Residents living in Belco’s shadow call for less talk and more action
Pembroke residents living in the shadow of Belco are fed up of talk and want to see more action taken to combat pollution and nuisance from the plant.
Thad Murdoch, an environmental scientist and resident of Juniper Hill Drive, said: “After decades of written complaints from our family in this house near Belco and no action, it seemed that finally action would happen when the entire neighbourhood banded together to call attention to the impact of Belco on our health and property in 2020.
“It is frustrating that, two years later, no action is happening, government seems minimally concerned and even challenges by the Regulatory Authority are met by platitudes and inaction by Belco.
“The area of impact by Belco pollution is over most of the island, so this affects all of us, not just those in Pembroke.
“We never get visited by the Progressive Labour Party, and the One Bermuda Alliance can't even bother to contest the seat.
“Is there any hint that Belco will change their ways without a lawsuit? Despite common belief, a high up barrister did tell a bunch of us that we have grounds for several different lawsuits, all for ‘nuisance’ of various forms.”
He claimed: “Just the incessant noise alone, while the most minor issue, is actionable, for instance.”
Adenike Carmichael has cracks all over her house, which she believes could be connected to vibrations from two Belco engines, which have now been decommissioned.
While Belco’s reports concluded that the cracks were likely caused by poor construction methods, uncompacted ground or voids, her own commissioned report by Mason and Associates said the vibrations “could be a contributing factor to the debonding of the plaster finishes and cracks in the masonry”.
While the vibrations have stopped, she still suffers from the fallouts with rust and soot coating her property on Bluff Lane, Pembroke.
She believes the Government needs to do more. “As far as the Regulatory Authority is concerned, I am aware that there is a consumer protection arm to them and it is a mechanism through which individuals can submit issues, concerns and complaints.
“However, they don’t really have as much to do with the environmental side of things.
“I have no confidence in the existing legislation that governs how Belco should be operating. Currently there is the Clean Air Act but it is very limiting in the powers of government.
“The only ones to knock at my door have been the OBA – I have never heard from my constituent [Jason Hayward] other than him advising me to attend a town hall meeting.
“Government should be coming to us as individuals and saying let’s have a conversation about your needs, what can we do better going forward and what should we capture in the legislation?”
The Clean Air Act 1991, which is currently being updated, states that “anyone who commits an offence against the act is liable upon conviction to a term of imprisonment not exceeding six months or a fine not exceeding $5,000 or both”.
Ms Carmichael added: “To have the capacity to fine up to $5,000 – it is like a penny to Belco when you look at how much they earn. When you look at the Act, it doesn’t speak to the aftereffects.”
Ms Carmichael said that the Environmental Authority, a statutory body of the Government, should be at the forefront and taking a stance.
“This is their area – where are they in all this? I worked at the Bermuda Monetary Authority as a principal monitoring licences under banking, trusts, corporate providers and money service businesses.
“I know how we regulate industry to make sure standards are kept. Is the EA a store front with no people, no commentary and no advocacy for the environment?
“If this was a financial issue, or in some way was damning to Bermuda and its economy, as the regulating authority we would have been all over it to protect Bermuda.”
Arthurton Riviere said he was encouraged by all the publicity the issue has been attracting in recent weeks and hoped it would spur Belco into taking positive action.
Mr Riviere, a senior whose home on St John’s Road is caked in soot and rust run off, said: “I have been going through it for the past nine months and all we can do is hope that something can come out of the publicity we are having. More people are getting exposed to what is happening.
“I have been following all the news coming from the Regulatory Authority, Belco and the Government – it is almost like American politics with the Republicans and Democrats.
“We are planning a neighbourhood meeting for next week Thursday. We are trying to see where Belco can support us with some type of compensation.
“For us, the main thing is the fact that our property has been depreciated – they have to do something. Since they opened up the new plant I have had my roof painted about four times – the last time was July 16 and if you look at my roof now, I am due for another cleaning.”