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Health minister is investigating Belco emissions, lawyer told

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Kim Wilson, the Minister of Health (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

The Minister of Health has acknowledged a letter served to her by a lawyer calling on her to take action over Belco pollution.

Mark Pettingill, the director of Chancery Legal, wrote to Kim Wilson on Wednesday on behalf of the Bermuda Clean Air Coalition, a pressure group, and individual residents asking her to use her powers under the Public Health Act 1949 to rule soot and other emissions from the plant a statutory nuisance, and have them abated.

He gave her seven days to notify him of her intended action and said that he will consider applying for a judicial review if action is not taken.

Kim Wilson responded today to Mr Pettingill and his clients, saying: “The Ministry of Health is conducting a thorough investigation and can provide reassurance to the public that all necessary steps are being taken to review the matter in accordance with the Public Health Act 1949 and Belco’s operating licence as a controlled plant under the Clean Air Regulations 1993.”

It is the same comment she gave to The Royal Gazette on February 27 when questioned on February 17 over her intended action under the Act, though in that response she said “the Government” was conducting the investigation.

Mark Pettingill, the director of Chancery Legal (File photograph)

She also told Mr Pettingill: “Please note, I too share the concerns being raised by BCAC as well as other residents in the area near Belco.”

Asked this week about the status of the investigation, Ms Wilson said: “The investigation into this matter is ongoing.”

She did not respond to a question asking if she intended to respond to the lawyer and his clients within seven days.

In his letter, Mr Pettingill also called for urgent steps be taken to ensure that Belco uses a cleaner-burning fuel at the plant so as to mitigate pollutants.

The Royal Gazette revealed last month via a public access to information request that a leading British consultancy firm said in 2021 that ditching heavy fuel oil — Belco’s primary fuel — was likely the most effective way to address soot fallout from the North Power Station.

Ms Wilson was asked by the Gazette if she, as health minister, held any position over whether Belco should burn a lesser-polluting fuel. She was also asked whether her ministry agreed with the decision by the Regulatory Authority to reject a proposal by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to ban the use of fuel with a content of 2 per cent sulphur or higher, also uncovered by this newspaper through Pati.

The spokeswoman responded: “Questions pertaining to regulatory decisions and the Clean Air Regulations should be directed to the Regulatory Authority and the Ministry of Home Affairs, respectively.”

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Published March 11, 2023 at 8:00 am (Updated March 11, 2023 at 8:00 am)

Health minister is investigating Belco emissions, lawyer told

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