By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
THE Martin Marietta’s Bahama Rock plant is being blamed for causing damage to homes in three communities since the company started blasting 15 years ago in Grand Bahama.
Homeowners in Queen’s Cove, Eight Mile Rock and – more recently – Hawksbill claim that blasting operations carried out by the company have caused cracks in their walls and damage to their foundations.
Earthcare founder Gail Woon, told a local talk show she was among the first group of homeowners in Queen’s Cove who felt the blasts and noticed cracks appearing in their homes in 2000.
“We were the first group (of homeowners) to complain about the blasting by Martin Marietta Bahama Rock (MMBR). In 2000 to 2003, MMBR was blasting fairly closely to the Fishing Hole Road area and we would feel the blasts daily at 4pm. We started to see cracks in our houses, which appeared when blasting occurred,” she recalled.
“We complained, had meetings with their manager, Walter Reid. We had meetings at Bahama Rock. MMBR officials had the audacity to tell us that slamming a door in our homes would cause more shaking in our houses than their blasting. So I set up a video camera inside my home to see if it would read the vibration. It certainly did.”
Ms Woon has posted the video on YouTube, along with a meeting that she and Joseph Darville of Save the Bays held in conjunction with the Concerned Citizens of Hawksbill in November.
Queen’s Cove homeowners, she said, had formed a Homeowners Association to raise legal funds to launch an action against the company. But the blasting had been moved near the Harbour West Subdivision of Eight Mile Rock, where residents also began complaining of damage and cracks to their homes.
The residents formed the Concerned Residents of Grand Bahama group and several meetings were held with company officials. According to Ms Woon, the group was able to stop MMBR’s plans from going across Warren Levarity Highway into the mangroves and the north shore of the Eight Mile Rock settlement.
Dr Marcus Bethel, former Minister for the Environment, had issued a “Cease and Desist” Order, halting the company’s blasting for six months so that an investigation could be carried out. She said that after that period, the company was allowed to resume blasting.
Ms Woon said that the company has now moved their blasting to the south shore and are affecting the residents of the Hawksbill Subdivision.
Some homeowners of Hawksbill told of their experience after blasting started in the south creek.
Yvonne Grant, a long time resident of the Hawksbill Subdivision said: “I felt tremors and I didn’t know what was happening until I was approached by the Concerned Citizens knocking on my door and that’s when I realised the reason my house was vibrating.
“(Initially) I didn’t know the reason why my house was shaking. I didn’t know what it was. I just know every time I’d wake up screaming, ‘Oh my God what is happening?’ I really didn’t know what was the problem,” she recalled.
Ms Grant said the Hawksbill area was hit hard during a hurricane in 2004 and her family had to flee when chest-high floodwater came into their house. She said that many of her neighbours have moved out of the area, but she cannot afford to move.
“I was able to finish repairs to my home. Right now my home is surrounded by abandoned homes. She said that contractors believe that the foundation might have been compromised.
“Water has been coming in my house and I didn’t know why. Every time it rains during bad weather, water is coming through my house and I want to know why,” she said.
Hawksbill resident John Frampton first experienced the blasting while sitting at home having lunch. “I just felt that house shaking tremendously and I honest to God thought it was an earthquake so I backed out, I left the food and everything, ran outside into the streets, and I am looking to see who is out there with me,” he recalled.
He went to a neighbour and asked if they felt the earthquake, but was told that there was blasting going on in the creek.
“This is my home. I’ve made this my home and I don’t like what’s going on. We are also dealing with the environment, the pollution also (of the nearby industrial plants).”
Jackie Frazier, a Hawksbill homeowner, said she had dozed off while reading in bed and was wakened by strong vibrations. “I thought I was dreaming,” she recalled. Ms Frazier checked her house and noticed cracks.
After receiving complaints, the company installed a seismograph in the area to measure vibrations.
Renaldo Parker, President of the Concerned Citizens of Hawksbill, said residents feel disrespected.
“The government should be ashamed of itself. No one has stepped forward and even tried to show some form of compassion to the residents of Hawksbill. At least one time, government could at least come down and talk to the people and let them know what’s going on,” he said.
Yesterday a Grand Bahama-based consultant said Bahama Rock “remains committed to the environment and the safety of all residents and its employees.
“Bahama Rock takes the concerns and complaints expressed seriously and will issue a detailed response this week. However, it should be noted that Bahama Rock does not intend to engage in an ongoing media exercise on this issue. Efforts will continue on the part of the company to communicate with residents, groups, and all other stakeholders direct.”