Minister: Belco and Government need to work together to solve pollution issue
A government minister has defended Belco over concerns that the electricity provider is pumping out pollution from its north power station.
Jason Hayward, the Minister for the Economy and Labour – who is also the MP for Pembroke Central where the Belco plant is based – spoke out during the motion to adjourn in the House of Assembly on Friday.
He said that his constituents had been unable to open windows because of toxic smells emitted from the plant. Residents have also complained of soot and rust deposits contaminating rooftops and water supplies since the plant opened two years ago.
But on Friday, Mr Hayward also insisted that the problem was not the fault of “the current administration of Belco” – and that all parties needed to come together to resolve the issue.
The president of Belco is Mr Hayward’s fellow Progressive Labour Party MP, Wayne Caines.
During Friday’s motion to adjourn, Mr Caines gave a passionate speech on the need for communities to pull together to solve social problems in their own neighbourhoods.
He said that his own constituents had joined forces to clear debris felled in the wake of Hurricane Fiona.
According to Mr Caines, the community had also united to turn the Deepdale district of his constituency – a hotbed of crime and recent shootings – into an area where children could play safely.
Mr Hayward was next to speak and began by giving fulsome praise to his party colleague.
He said: “It’s a shame that this chamber is not full. Because if we as politicians were down on our motivation or we lost focus of what is required of us, I believe MP Caines certainly provided the fuel that we require to re-energise ourselves, to get back on our horses, and do the work of the people.”
He added: “I have a constituency whose major concern is their health and wellbeing. Belco is a major concern within the constituency and the smoke stack emitting an undesirable level of pollution and soot.
“It is not the fault of the current administration of Belco but equally Belco and the Government need to work together to find a solution for my constituency.
“While the member [Wayne Caines] is happy to clean up one constituency, I need his assistance with cleaning up another constituency. Just as his constituents desire from him a safe and healthy environment my constituents require from him the same.
“Because I too have constituents who are seriously concerned about their health and wellbeing and are also looking to leave Bermuda because of that.
“I can empathise with the fact the fact you can’t open your windows, because I grew up on Parson’s Road and my back yard was the dump and that pond and on a hot summer day you did not open your house windows.
“You’d be looking in your trash thinking … you’d be looking in your toilet to see if someone forgot to flush the toilet. You’d look under the bed to see if there’s a dead rat. And it’s nothing in your house – it’s what’s across the street.”
Mr Hayward welcomed government plans to introduce regulations to limit pollution.
But he added: “Every constituency clinic I have, this is the number one issue for the members of my constituency.
“Enough is enough. What these people have to endure is simply unacceptable. What’s in their water, the fact they can’t open their windows.”
Mr Hayward’s comments on Friday mark a turnaround in his position from a year ago, when he accused Belco of being negligent over the pollution issue.
In June, 2021, 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.”
“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 had previously applauded neighbourhood pressure group the Bermuda Clean Air Coalition for highlighting the problem.
Last year 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.”