By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
ENVIRONMENTAL activist Shuffel Hepburn says the residents affected by industrial pollution in the five southern settlements of Grand Bahama will deal with the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) government at the polls on May 10.
“The PLP government has done great damage to our relocation efforts and the Prime Minister has told residents point blank that there will be no relocation. Residents have taken note of his lack of care and concern and will speak to he and Dr Darville at the polls on May 10,” he said.
The Pinder’s Point Lewis Yard Environmental Committee has been agitating for many years for the relocation of residents living near the industrial plants. The group held several protests and town meetings this year.
In March, Prime Minister Perry Christie said that relocating the residents of Pinder’s Point is not something that his government will consider as no such recommendation has been made to it.
He noted that studies were undertaken in relation to the industrial pollution in Grand Bahama many years ago and more recently by the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) and World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2015.
“The assessments to date have all indicated that people were not in harm’s way,” Mr Christie told reporters in Grand Bahama. “(A) recommendation would have to come for relocation. Clearly, when you begin to make an assessment where people are in harm’s way the implication is that you may have to relocate them.
"But if the results say there is no need for that because the incidences of diseases … are not related to the presence of the industrial concern, then we have to take it in consideration.”
Mr Christie noted that the government is concerned about industrial pollution and has brought in the best scientists it can find to conduct studies.
The PAHO/WHO study found that there were no health risks to residents living near the industrial plants, and recommended air monitoring and that a safety risk assessment be conducted in the affected communities.
Minister for Grand Bahama Dr Michael Darville said that government has installed E-noses in the affected communities and has contracted Antea Group, of the Netherlands, to conduct a safety assessment of the communities near the industrial plants.
Mr Hepburn said that government’s relocation of the Lewis Yard Primary School proves that there is a health risk to residents living in surrounding communities near the plants.
He noted that the PLP government started its present term by relocating Lewis Yard Primary from Lewis Yard to the St Vincent de Paul school campus in Hunters.
Mr Hepburn claims that the Hunters settlement is still in the pollution zone.
He said that $450,000 was spent to prepare the school campus for the transfer, with Buckeye having contributed $102,000 and the Grand Bahama Port Authority $103,000.
Last October, the students were relocated from the St Vincent campus because of hurricane damage to the Church of the Good Shepherd Community Hall.
Mr Hepburn stressed that students were again “in the very thick of the pollution and sandblasting sprays.”.
“Ironically, this government ends its term by moving the same school back to the same location. The government has been going in circles when it comes to the residents around the industrial plants and has no idea, nor the will about how to resolve the issues,” he said.
The school has since returned to the St Vincent campus, but Mr Hepburn believes that the relocation of Lewis Yard Primary two years ago, and three other schools in 1988-9 (Grand Bahama Catholic High and Hawksbill Senior and Primary Schools) prove that there is a health risk to the residents in the surrounding areas.
“The residents, however, continue to suffer, and the students who attend Lewis Yard Primary return to their homes in the affected communities of Pinder’s Point, Lewis Yard and Hawksbill.
“They spend more time back in the heaviest pollution at their homes than they spend in their school. So how is that a solution?” said Mr Hepburn.
Members of the Pinder’s Point Lewis Yard Environmental Committee have now formed and launched a new association, the Grand Bahama Environmental Association (GBEA).
“The launch was successful … and persons attending made valuable contributions. We have added a few new persons to our team and are expecting valuable contributions from them,” Mr Hepburn said.
The association, headed by president Berthram Pinder, is developing a website called GBVoice to expand its reach to others in Grand Bahama and the Bahamas.
According to Mr Hepburn, GBEA will endeavour to carry out its own environmental study in the affected areas to prove that there is evidence of industrial pollution.
“We will focus on working hard to cause the relocation of the residents,” he vowed.