Caines: Belco ‘must take systematic, calculated approach’ to fallouts
Belco president Wayne Caines has moved to allay concerns from the power plant’s neighbours about emissions.
Mr Caines, who is also president of Belco’s parent company, Liberty, which is owned by Algonquin Power & Utilities, said Belco must take a “systematic” and “calculated” approach to resolve any outstanding issues.
These issues include regular soot fallouts and recently documented high levels of chemicals and particulate matter in the air, as well as fuel odours.
Speaking in a video on Belco’s Facebook page, Mr Caines, a Progressive Labour Party backbencher, highlighted “daily headlines” in the press about the challenges being faced by residents since the commissioning of the North Power Station and said he wished them to “hear directly from me”.
He said: “Our team meets and communicates with our neighbours regularly …
“We take these impacts very seriously. I just want to share with you that we, over the last two years, have been working diligently to eradicate the soot-fallout issues experienced by our neighbours but we must take a systematic approach, a calculated approach, to resolve any outstanding issues.
“As we continue to supply the island with a reliable self-supply of power, we cannot make changes to our operations in an uncontrolled manner.
“Once the issues are identified, we have to investigate the cause, we have to look at possible remedies and then we have to choose the remedy that is best for the situation, and then implement it. We will continue running through the identified possible solutions no matter how many steps it takes.
“We are also working with trusted third-party experts to ensure that our team’s findings including data, testing methods and monitoring methods are following best practice. This is important because our remedies for any issue must be guided by scientific data.”
The Royal Gazette launched an investigation at the end of last year, filing public access to information requests to multiple public authorities.
The first of the resulting articles, published last month, focused on a 2021 report by leading British-based consultancy firm Ricardo Energy & Environment, which was released to this newspaper by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
The report recommended that the “most effective” way to mitigate soot fallout would be to burn a lesser polluting fuel than heavy fuel oil — that which continues to be used as the company’s primary fuel.
Ricardo said that because this method could incur additional costs, the company should more regularly clean its smokestacks and the duct system.
However, Belco carried out its own report in conjunction with Burmeister & Wain Scandinavian Contractor, the lead contractor for the North Power Station, and its consortium partner and manufacturer of the station’s dual fuel engines, MAN Energy Solutions.
Belco opted instead to install instruments called con-rod shims and piston crowns designed to improve combustion.
However, after the completion of the installation in January 2022, the soot fallouts continued, as did high levels of sulphur dioxide readings in neighbouring areas that are monitored.
Belco did switch to a cleaner fuel when starting and stopping engines, and during other problematic conditions, but HFO remains the main fuel.
The Pati documents revealed that the environment department proposed HFO with a sulphur content of 2 per cent or more be banned, but the Regulatory Authority carried out a cost analysis and rejected the proposal.
In the video, Mr Caines added that the community, which he described as “family”, was important to the company, saying: “We work and we live in this community. We have built a relationship with many of the neighbours over a number of years.
“We work hard to ensure that the relationship with our neighbours is open and they are able to express any concerns and any bad experiences that they are receiving from our power plant openly and honestly.
“We listen to the concerns, we see the e-mails, we see the Facebook posts, we have been following the press comments. Not only do we get it, we care. You are our community, you are our family.
“We will continue to work until every problem is eradicated. We thank you for your patience, we thank you for your support. If you have any questions, if there are any issues, feel free to contact us via our website.”
Mr Caines recently requested that residents remove his Belco e-mail address from a group e-mail that documents complaints about the plant.
He wrote the e-mail, seen by this newspaper, after Mark Pettingill, director of Chancery Legal, issued a letter to Kim Wilson, the Minister of Health, asking her to rule the emissions a statutory nuisance, and telling her he would consider applying for a judicial review if she failed to take action.
Mr Caines e-mailed the group saying: “This group now have legal counsel included on this e-mail list of recipients, the nature of the e-mail communique has now changed. We must now insist that all complaints are sent to the email@example.com.
“We remain committed to listening to and answering your complaints; however, we must insist that you use the formal system of responding and documenting the concerns. I ask that I be removed from this e-mail list.”
Belco has been approached with questions about the third-party experts that are engaged at present.
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