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Residents near Belco start petition over water testing

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Anthony Hayward and Catherine Pereira, residents living close to Belco who have launched a petition opposing pollution (Photograph supplied)

Residents living in the shadow of Belco have started a petition questioning why water tanks at properties next to the power plant were not tested for contaminants last year.

Catherine Pereira and Anthony Hayward, who say their properties are regularly exposed to soot from Belco stacks, launched the petition, which also calls on members of the community to voice their concern about pollution from the plant by signing it.

They claim while properties were tested last November, some next to the plant were not included. They believed that there were 35 properties tested, but the Government has since clarified there were 20.

Belco has said its testing does include properties closest to the plant.

The petition says: “The residents of Pembroke want to know [why] out of the 35 houses used for water testing, none of the houses in front of the plant [were] included. We the residents feel it is our right to know

“People of Bermuda, the size of this little island makes us one community and at some point we are all being impacted by this pollution. If you are concerned about the health of our people and our environment, please show your support by signing the petition. Our health and lives are at stake.”

So far the petition has attracted 94 signatures. Numerous people living close to the plant and Jason Hayward, the Progressive Labour Party’s MP for Pembroke Central, have signed.

According to Belco’s website, the quality of water in tanks was assessed at 20 buildings in November 2022, at five residential properties in June 2021 and at ten locations in August and September of 2020.

Mr Hayward, who lives directly across the road from Belco on St John’s Road, said while his tank was tested in 2021, he was not included in the 2022 testing and said at least ten other properties close to the plant were also not included.

He said despite the test results being compliant with regulations, Belco fitted his property with a water filtration system.

He questioned: “Why would they want to put a water filtration system in if the water is fine?”

Mr Hayward added that he power washed his tank walls less than a year after its previous clean, and the water was the dirtiest he had ever seen.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Home Affairs, which is responsible for selecting which homes are tested, neither provided the criteria for its selection when asked by this newspaper nor revealed which properties were tested.

He said: “Information available online at https://belco.bm/safety-and-environment/ provides the test results and road names where tank water was sampled. Due to privacy issues, the actual house numbers are not available.”

“Residents may request their tank water be tested by e-mailing Belco’s Occupational Health, Safety and Environment office at ohse@belco.bm and copying in the DENR via pollutioncontrol@gov.bm.

“The question of why water filtration systems were added to some properties is for Belco to address.”

Ms Pereira said: “We cannot let this situation die. Whether anything will come out of this, who knows, but we have to keep fighting.”

Wayne Caines, Belco president, said: “As required by Belco’s operating license, the company tests water from tanks taken from properties that may be affected by Belco’s operations. Sample locations are determined by input from Belco and the DENR in response to concerns from area residents over the potential for drinking-water contamination.

“Sample locations were selected to get a varied sample population. This was inclusive of houses in closest proximity to Belco. It is important to note that decisions on which properties are to be included in the water sampling is determined by DENR.

“Comprehensive reports on Belco’s water sampling can be found on the company’s website at www.belco.bm

“I want to thank our neighbours and the community for their patience while we work continuously to improve our operations and reduce our impacts. We will continue to listen, to learn and to work towards meaningful solutions.”

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Published June 09, 2023 at 7:56 am (Updated June 09, 2023 at 8:19 am)

Residents near Belco start petition over water testing

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