By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
THE GRAND Bahama Environmental Association criticised the government's consideration of a $4.5 billion oil storage terminal and refinery in East Grand Bahama as "sinful" given the unresolved issues with residents over ongoing industrial pollution.
The association asserts that the complaints of residents about the industrial pollution in Pinder’s Point and the other nearby communities are being ignored by the Minnis Administration, while residents continue to be diagnosed and hospitalized with cancer and other health problems.
“We are still having reports of residents fighting cancer,” said a GBEA representative, who reported that a Hawksbill resident is presently hospitalized in the Rand Memorial Hospital, fighting cancer.
“Yes, cancer is everywhere, but the health issues faced by residents in these communities are unparalleled, he said.
We’ve got a two-time cancer survivor who lives in Hawksbill - she is in the Rand Memorial Hospital hooked to oxygen tanks; she has tumors popping up over her body, but she is fighting.”
During a radio broadcast on the Save the Bays weekly programme on Kiss FM hosted by environmental activist Joseph Darville, the GBEA president Bertram Pinder vowed that the organization will not stop until the residents of the affected communities are relocated from the pollution of the industrial park.
He indicated that they will soon resume protest demonstrations again about their concerns to the Government, the Grand Bahama Port Authority, and the industrial plants.
Shuffle Hepburn, an executive member of GBEA, noted that despite a promise made three months ago by the Minister of State for Grand Bahama Kwasi Thompson to meet with them on a monthly basis, he has not met with them yet.
“We met with the Permanent Secretary, but have not met with him yet. We have not had the first meeting with the Minister for GB since he made the promise. Two months have passed with no call and no meeting,” he said.
“Sadly, the present government is sending us signals that make us feel we are no better off than we were under the PLP.”
Mr Hepburn claimed that the GBEA had sent letters to the Minister of the Environment Romauld Ferriera, and the Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis, but had not received any acknowledgement of the letters from them.
He said that copies of the association’s newspaper, GB voice, as well as videos were also sent to all the key ministers, including the Minister of Health, about their issues and nothing has come back.
"The PM claims to want to get GB going. Mr Prime Minister, the Lord will take his finger off GB when the injustices are addressed, Mr Hepburn said.
“When the disfranchised residents of these decimated communities get attention to their complaints of the pollution they have faced for years and years; when genuine efforts are made by the government and the GBPA to save residents lives, and the lives of their children, then, and only then, will the Lord move His finger, and GB will prosper again!”
Mr Hebpurn stressed that four schools have been moved out of the area in the past 25 years, but no attention has been paid to the residents who live in the pollution daily.
“This is sinful and it is wrong. And now our government is opening the door to a $4.5-billion dollar refinery and oil storage facility in the East End, but have not yet fixed the problem with the existing industrial plants. Soon we will be surrounded by pollution, God is not pleased,” he said.
Under the former PLP administration, former Minister for Grand Bahama Dr Michael Darville had undertaken an independent environment and health risk assessment study in the Pinder’s Point and surrounding communities conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). Following the year-long study, the organizations found that there was no health risk posed to residents living near the industrial plants, but recommended daily air monitoring and that a safety risk assessment be conducted.
GBEA rejected the findings and claimed that the study was flawed. They also claimed that the E-nose devices were installed too high and does not provide an accurate reading of the air quality that is actually being breathed by residents.
GBEA said that it is pleased that environmental activist Joseph Darville of Save the Bays, has pledged their support to assist them in the fight for the relocation of the residents.
• GRAND Bahama Minister Kwasi Thompson has indicated that the government is “fully committed” to addressing the safety concerns of the residents of Pinder’s Point, Lewis Yard, and the surrounding communities near the industrial park in Grand Bahama - full story HERE