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Crack US team hired to end Pembroke pollution woes

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Problem: homes neighbouring Belco’s plant have been covered in pollutants

The Bermuda Regulatory Authority is to draft in a team of experts from the US to block soot and other pollutants from pouring out of Belco’s power plant.

Mark Fields, the chairman of the authority’s board of commissioners, made the revelation at a public meeting organised by the Bermuda Clean Air Coalition — a pressure group set up by residents living close to Belco’s facility whose properties have been blighted by soot and odours being pumped out by the plant.

At last night’s meeting, held at The Berkeley Institute, Mr Fields, who was sitting in the audience and was not a member of the panel, said: “We have reached out to a very prestigious university in the US, which has agreed to come to Bermuda to assist us in abating the problems that we have.

“This university, this is what they do — from a scientific point of view they resolve emission issues.

“They have verbally agreed to come here to assist us, to lead a committee that we are establishing to bring relief. I have sat here quietly and heard everyone and what they have said, and it is not a good situation.

“We are working on behalf of you and Bermuda to make sure that we bring relief.”

Mr Fields did not say when the team would arrive on the island and start work.

Abayomi Carmichael, the chief executive of the RA, confirmed that a committee of stakeholders was being formed to examine ways in which the problem could be solved.

Belco has spent millions of dollars mitigating pollution from the North Power Station since it was commissioned in 2020, but has yet to find a way of fixing the problem.

The issue stems from the station being configured for liquefied natural gas — a fuel that was never granted approval — yet burning heavy fuel oil

Opening last night’s meeting, Denise Riviere, of the BCAC issued a rallying cry to supporters to carry on the fight.

She acknowledge that Belco had done some work to address the issue, but she added that the company was treating residents differently by compensating some but not others.

She said: “Some people might have had success, and some people have not had success, and what that has caused is mistrust and a feeling that not enough is being done.

“This is not a Pembroke community issue, this is an island issue.

“We have stuck firm on making sure that the correct powers that be understand that we are not stopping. We are not going to give up. These are nuisances that are causing health problems in the area.”

Ms Riviere said that the group had hired a lawyer and was considering applying for charitable status in order to fund its cause.

She said: “We are struggling with getting proof and evidence. We have engaged a lawyer, Mark Pettingill. He has helped us a lot in making sure we looked at the legal aspect of this.

“He needs evidence, so we need to start thinking about how we can raise money to do health surveys, how we can raise money so that we can do our own testing so that we can have confidence in it, how we can raise money to be able to do marketing.

“We are at that point now where we really need to go to the next step in making sure that we have the resources that we need.”

In addition to Mr Field and Mr Carmichael of the RA, home affairs minister Walter Roban and area MP Jason Hayward were also at last night’s meeting.

Wayne Caines, the president of Belco, wrote to the BCAC several days ago saying that he would be off the island.

Wrapping up the meeting, which drew an audience of about 30 people, Ms Riviere said: “I would like to ask for the Government and the RA to please keep the pressure on while we wait for legislation, while we wait for committees, because the pressure causes discomfort.

“We will keep the pressure on because we can’t stop while we wait for things.”

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Published October 27, 2023 at 2:13 pm (Updated October 27, 2023 at 2:13 pm)

Crack US team hired to end Pembroke pollution woes

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