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Pressure group hopes survey will push clean energy use

Belco (File photograph)

A group dedicated to tackle air pollution has launched an island-wide survey to help understand how the use of heavy fuel oil impacts the public.

A spokesman for the Bermuda Clean Air Coalition said it is hoped the results of the online survey would help the organisation hold Belco accountable and push for clean energy on the island.

“Currently, Belco decides who is eligible for compensation for roof painting, water filtration and vehicle refinishing as a result of pollution such as soot contamination,” the spokesman said.

“Belco defines a ‘zone’ of impact that it does not share publicly. Without a known impact zone, it’s hard to demand consistent treatment of compensation cases.

“Therefore, the BCAC is asking the public to report any nuisances they experience, for example, roof contamination; soot deposits on property or vehicle; unexplained, widespread rust spots on vehicle; vibrations and structural damage to your home; suspected health impacts; or repeated odour of diesel fumes.”

BCAC said the Department of Environment and Natural Resources had released its first public report on Belco’s progress and further reports were expected.

The spokesman added: “Notable findings include that although Belco has implemented mitigation measures, soot fallout events continue from the North Power Station.

“In addition, the mobile air quality monitoring station on Ocean Lane detected 55 exceedances of the UK/EU Air Quality Objective ‘Target Level’ for 15-minute sulphur dioxide exposure in 2021.”

The BCAC added that strong exhaust odours had been reported in areas other than Ocean Lane and suggested the mobile monitoring station could be deployed to other sites.

The spokesman added that the group had noted Belco advertisements which highlighted the adoption of natural gas as a potential short-term solution to improve air quality.

“The BCAC intends to press for accountability by Belco and its parent company, Algonquin, to follow through on this pledge to explore the feasibility of natural gas.

“The BCAC’s ability to do so will be strengthened by having facts about the extent of pollution caused by the current model.”

Wayne Caines, Belco president, said the company had continued to take action on the impacts that the North Power Station had had since it was commissioned in April 2020.

Mr Caines said the company had installed shims on the engines at the NPS and work to retrofit piston crowns on the engines was completed in January.

“Now it has been completed, a new baseline will be established, allowing the team to objectively measure the effectiveness of the engine modifications,” he said.

“Belco remains optimistic that the efforts taken will result in a marked improvement with significantly reduced impacts on the neighbouring community.

“Belco has made a commitment to their neighbouring community to address this issue and will continue to monitor and adjust operations until the plant is running at optimum efficiency.”

Mr Caines said that complaints related to the smell of fuel were not new but over the past nine months a new custom filtration system had been designed, built and shipped to the island and installed in December 2021.

“Belco is optimistic that the filtration system, recommended by experts that have mitigated similar problems in other jurisdictions, will help to solve the odour emissions,” he said.

“Notwithstanding, the Belco team continues to investigate other measures in case such is needed.”

Mr Caines added that the company continued to address complaints of roof and property damage on a case-by-case basis and was optimistic that the improvements would help eliminate fallout occurrences.

He said the company had also worked to keep the community aware of what was being done through property visits, e-mails, presentations and town halls, and Belco had launched its own online survey at the BDA Climate Summit in May.

Mr Caines said: “Belco is committed to and working towards achieving net zero by 2050 and is exploring alternative and renewable energy generation through the use of wind, solar and the possible transition from heavy fuel oil to natural gas.

“Belco looks forward to continuing dialogue and engagement with the community as they continue to build a clean, safe and renewable energy future for Bermuda.”

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Published June 22, 2022 at 7:54 am (Updated June 22, 2022 at 7:49 am)

Pressure group hopes survey will push clean energy use

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