‘It is spewing out rust’
A neighbour of Belco has blasted the utility company after a heavy fallout of soot from its new power plant showered his house and community with debris like “black snow”.
Arthurton Riviere, 81, of St John’s Road, Pembroke, said he noticed unusually high levels of debris being emitted as a result of the incident.
He said he has serious health concerns due to the pollution that has been affecting his family home on St John’s Road since the North Power Station was commissioned in April 2020.
Mr Riviere said: “This has been going on for months, but today was a real bad one – I haven’t seen that much in one day.
“There are black spots everywhere – it is spewing out rust all over our roof. Usually it is over a period of a few days, but right now it is like black snow that came down. This is just a mess.
“They said are aware of it and will send people to evaluate what has happened.
“If it rains, that is washed into our tanks. We no longer drink the water, we bathe and wash clothes with it, but we buy bottled drinking water – we pay for that.
“We have three tenants downstairs. We let them know what is going on and advised them to buy bottled water.
“We have been living here since 1985 – we had problems with the other stack, but it wasn’t as bad as this one; this is not something that they should have built in the community.”
Mr Riviere said that a representative from the Bank of NT Butterfield recently visited his property to carry out an appraisal and said the value had dropped by 45 per cent.
He added: “In the last seven months my roof has been painted about three times – they [Belco] cleaned the tank and replaced the water. They were very helpful no doubt, but more people need to be made aware of it.”
Belco said yesterday an investigation was launched the fallout incident on Monday.
The electricity plant confirmed that the soot affected buildings were predominantly in the St John’s Road area following the restarting of an engine at the North Power Station.
A spokesman for Belco said: “Belco’s Occupational Health, Safety and Environment team immediately launched an investigation into the incident and have been visiting homes and businesses near to the plant to collect samples and ascertain the extent of the fallout event.
“Belco is addressing the fallout as a priority and has been power washing and cleaning vehicles today.
“OHSE team members will continue to engage owners of affected properties until all impacts from the fall out have been fully addressed according to remediation best practices.”
Over the last year and a half, Belco has executed a phased approach to addressing the fall out occurrences from the North Power Station.
Phase one involved the installation of shims on the four of the station’s engines and is complete. Phase two included the retrofitting of piston crowns.
The work was completed on all four engines by the end of January.
The spokesman added: “Now it has been completed, Belco has made a commitment to their neighbouring community to address this issue and will continue to monitor and adjust operations until the plant is running at optimum efficiency.”
The spokesman added: “Belco remains cautiously optimistic that the changes being made to the North Power Station’s engines will improve combustion and reduce emission fall out occurrences in the future.
“Belco is subject to various reporting requirements and is within the standards set by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources concerning emissions.
“Belco’s OHSE team continues to take readings, measurements, and samples, and is aware of the composition of the emissions and fall outs, which have been reported to the authorities in compliance with Belco’s license requirements. In addition, Belco will be conducting further water testing in July.”
It was not revealed how much Belco has spent on remedial measures for the soot fallout.
Wayne Caines, Belco’s president, said: “I would like to sincerely apologise for the unfortunate fallout incident that occurred yesterday and the impacts of our plant on our neighbours.
“We will do everything possible to mitigate and fix the impacts from the incident and I can assure the public that we are working diligently to improve the efficiency and operations of our plant, to ensure the minimum possible impact as we plan for and work towards, a sustainable and clean energy future.”
Residents have been complaining for months about the pollution affecting their homes and potentially their health.
Residents and business owners launched a pressure group the Bermuda Clean Air Coalition to address the issues which persist.
Last month, the group launched an island-wide survey to help understand how the use of heavy fuel oil impacts the public.
Belco has said it is committed to achieving Net Zero by 2050 and is committed to exploring alternative and renewable energy generation.
Property owners who were impacted by the fall out on Monday should reach out directly to Belco’s OHSE team via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
Belco said that any related questions or concerns will be addressed as a priority.