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Belco facing backlash as residents claim another soot fallout has affected homes

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A cropped photo of soot deposits on the roof of Catherine Pereira, a resident living in the shadow of Belco (Photograph supplied)

Belco is facing a backlash from angry neighbours after another soot fallout.

Pembroke residents have been posting photographs of their homes coated in soot in the latest of a string of polluting events that have occurred since the building of the North Power Station.

But the firm refused to comment on the latest incident to The Royal Gazette and TV broadcaster ZBM, which highlighted the residents’ ongoing plight earlier this week.

Catherine Pereira, who lives near the plant, posted photographs of her roof and home on the Bermuda Clean Air Coalition Facebook page. BCAC is an advocacy group pushing for clean air in Bermuda.

Ms Pereira wrote in a post dated January 19: “Below pics ... is what my roof and gutter looks like today after being painted on December 7, 2022.

“This pollution is then washed in the tank. Back porch tile as you walk out the door this morning. Nothing but stains all over the property. Belco should come and wash the properties down after each dumping because we have to do it!”

Another resident posted on January 13 that her car was “covered in black soot”. Thad Murdoch, another resident, commented on the post saying: “It was spewing muck yesterday at 5.30pm and there was no wind, so the ash built up in a cloud and then fell over the Saltus/BAA area from what I could tell.”

Approached for comment, a spokesman for Belco, a subsidiary of Ascendant Group which is owned by Algonquin Power & Utilities Corp, which respnded: “Property owners who believe they have been impacted by Belco’s operations should contact the Occupational Health, Safety and Environment team on ohse@belco.bm.”

The Royal Gazette is aware of at least one formal complaint made on January 19 to Belco about a soot event.

Dr Murdoch also made a formal complaint on the same date about “very high amount of oil fumes”. He wrote to Belco and Geoff Smith, the environmental engineer for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and adviser to the Environmental Authority, which regulates emissions.

He said: “I'm inside at home with shut windows and it's almost too much to bear. They are very noisy too.”

After refusing to comment to the media, Belco did post a short, promotional video on its Facebook page providing information on the North Power Station featuring Nadir Wade, managing director of bulk generation at the plant.

Nadir Wade, managing director of bulk generation at Belco, featured in a film about the company’s air and water monitoring programmes (Image from Facebook)

The video repeated information about its air and water quality testing being in compliance with local regulations but did not make any direct reference to the latest fallout.

There was also no mention of the removal of an air quality unit on Ocean Lane, Pembroke on June 27, 2022 which had been capturing a high number of exceedences of the UK Quality Standard 15-minute limit for sulphur dioxide.

Bermuda is expected to come in line with the UK standards once the Clean Air Act 1991 and regulations are amended this year.

Mr Wade said in the clip: “At Belco we take our responsibility for reliable, cost-effective electricity for Bermuda very seriously. We do this in the most environmentally friendly way. As a company we will bring our renewables when the technology is available at a cost that Bermuda can afford. We currently have two ambient air quality monitoring stations in operation – one on Cemetery Lane and one on Langton Hill.

“Throughout 2022, Belco has recorded zero exceedences of the Bermuda Ambient Air Quality Standards. We have also recorded zero exceedences to the Opacity Regulatory Standard that is monitored by our in-stack monitoring.

“Since we began water testing over 35 years ago, results show we have not impacted the water quality of our area residents. We have recently collected water samples in the surrounding community and the results will be publicised in approximately four weeks time.

“Having listened to our neighbours, we have made operational and equipment changes. We adjust our operations under different and varying wing conditions in order to lessen the impact on our neighbours. We continue to listen we continue to hear and we continue to make adjustments.

“Since 2021, we have installed 40 water filtration systems because it is the right thing to do. We have also painted 160 roofs and we continue to adjust our operations to have minimum impact on our neighbours.

“If you have been impacted by our operations please reach out to us, know that we hear you, know that we are listening and know that we are ready and willing to work together to move forward to a renewable future.”

Jason Hayward, area MP for Pembroke Central, was contacted for comment.

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Published January 26, 2023 at 7:56 am (Updated January 26, 2023 at 7:56 am)

Belco facing backlash as residents claim another soot fallout has affected homes

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