Roban claims Belco pollution is ‘shocking’
On Friday afternoon, August 14th 2020, Minister of Home Affairs the Hon. Walter Roban JP, MP and Dr. Geoff Smith – environmental engineer for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) – took the opportunity to visit some of the home owners in the St. John's Road, Pembroke area directly affected by BELCO emissions.
“I was keen to see and hear for myself the concerns of those directly affected”, said Minister Roban. “And frankly, what was brought to my attention – collected particles emitted from BELCO smokestacks and photos that showed roof discoloration – is shocking. Notwithstanding BELCO's efforts to date, obviously much more needs to be done to eliminate these unwelcome emissions and I continue to encourage regular communication by BELCO with the affected home owners, until these issues are resolved.”
As a reminder, residents directly impacted by BELCO emissions should e-mail their complaints to firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Press release from the Bermuda Government
Belco responded by reissuing the following statement:
Bermuda Electric Light Company Limited (BELCO or the Company) today responded to comments on plant emissions that have been affecting the surrounding neighbourhood, whilst also moving to dispel misinformation on plant operations and staff responsiveness to community concerns.
At BELCO we take the health and safety of our employees and the community very seriously and will continue to take every measure to ensure that any damage to affected properties is addressed expeditiously and that the fallout from any incident is mitigated in future. Our dedicated employees at BELCO work 24/7/365, including during hurricanes and the recent COVID-19 pandemic, to ensure residents and businesses can count on a reliable, safe and affordable power source. BELCO is rated as one of the best island utilities in the world based on operational performance, high reliability, environmental stewardship and customer experience.
BELCO is ISO 14001 certified, which means that it meets the highest international standard for its environmental management system. The Company also complies with the Clean Air Act 1991 and Regulations 1993 issued by the Bermuda Government Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) including additional requirements pertaining to Ambient Air Quality Standards (Clean Air Act 1991) which requires regular quarterly reporting for all pollutants for all averaging periods. BELCO has been compliant with these regulations and the conditions cited in all BELCO Controlled Plant Operating Licenses & Operating Licenses Conditions (OL-114) throughout the commissioning of the North Power Station and since the 1 April 2020 handover. Stack emissions were modelled using an approved air dispersion model, the AERMOD version 19191. Stack modelling was recently reconfirmed using the most recent topographic files and 2020 meteorological data.
BELCO's Occupational Health Safety and Environment (OHSE) team constantly monitor the effects of emissions from the plant on the adjacent neighbourhood and across the island. This team works closely with DENR to ensure emissions are within acceptable limits. As a precautionary measure, BELCO is currently in the process of setting up an additional ambient air monitoring station in Pembroke to capture the data necessary to further analyse the level of emissions that may be emanating from the BELCO stacks and to demonstrate compliance at an additional location.
On June 20th, an isolated incident occurred that resulted in soot being dispersed in the Berkeley Hill neighbourhood adjacent to the North Power Station. The soot accumulated during the commissioning process. The issue has been addressed to avoid reoccurrence as we continue to run the plant at full load. The North Power Station has now been fully commissioned and, apart from the June 20th event, there have been no further incidents. As a result of the incident, BELCO's OHSE team immediately investigated and acted to mitigate unexpected emissions and engaged affected property owners. The Company is aware of complaints concerning the stack emissions and we are fully engaged with the impacted customers on a one on one basis. As a further positive step, the Company had already planned to decommission eight engines and associated exhaust stacks in October of this year. The North Power Station will be the last fossil fuel power plant ever built in Bermuda and will ensure a reliable source of electricity while the island transitions to a renewable energy future.
If a property owner believes they have been affected by emissions from the plant they can email BELCO's OHSE office at email@example.com or call 299 2802. The team will also be reaching out to the community and neighbouring residents to invite them to visit the plant and to continue conversations addressing their concerns.
BELCO is committed to working with the Regulatory Authority, the Department of Energy and DENR to follow their directives and also implement the Integrated Resources Plan that will ensure a cleaner, more renewable energy supply to our valued customers.
The Company also looks forward to a decision on the sale of the Ascendant Group Limited to Algonquin Power & Utilities Corp. who have outlined their immediate commitment to invest in renewables and bring costs down for customers.