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Businessman claims his life was threatened at stormy meeting on medical waste burning

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Plans for a MediWaste incinerator to dispose of the island's medical waste faced unhappy St David's residents at a public forum (Photograph by Jonathan Bell)

A businessman said his life was threatened at a stormy public meeting held in St David’s over a medical waste facility planned for Southside.

Donte Hunt, chief executive of MediWaste, said he had declined to take action but reported the matter to police “just in case”.

“It did shake me up,” Mr Hunt told The Royal Gazette after the project faced fierce opposition at a meeting on Tuesday evening.

“If you have an individual threaten your life, it’s tough to digest.”

Mr Hunt said the confrontation had been seen by a police office, who “knew the individual” and encouraged him to file a report.

“I understood that it could get a little heated, not from our side. We were there to state facts, some history and how the environment would not be affected.

“Persons had their time to express their sentiments and we had the opportunity to allay any concerns, and I think we did so.”

But he said he had received “threatening statements towards my person and potentially my life”.

“We can’t have that sort of discourse and that sort of emotive behaviour. It’s intimidation.”

St David’s MP: Residents planning response to medical incinerator for Southside

Residents of St George’s South are “planning to meet” over their next steps in response to a medical waste incinerator approved for Southside.

Tinée Furbert, the Minister of Social Development and Seniors and MP for the area, said she was “awaiting feedback” on their next move.

She said the disruption of the Covid-19 pandemic might have distracted residents from spotting the official notice online notifying the public of the facility planned for Southside.

The Department of Planning advertised in the Official Gazette in 2020.

“People were just going about their business,” Ms Furbert said. “It begs the question of what responsibilities private businesses have to inform the public of their ambitions.”

She said residents had been under the mistaken impression the facility had been initiated by the Government, instead of a business dealing with the Bermuda Hospitals Board.

She acknowledged the issue was emotive given the history of St David’s, where residents gave up property and homes for the building of Bermuda’s airport in the 1940s.

Ms Furbert added: “This is important. It has to do with people’s health and safety. They should have the opportunity to learn more about it.”

MediWaste, along with officials from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, told the meeting the facility fell well below legal guidelines for emissions.

But St David’s residents maintained their opposition to the medical waste incinerator, even though the project has been approved by the Department of Planning after the objection period expired.

An application went before the planning department in September to use industrially zoned land at Waller’s Point.

Planning documents confirmed that the plans had been reviewed by the Bermuda Fire and Rescue Service, along with the Bermuda Airport Authority and Skyport, who had no objections.

The Bermuda Land Development Company, as the landowner, also stated that they approved the drawings.

A St David’s resident told the Gazette yesterday he had filed objections with planning after spotting a September article detailing the project.

But he was subsequently told his objections had come in too late.

The resident, a six-generation St David’s resident, said unwelcome developments had been foisted on the East End of Bermuda for decades.

“A lot has been taken from us,” he added. “They wanted to close the school here, they wanted to close the Lamb Foggo Urgent Care Unit – we fought to keep them open.”

He confirmed a petition was now in circulation.

“We’re in the mindset of doing something I can’t reveal, but we are not taking this lightly.”

He said: “If they decide to keep building, we are not going to stand for it.”

The Bermuda Hospitals Board outsourced the disposal of the island’s medical waste. A spokeswoman said this week that the hospital was not an appropriate location for the job.

Mr Hunt told the public meeting he had secured “a long-term contract” with BHB for the service. When asked for details, he said the information was private to his business.

However, BHB, as a quango, is required to publicise contracts of more than $50,000 annually.

The contract was listed online on December 2021, under Triad Limited as well as MediWaste.

BHB yesterday confirmed the ten-year contract was valued at $7.4 million over the full ten-year term.

Mr Hunt told the Gazette he would be willing to meet with the community again, but added that objectors seemed to have missed the boat.

“The mechanism for public involvement was there – if there’s something to be learnt from this, it’s that we need to pay attention to what goes in the Official Gazette.”

He added: “There is a mechanism in place through the Official Gazette and gazetting, on a number of occasions – and in March we did a press release to communicate what we were doing.”

While residents complained at Tuesday’s meeting they had not seen the official notice, Mr Hunt said he was not sure what could be done to increase their visibility.

“Planning now have this great website – it’s open to the public and pretty user friendly and easy to navigate,” he said. “Maybe they can go back to posting in the paper?

“I don’t know what the answer is, but in this case there were a number of opportunities dating back.”

He added: “What’s frustrating is those individuals who look at where we are now and believe it happened overnight, believed I was a shoo-in based on my history or who I might know.

“Being an entrepreneur is not for the faint of heart. We started this process in 2018, 2019 – pre pandemic. There were a lot of meetings, lots of rehashing numbers and communicating. This public meeting, I welcomed.

“We can do this without the anger.”

Mr Hunt said he understood there was a concern in the community because of how St David’s had historically been treated.

“The community down there feels that this is yet another disruption to their community, potentially reducing property values and what not and we were there to indicate that it is not the case,” he said.

Lovitta Foggo, the St David’s MP who was at the meeting, declined to comment on the subject yesterday.