By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
THE Grand Bahama Environmental Association will finally have an opportunity to meet with representatives of the two firms that conducted independent studies of the Pinder’s Point/Lewis Yard areas and surrounding communities near the Grand Bahama Industrial Park.
The association commended State Minister for Grand Bahama Kwasi Thompson for inviting them to meetings with the Antea Group and Common Invent, which respectively carried out a safety risk assessment study and electronic monitoring reports.
The environmental group believes that the studies conducted under the former Christie government are flawed.
GBEA President Berthram Pinder and Shuffel Hepburn Sr met with Mr Thompson, and Iram Lewis, MP for Central Grand Bahama, on Monday, August 28.
“While the meeting was very tense, it was productive, and the GBEA is looking forward to significant results in the long term,” said the group’s press release.
According to the GBEA, Senator Thompson has committed to meet with the association on a monthly basis.
“Of course, this is something that has never happened in the history of the GBEA or the Pinder’s Point Lewis Yard Committee’s 40-year struggle. The GBEA takes its hat off to the Minister for making this commitment,” the statement said.
“Further, the minister committed to inviting the GBEA to meetings with The Antea Group as well as Common Invent. These are the firms that produced the safety assessment and the electronic monitoring reports that were passed on to the industry partners, the GBPA and the GBEA in early June.”
The GBEA is hopeful that the meetings will allow the association to be instrumental in causing some serious scientific concerns to be addressed and hopefully corrected.
Chemical emissions from nearby industrial plants have plagued residents in the affected communities for more than 30 years. They believe the environmental pollution has resulted in some illnesses and deaths in their communities.
An e-nose study done in the area involved the installation of 22 odour detectors that were put up on existing light poles in the affected communities. GBEA claims that the detectors are not measuring the actual air breathed by the residents and are installed too high.
“The GBEA reluctantly committed to having a scientific expert produce a critique of the three studies commissioned by the former government. The GBEA’s reluctance was due to the unavailability of funds to support such an analysis. However, we committed to having a report done, outlining concerns about the perceived inconsistencies and shortcomings of the three studies,” the statement said.
“The GBEA for the past 13 months has been conducting a revved up campaign in the media and otherwise to draw attention to the cries of the residents.
“It has been a very costly process, with no funding from the residents, many of whom are still trying to recover from Hurricane Matthew,” said the group.
The group reported that the campaign had cost more than $30,000 just this year alone.
“The GBEA is looking forward to the unfolding of the minister’s commitments in the months ahead, yet reserves its right to return to demonstrating against the government, the GBPA, and the industrial companies should the progress toward ‘relocation and compensation of the residents’ be less than satisfactory,” the statement said.