By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
FOUL odours emanating from the BORCO plant have continued to permeate the Pinder’s Point area of Grand Bahama this week, affecting residents and businesses along Queen’s Highway West.
The Pinder’s Point Lewis Yard Environmental Committee (PPLYEC) spoke with a Buckeye representative, who confirmed that a particular type of crude oil was the source of the odour and that efforts were being made to address it.
Last week, residents complained of nausea and vomiting and a nearby restaurant reported that the odour was very pungent for two weeks and reportedly made a number of patrons sick. “It was awful last week, but this week it is not as strong,” an employee told The Tribune. “The odour is more prevalent at night than in the day.”
PPLYEC members Shuffel Hepburn and Berthram Pinder said they were told by Buckeye that the odour was caused by a type of crude that was very viscous, which the representative referred to as “high pour point”.
“It is very smelly and they have been trying to get the odours down but it has been difficult. And the representative said they are now trying to get rid of the oil,” said Mr Hepburn. He said that the smells are a disruption to the lives of the residents and their health. He criticised the company for not making an announcement to explain the problem, or even to apologise to the residents.
The Committee also criticised BORCO for failing to compensate homeowners who suffered damage to their homes as a result of sandblasting at the plant. At a town meeting on Tuesday, resident Lowel Pinder said that his roof was recently stained by sandblasting particles blown into his yard, onto his car, and home. He said he informed Buckeye of the damage to his property, but the company refuses to compensate him. He plans to sue for compensation.
According to Mr Hepburn, silica particles are carcinogenic and can affect the residents’ health and encouraged others who have sustained damage to their property to also take legal action.
The PPLYEC revealed the results of a questionnaire conducted on Tuesday at the town meeting relating to their health and of family members who died of cancer.
“More than 70 per cent of the residents said they have at least a couple of illnesses identical to those in the 1989 recovered government’s epidemiological study, Mr Hepburn reported. “More than 70 per cent had family members who died of cancer, and a number of them had as many as three members in their family die of cancer,” he said, “and a number of them said they have cancer themselves.”
Mr Hepburn also shared with residents the results of an epidemiological study in 1989 commissioned by Dr Norman Gay but never released by the government.
“The residents cried shame on the government for preventing them from taking measures to safeguard their health while living in such a toxic environment,” he said. “Residents feel that many deaths might have been avoided had the government released the results of the study to the Bahamian public, and had they followed up on the recommendations by Dr Fahrat Mahmood, Dr Eric Brown and the team that worked along with them to produce the study.”
He believes that the initial study was much more comprehensive and more professionally done than the recent 2015 Pan American Health Orgaisation/World Heatlh Organisation health assessment. “PAHO/WHO did not have any residents examined by medical doctors in order to arrive at their conclusion that there are ‘no health risks to the residents’,” said Mr Hepburn.
The government has implemented the two recommendations made by PAHO/WHO in its report to install E-noses in the communities to monitor air quality; and to conduct a safety assessment of communities within close proximity of the industrial plants.
Minister for Grand Bahama Dr Michael Darville announced last month that the Antea Group had been contracted by government to conduct a safety assessment. The PPLYEC wants residents relocated from the affected settlements and communities.