supply to our valued customers.”
He added the company had been the target of “misinformation” online after the North Power station released soot over the Berkeley Hill neighbourhood in June.
The spokesman said the company's occupational health and safety team investigated and “acted to mitigate unexpected emissions” with property owners who were affected.
He added: “There are currently photos of a Pembroke roof and a petition circulating on social media showing the effects of the June 20 event, which is not a recurring or recent issue.
“Belco's OHSE team constantly monitor the effects of emissions from the plant on the adjacent neighbourhood and across the island.
“This team works closely with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to ensure emissions are within acceptable limits.”