Protesters against medical waste incinerator present petition to Premier
David Burt has accepted a petition against a medical waste incinerator set to be built in St David’s – but insisted on meeting with protesters privately rather than “in the public domain”.
Mr Burt met with the group Concerned Citizens of St David’s outside Veritas Place at 12.15pm yesterday as the House of Assembly prepared to adjourn.
Members of the group said they would like to speak with the Premier openly.
But Mr Burt told Terlena Murphy, the group member who handed over the petition: “I am not going to have a discussion in public.”
About 20 protesters waited on Court Street with placards condemning the approval granted to MediWaste, a private firm, to build an incinerator at industrially zoned land in Southside.
Ms Murphy told the Premier the group was dead set against MediWaste getting the green light to build the facility and receiving “a sole-source contract” to take over medical waste disposal for the island.
Ms Murphy said afterwards: “He is the leader – the buck stops with him. I think he will listen to us and at least address his minister to consult with us.”
She said the group had tried “for the last three weeks to consult with Government”.
Ms Murphy added: “At least stop their licence for now until an environmental impact study is done.”
Albert Fox, a St David’s resident prominent in the opposition to MediWaste, said: “We asked on behalf of the group to present the Premier with our petition, which he accepted.
“He wants to meet with us at his office today. We were not prepared for that, but will do it on behalf of the community.”
David Burt held a “candid conversation” with the protest group Concerned Citizens of St David’s yesterday at the Cabinet Office.
The Premier invited them to meet after accepting a petition against a private medical waste facility to be built at Southside.
He said the project had followed the lawful requirements – but he would try to find “a way forward”.
The group aired objections over the project’s approval as well as consultation and environmental and health concerns.
Mr Burt said: “We spoke for over an hour, during which they passionately expressed the concerns they have about the medical waste incinerator that has been approved to be built in the St David’s area.
“Despite this being a private project, and despite the fact that all legal procedures have been appropriately followed, I understand the concerns raised.”
He added: “I will confer with Cabinet ministers regarding the issues raised today to find a way forward that can best address the concerns of residents.”
Craig Cannonier, the Shadow Minister of Works and Engineering, said: “He should address the public and he is trying to avoid them – that’s my opinion.”
Mr Cannonier suggested the Premier had leeway to intervene on the location of the incinerator, which has a contract with Bermuda Hospitals Board for all medical waste disposal on the island. The ten-year contract, signed on February 1, is valued at $7.4 million.
Mr Cannonier criticised Mr Burt’s offer to meet with three members of the group.
“It is unacceptable for the Premier to divide the group that has come to give him a petition. I suggest all of them go in his office – not just two or three.”
News that MediWaste was given Planning approval sparked a storm of opposition, which deepened last month with the placement of shipping containers laden with medical waste by the verge of a road in Southside.
The containers were subsequently moved to the airport dump.
A member of the group, who declined to give her name, told The Royal Gazette that area residents were frustrated at the lack of clarity over who authorised MediWaste to leave the containers on Bermuda Land Development Company property.
“We cannot get a straight answer on who gave permission for the containers to be there,” she said. “They didn’t drop from heaven. Everybody is just passing the buck.”
Another protester said: “It’s not just a St David’s Island thing; it’s a Bermuda thing. If they can walk all over us, then what are they going to do in your neighbourhood?”
Andrew Dias, the chief executive of BLDC, told a meeting of residents this week that responsibility for the containers lay with “the person that owns the material”.