By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
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.
The Grand Bahama Environmental Association (GBEA) issued a statement on Thursday accusing government of failing to respond to letters sent by the organisation, however, the minister said officials have been responsive to the group in the past three months.
He said officials are in receipt of the final safety assessment report conducted by the Antea Group and are presently reviewing it.
“We are able to say that we recently received the final report. I have not digested the report. We are reviewing that now and government will meet with all the parties to go over the report and indicate how the government will move forward,” Senator Thompson said.
GBEA claims that the minister has not kept his promise to meet with the group on a monthly basis.
Mr Thompson, who represents and oversees the Office of the Prime Minister in Grand Bahama, said that he met with the GBEA’s president, Bertram Pinder, and with Shuffle Hepburn on August 24 and indicated his commitment to arriving at an amicable result for the residents.
“I committed to keep them appraised of what was going on, and that my office would meet with him on a monthly basis,” he explained.
The minister stated that his office forwarded to Mr Pinder a letter on August 29, which reaffirmed their commitment to the residents.
“It acknowledged receipt of all his letters and our commitment to the residents. I can also confirm that we sent him another letter on September 12 which acknowledged receipt of a letter sent on August 30,” he said.
In the letter, Mr Thompson said he again reaffirmed the government’s commitment to continuing dialogue with the residents and with the association.
The Office of the Prime Minister, he said, forwarded another letter on September 29, specifically as a follow up regarding the issue of a draft report to relevant stakeholders and extending an invitation to the GBEA to attend a meeting on October 4 at OPM at 3pm.
Mr Thompson stated that the purpose was for Mr Pinder, Mr Hepburn, and representatives of the GBEA to meet with the Antea Group which had drafted the initial interim report of safety risk assessment of Pinder’s Point and surrounding communities’ proximity to the industrial park.
“We wanted to make sure that they had an unfiltered access to the Antea group which was preparing the safety assessment report. They had a productive meeting and the GBEA informed the group of all their concerns in reference to report,” Mr Thompson said.
He said that he received a letter from the GBEA signed by Mr Pinder and Mr Hepburn, dated October 6, thanking him for providing the opportunity to the GBEA to meet with the group to discuss issues that they have with the study.
Mr Thompson stated that they were able receive clarification on a couple of issues, but were not satisfied that any significant adjustment to the body of the study was agreed to by the Antea group.
Nevertheless, he said the GBEA was very pleased they were able to submit their issues for inclusion in the addendum of the study.
He said the men thanked him for his courtesy and concern for the residents who live around the industrial plants.
Mr Thompson further stated that the OPM provided the GBEA another update by way of a letter to Mr Pinder on November 3, acknowledging receipt of their letter wanting receipt of the final safety assessment report from the Antea Group.
Mr Thompson said he spoke with Mr Hepburn on Thursday to reassure him of the government’s commitment to residents.
“We are committed to the residents and whenever he wishes to meet, I have no objection in having a meeting with him. I confirmed with him all my contacts and on previous meetings I gave him all my contacts, and indicated he can feel free to contact me because I have no difficulty meeting with him,” he said.
• 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 - full story