'Belco’s pollution is a life altering experience' - campaign group
Pembroke residents say a recent study of tank water near Belco offered little comfort in addressing their concerns.
While testing suggested that pollution found in tank water was within international standards, the Bermuda Clean Air Coalition said the study failed to capture the magnitude of the issue residents face.
The group said: “This is of little consequence to residents of the area, especially since water samples were taken from the surface of water tanks rather than from water sediment on roofs or displaced tank water after the sludge at the bottom was disturbed.”
They added: “The reality for residences living and working in the affected area is that Belco’s pollution is a life altering experience that makes the most basic tasks like getting a drink of water, taking a shower or venturing outside for a breath of fresh air a potential health risk.
“According to several community members, there have been major issues with Belco’s pollution for decades, but even worse since the construction of the latest smoke stack.”
A spokesman for Belco did not respond to a request for comment in connection to this story, but the BCAC statement said Belco has acknowledged there is an issue, and that they are addressing complaints on a case-by-case basis.
Denise Riviere, a BCAC member and area resident, said a number of productive meetings between the organisation and the company have been held.
She said: “Belco has been very transparent about the problems they are working through, especially related to the latest smokestack and are working on process changes related to the nuisances being experienced by the surrounding community.
“We commend the Belco team for their recent efforts as they increase their visits to residents to discuss and address issues.
“However, we will continue to meet with Belco, since BCAC members have made it clear that we don’t care what international water testing standards have been passed, what vibration testing standards have been passed or what air quality standards have been passed, we won’t be going away until the associated consequences to the community are addressed.
“We want those most affected to be given water filtration systems, we want vibration cracks to be addressed and we want cleaner fuel to be used to improve air quality.”
The BCAC said the reports do not capture “the frustration, pain and health concerns” of residents.
Art Riviere, whose family has lived on St John’s Road for more than 30 years, said issues had increased “astronomically”.
He said: “The soot coming from the new tower is on everything. It covers our roof and makes drinking the water impossible.
“No matter what they say about the testing, there is no way that a normal person would see rust stains and soot all over their roof and still drink the water.
“We live right across from Belco and the smell of diesel makes it impossible to open windows or go outside and enjoy fresh air – complete strangers walk by and ask us how we could possibly live here with the smell.”
Cathy Pereira, who lives on Underhill Crescent, said her family have to buy multiple bottles of water every week.
“We have a water filtration system which we had to purchase because of heavy deposits going in the tank however, after having our water tested independently, we were told not to drink the water,” she said.
“The water filtration did however stop the skin itching and irritation.
“Our roof is full of rust markings with deposits being washing into the tank. We are constantly having to wash our entry areas due to soot deposits and there is a constant vibration from the Belco plant that can be felt in the lower apartment.”
Nishanthi Bailey, another St John’s Road resident, said she was concerned about the impact of the plant’s emissions on her infant daughter after suffering itching, frequent headaches and other maladies.
“No mother should have to feel any of this. No one,” she said. “I can't open my windows to allow fresh air to circulate in my home without having a soot problem on my floor, furniture, dishes, et cetera.
“If on the odd occasion I do feel the need to get some air circulating, I look at the direction of the wind to see where the stack smoke is going to ensure it isn't towards my property.
“The oil smell that permeates my home, tainting even freshly washed bed sheets and pillows is nauseating.”
Annette Cook, the business manager of the Bermuda School of Music, said the impact of the plant was not limited to residents, but also those who attend the many schools, businesses and churches nearby.
Ms Cook said: “Realistically, there are very few persons of any age who are not adversely affected one way or another on a daily basis by the Belco pollution zone.”