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Furbert did not expect incinerator to go ahead

MediWaste’s site on industrially-zoned land in Southside (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

A St David’s MP who viewed early plans for a medical waste incinerator now approved for Southside did not initially believe the project would be able to go ahead, according to opponents of the facility.

The group Concerned Citizens of St David’s stood by Tinée Furbert, MP for St George’s South, who has backed their call for the MediWaste incinerator planned for Waller’s Point Road to be subject to an environmental impact study by the Government before proceeding.

Residents issued a statement after it emerged that Ms Furbert, the Minister of Social Development and Seniors, had been chairwoman of the independent Environmental Authority that viewed plans for the incinerator in 2020 and raised a host of questions about how the plant would operate.

Her tenure on the authority appeared to run counter to a recent statement in the media, which said that she had heard about the project’s go-ahead in an article in The Royal Gazette this September.

Ms Furbert’s remarks came in response to a question on ZBM about when she “first became aware” of the proposal.

The St David’s protest group said it had not been aware of her position on the Environmental Authority.

But the group said it had discussed the issue with Ms Furbert – and had been given “a reasonable explanation for the confusing communication”.

“We also understand what happened in 2020, when all the facts had not yet been presented, that Minister Furbert did not feel at the time that the project would go anywhere given the hurdles that had to be addressed prior to its approval.“

Concerned Citizens thanked her for “going the extra mile” in calling for an analysis to “ensure that her constituents and all of Bermuda are protected from the potentially dangerous emissions that could result from the operation of this type of incinerator project”.

A town hall meeting with residents last month was attended by Donte Hunt, the chief executive of MediWaste and Geoff Smith, a regulator with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

Dr Smith told that meeting that the planned incinerator, which is to be built on industrially zoned land, complied with Bermuda’s clean-air regulations.

Mr Hunt said the emissions of the MediWaste facility were comparable to the output of a motorcycle.

This week, Concerned Citizens said the group could not understand how MediWaste secured a sole source contract from Bermuda Hospitals Board to become the island’s sole medical waste facility.

BHB earlier told the Gazette it had the power to assign sole contracts, and opted to proceed with MediWaste because there were “no other providers who could dispose of medical waste in Bermuda, which is a highly specialised service, and prices quoted were favourable to BHB”.

The St David’s group yesterday questioned how the deal had been “allowed to sidestep the Government’s involvement or the government RFP process”.

But BHB is a quango – and David Burt said this month after meeting with protesters that the contract between BHB and MediWaste was “a private project”.

The Premier stated he would discuss the matter in Cabinet to seek a resolution.

Although MediWaste’s proposal complies with the law, Concerned Citizens demanded to know why the Premier and ministers had not pushed for an environmental impact assessment.

The group also questioned whether BHB’s decision to move medical waste disposal off its premises was “a financial concern or a risk-management concern”.

BHB stated in November that it was inappropriate for a hospital to handle the country’s medical waste disposal and that the move was in keeping with international practice.

Last night, Concerned Citizens insisted on discussing its concerns with BHB, the Government, and “especially MediWaste and in particular Donte Hunt”.

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Published December 14, 2022 at 8:29 am (Updated December 14, 2022 at 8:29 am)

Furbert did not expect incinerator to go ahead

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