By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
THE first Industrial Plant Residents Day in Grand Bahama was held at the grounds of the Church of the Good Shepherd in Lewis Yard on Saturday.
The event, sponsored by Subway restaurant, was organised by the Grand Bahama Environmental Association. It featured a mini health conference, health screening, cook-out and fun activities for children.
Iram Lewis, MP for Central Grand Bahama, who represents constituents living in the communities surrounding the industrial park, attended and spoke briefly.
Residents of Pinder's Point, Seaco Town, Lewis Yard, Hawksbill, have been plagued by pollution in their communities, particularly chemical emissions believed to be emanating from the nearby industrial plants.
They have complained of various health-related issues over the past 30 years. The GBEA's goal is to raise awareness of their plight and advocate for the relocation of residents.
"I thought it was a success, it was well attended, and we gained valuable information about environmental pollution from various featured speakers," said resident Lorna Williams.
"Many people came out and spent the entire day with their kids; it was a great experience. We had a chance to sit and talk about what we are going through in our communities and also about our past experiences," she said.
Resident Lowell Pinder said that the community support was very encouraging.
Dr Andrew Moxey and Dr Darlene Cargill of the University of the Bahamas and Samuel Bevans, who holds a master's degree in analytical chemistry, were invited to address residents at a mini-conference, giving them some vital information about the impact of environmental pollution.
Rand Memorial Hospital personnel provided health screening to residents who had their glucose, cholesterol, and blood pressure levels checked. And some 100 bags of school supplies were distributed to the children, who also enjoyed fun activities such as a bouncing castle.
Some 33 persons were screened for cholesterol, glucose and high blood pressure at the event.
Shuffel Hepburn of GBEA said that they are happy about the success of the first event on Saturday, and a church service held on Sunday at the Church of God of Prophecy in Hawksbill.
"We are thankful to the community and the entire team that made this day a success. We thank the Church of the Good Shepherd for providing its facilities for our use, also the Rand Memorial Hospital and all who played a part," he said.
"The GBEA is committed to fighting for the relocation of the residents living around the industrial plants. In the process, we are committed to…aid them in the fight for their health and their very lives."
Mr Hepburn said the GBEA continues to call on former Minister for Grand Bahama Dr Michael Darville to prove that cost of the environmental studies commissioned during his term.
He claims that the studies undertaken were "faulty."
"We reassert our strong condemnation of these studies and insist that they are bad science and cannot stand firm in a court of law. We put our attorneys on notice to challenge the veracity of these documents if they are put before them in court," said the activist who has family ties in the Pinder's Point community.
The studies that Mr Hepburn referred to are the environmental health risk assessment study conducted by the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) between November 2014 and December 2015; the e-nose study which monitors air quality in the affected communities, and the safety risk assessment conducted by the Antea Group last year.
He criticised the powers that be in Grand Bahama claiming they have neglected the cries of residents over the years and have chosen big industry over the small man.
Mr Hepburn noted that while a few schools have been relocated, no effort was made to move the residents who spend more hours enduring alleged polluted air, water and soil.
"They have turned a blind eye to the mounting cases of illnesses among the residents. If the students and teachers have been made sick and needed to be moved, then the residents are made sicker still, and should have been long gone," he said.