By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
A LEADING member of the Grand Bahama Environmental Association is no longer confident that the Minnis administration will be any different from the previous Christie administration in bringing some resolve to the plight of residents living in Grand Bahama communities near the industrial plants.
Shuffel Hepburn, an executive member of GBEA, claimed Minister of State for Grand Bahama Kwasi Thompson has not responded to letters his organisation has hand delivered to the senator about its members' concerns.
"We had hoped we would receive genuine help…but those hopes are dim at the moment," he said. "I delivered them (the GBEA's letters) myself and signed for them at his office."
He claimed it has been asserted that Mr Thompson has had regular meetings with the GBEA, something Mr Hepburn said is not the case.
"He had never had meetings with us other than when we were invited to the Office of the Prime Minister, along with the industrial plants and the Grand Bahama Port Authority, to get copies of the two studies - the safety assessment and e-nose studies - that were undertaken by the previous government," he said.
"We already had five years of inaction from the previous PLP administration, and we do not intend to spend another five years of inaction," Mr Hepburn said.
The group also believes it is being censored by ZNS radio and television in Grand Bahama, saying the government owned broadcaster has not aired its recent press conference.
The GBEA held a press conference regarding plans for its first Industrial Plant Residents Day that was held on August 19, the same day of the FNM's 1992 victory anniversary celebration.
The Tribune contacted Mr Thompson's office on Wednesday for a response and was told that the senator had scheduled a meeting with the GBEA for next Monday at his office.
Mr Hepburn indicated that the GBEA had expected things would change after a new government was elected on May 10.
The GBEA, which is born out of the Pinder's Point Lewis Yard Environmental Committee, was formed earlier this year. The group has been agitating for the relocation of residents living in Seaco Town, Pinder's Point, Lewis Yard, Hawksbill, Hunters and Mack Town.
For the past 30 years, the residents have complained of continuous exposure to chemical emissions emanating from the nearby plants. They also claim to suffer from various health issues, from respiratory illnesses to nose, eye, and throat irritations, vomiting, and nausea.
GBEA and PPLYEC have held protests, calling for the relocation of residents.
The Christie administration had undertaken an environmental health risk assessment study conducted by international independent health organisations PAHO and WHO in November 2014 and December 2015. The study concluded that there was no health risk to residents living near the plants, but made recommendations for the installation of e-nose air monitors and for a safety risk assessment to be undertaken in the affected communities near the industrial facilities.
The GBEA and PPLYEC rejected the PAHO/WHO findings, and claims that the studies were "faulty".