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‘We have got to the point where the straw has broken the camel’s back’

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Residents in Pembroke are moving forward with legal action against Belco over emissions. (File photograph)

Pembroke residents impacted by Belco emissions have decided to move forward with possible legal action against the firm.

Mark Pettingill of Chancery Legal confirmed that he had been brought on to advise the group Bermuda Clean Air Coalition, but that the action was still in its infancy.

“There are provisions in the law that can address the problems, that can address the nuisance, and there is a plethora of case law in the UK and the US dealing with these types of public nuisances and emissions from plants,” he said.

“The evidence is there – there is a gathering of evidence that has to go on because many people are coming forward saying that they have had this issue or that issue with their property and their health.”

He said that while Belco has stated that emissions remain below the limits set by the Government, that did not address the concerns of the residents.

Denise Riviere

“There is soot and stuff falling on people’s roofs. There is water being discoloured and their rights are being infringed under the Public Health Act,” Mr Pettingill said.

“The test under the Public Health Act is very broad. It is a public nuisance, which is defined under the act as ‘any accumulation or deposit which is prejudicial to the health or is offensive to any person in the neighbourhood’.”

He added that under the legislation the Minister has the power to issue a stop order.

“The better way to go is that they know there is a cleaner fuel that they can burn,” he said. “What they are trying to say is that it costs more money. Well you can’t make this a money issue. This is a health issue.

“And that cost should not be passed on to the consumer because they are the ones that caused the problems.”

Mr Pettingill said as the matter progresses the group will be in contact with Belco to determine how to address the issue and compensate those who have suffered loss.

“The first thing with any case like this is letting the other side know the concerns formally and then how best we can achieve the right results – and that includes the fact we don’t want to turn out the lights,” he said.

“People want to have electricity, but people in that neighbourhood shouldn’t be suffering because the rest of us have electricity.”

Denise Riviere, of the Bermuda Clean Air Coalition, said that they had seem some positive steps from Belco, but it was not enough.

“We have got to the point where the straw has broken the camel’s back. We just can’t deal with this any more,” she said. “It’s not just the stack. It’s also those oil drums on St John’s Road – the fumes that come out of them is becoming unbearable.”

Ms Riviere claimed that in addition to the soot issues, vibrations from the plant have caused cracks in nearby homes and community members have blamed the plant for health issues.

She added that while many had turned to bottled water, not everyone in the community could afford it.

“It’s just no longer acceptable and we are willing to take the next step,” Ms Riviere added. “Securing a lawyer is a signal that the community has had enough.”

Ms Riviere added that the BCAC has also begun to take steps to register as a charity to help them raise money for expected expenses.

“We will have some legal expenses, even though Mark has agreed to waive his fee, because we will want to get our own tests of the water, our own tests of the air, do a health survey and all of that costs money,” she said.

She urged others who have been impacted by Belco to share their experiences by e-mail at bdacleanaircoalition@gmail.com and join their Facebook page.

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Published February 28, 2023 at 7:41 am (Updated February 28, 2023 at 9:00 am)

‘We have got to the point where the straw has broken the camel’s back’

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