New pressure group calls on Belco to clean up act
A new pressure group set up to push power firm Belco to clean its act up is to launch today.
The Bermuda Clean Air Coalition was set up in protest at pollution and other problems caused by the company’s chimneys and machinery.
A spokeswoman for the group said the problems caused by the Pembroke plant did not only affect the local area — but the entire island.
Denise Riviere, one of BCAC’s founders, said: “We are not only forming on behalf of our neighbourhood — this is a Bermuda issue.
“Area residents and business leaders are far beyond the limits of their patience — as such, they are insisting on a meeting with Belco’s board to discuss their malfeasance forthwith.
“We are demanding change from Belco and its parent companies for the health and safety of all of Bermuda’s residents.”
The group, made up of area residents, business people and representatives from schools, said the proposed sale of Belco parent Ascendant to Canadian power company Algonquin meant it was vital that the problems were tackled as soon as possible.
It added that it wanted a meeting with senior management in the near future to demand more action.
The group said health and safety hazards in the area included the discharge of soot and metal particles on to nearby buildings, which could get into water tanks.
Some residents complained that taking showers had caused itching and rashes and that buildings had developed cracks in walls, roofs and driveways because of vibration caused by Belco machinery.
They added there was also an “acrid and constant” smell of diesel.
BCAC said it wanted an assessment of Belco’s compliance with Bermudian and international standards, stricter regulations added to the Clean Air Act if needed and that European Union-level emissions standards be adopted by Belco.
The formation of the 30-strong group was spearheaded by Pembroke householders and business owners.
Several committees have been formed to deal with communication with Belco, the Government, for research, and for public and media relations.
The coalition said that Belco should release its historic emissions and environmental impact statistics and continue to provide the information on a regular basis.
The group added that an assessment of damage to area properties should be carried out and compensation paid.
BCAC said Belco should install water filtration systems on affected tanks and that independent studies should be carried out on the plant’s effects on people’s health and the environment on a regular basis.
Pictures and stories about pollution from Belco chimneys have been highlighted in the media and on social media sites during the past few months.
The group said Belco’s pollution also travelled in clouds over St George’s, Devonshire, Paget, Warwick and Southampton.
Ms Riviere said: “We don’t feel there’s been any serious response from Belco. It will take a lot of action — government needs to look at the legislation on pollution and whether it is sufficient for our island.
“It affects generations of individuals. The community feels they are just taking band-aid measures like cleaning the roofs, which become dirty again, and testing the water at periodic times.”
Ms Riviere added: “We want to hear people’s stories and we want people to look at this as an island-wide problem.
“We realise there is a sale coming up but the outgoing group still has a responsibility to the community as does the incoming.
“Our hope is that the current owners and shareholders see the impact and feel accountable enough to so something as soon as possible.”
Dennis Pimentel, the Belco president, last month blamed ageing chimneys for the pollution and said they would be decommissioned by the end of the year.
Mr Pimentel added that the firm complied with environmental regulations, including the Clean Air Act, and that soot stains were an “aesthetic” problem rather than a health one.
He said that not all the metal particles came from old equipment and that the new North Power Station might also be to blame.
Mr Pimental added: “Because it’s just been constructed, it will take time for what’s called a patina in the exhaust system to develop.”
He said: “Belco is committed to working with environmental authorities, the Regulatory Authority and the Department of Energy to meet all requirements.”
Walter Roban, the environment minister, said this month that confidence in the plant was at an “all-time low” and that the Government was committed to making sure Belco cut emissions.
He added: “This will include scrubbers on the stacks, assisting property owners with ensuring clean water is available and proactive steps to remediate property damage from any discharges.”
The company has set up air quality monitors at two locations is to use a third mobile monitor.
For more information, visit the group’s Facebook page Bermuda Clean Air Coalition or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Anyone affected by Belco emissions should e-mail their complaints to email@example.com