Minister attacks Belco’s ‘lack of urgency’ over soot emissions
Jayson Hayward, the Minister of Labour, has accused electricity provider Belco of negligence for failing to tackle soot fallouts from its plant.
Mr Hayward, the MP for Pembroke Central, said last night he was concerned for the safety and wellbeing of his constituents as a result of the “ongoing problem” of pollution created by Belco’s smoke stacks.
Mr Hayward spoke out after Belco said it was working with members of the community in the wake of a “fallout of soot” from the north power station on Monday morning.
He criticised the company – which is headed up by fellow Progressive Labour Party MP Wayne Caines – for having “a disregard for the community” and showing “a lack of urgency”.
He said: “An overwhelming number of constituents in my and the Premier’s constituency have expressed that their cars, roofs and other property are regularly covered in soot, the air quality remains poor and their water supplies are compromised as a result of the emissions from the neighbouring power plant.
“Despite outreach to Belco on several occasions, the problem has persisted, which is simply unsatisfactory. The company’s lack of urgency to rectify the problem has been most alarming and can only be perceived as negligence and a disregard for the community.”
Area residents have repeatedly voiced concerns about pollution emanating from the north power station, which began operation last year. Mr Hayward dismissed reassurances from Belco that the problem was being addressed.
“To date the problem remains,” he said. “As recently as this past week, area residents have sustained property damages and endured polluted water and air quality.”
Mr Hayward said the company needed to provide a clear plan to solve the problem, install water filters in neighbouring homes, and pay compensation for any damages caused to property.
“I urge Belco to work to rectify this issue as residents should not have to accept a compromised quality of life due to their business operations.”
Mr Hayward said he had raised his concerns with Walter Roban, the Minister of Home Affairs who is responsible for the environment and the Regulatory Authority which oversees Belco.
“I have been informed that the Ministry of Home Affairs is now advancing legislation and regulations to tighten standards related to air, water quality and pollution levels,” he said.
And he applauded pressure group the Bermuda Clean Air Coalition for highlighting the problem.
Mr Hayward said: “Myself and the Premier, who represents the neighbouring constituency, will continue to support the group’s efforts to restore clean air and minimise pollution for the area residents.”
Earlier yesterday, Mr Caines, the president of Belco, defended the company, insisting it was committed to working with stakeholders to address the plant’s impact on the community.
“We have outlined and are implementing a plan to ensure our plant operates at optimal efficiency and with minimal impact on the surrounding community,” he said.
“We are also working towards becoming a renewable energy company but this will take time and resources to implement.
“I would ask for the community’s patience and understanding as we work to provide a reliable and renewable energy supply to our valued customers.”
Mark Pacheco, Belco’s director of OHSE, added: “Our team are working diligently with the operations team to mitigate adverse impacts from the plant.
“While we are in compliance with all statutory and environmental requirements and have carried out testing of water tanks with results also in compliance with world health regulations, we have worked with neighbouring properties to install water filtration systems and continue roof cleaning and painting as required.
“Long-term fixes are also ongoing including engine modifications that are aimed at preventing soot fallout and more efficient engine operation.”
Mr Pacheco added the company will also install tank filters to address odours coming from the power station’s fuel tanks.
A Belco spokesman said Mr Caines and the OHSE team had visited neighbours and spoken with those who live in the area about their concerns.
The spokesman said the energy provider’s occupational health safety and environment team were in active communication with neighbouring residents and businesses and are monitoring emissions to ensure compliance.
He added the company had made operational changes to optimise the performance of the engines and decommissioned eight engines last year.
The spokesman said: “Belco also maintains three ambient air monitoring stations in Pembroke that monitor the air quality in close proximity to the plant.
“These monitoring stations show that emissions are below the limits mandated by the Clean Air Act which regulates Belco’s power generation plant.”
Anyone affected by Belco’s operation is asked to contact the OHSE team at firstname.lastname@example.org