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Ferreira: Other islands have similar environmental hazards to Grand Bahama

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Housing and Environment Minister Romauld Ferreira. (File photo)

By DENISE MAYCOCK

Tribune Freeport Reporter

dmaycock@tribunemedia.net

ALTHOUGH Grand Bahama has the unique distinction of being “the industrial capital of the Bahamas” which have caused significant pollution problems, Environment Minister Romauld Ferreira said there are other islands which have similar or more environmental hazards.

At a recent town meeting with residents of Pinder’s Point/Lewis Yard affected by ongoing industrial pollution, Mr Ferreira was asked whether Grand Bahama had the most environmental hazards in the entire country.

“You have toured the Bahamas and seen environmental hazards throughout this Bahamas, is it safe to say that Grand Bahama has more environmental hazards than any of the other islands in the entire Bahamas?” asked resident Lowell Pinder.

“No,” answered the minister.

Mr Pinder pointed out there are a number industrial companies in Grand Bahama, including Pharmachem, Polymer’s International, the Grand Bahama Shipyard, the container port and Buckeye.

The Buckeye Bahamas Hub is one of the largest marine crude oil storage terminal in the region with capacity to store more than 20 million barrels of petroleum products. It borders the Pinder’s Point/Lewis Yard settlements.

He asked Minister Ferreira: “Please tell me where else in the Bahamas is there more emissions outside of Grand Bahama?”

Despite the existence of some six or more major companies situated in the Freeport Industrial Park, in his reply the minister stated that some of the other islands in the country, especially the ones to the north, are faced with similar emission problems.

“You have emissions to the ground water, to the air and ocean. In GB, the scenario is the groundwater and to the air. But we have other islands that are as impacted or more impacted on a continuous basis as much as GB.

“Which is why as a ministry we have prioritised making sure we have the environmental legislation in place. We recognise that there are some legislative gaps that need to be addressed and we are looking at it,” he said.

Minister Ferriera noted the Environmental Health Services Act does not speak to an award of damages to residents, but rather speaks to penalties to the entity that is doing the emission.

“For you to get an award of damages as an individual it is impossible for you to escape the responsibility you have as individuals impacted to litigate that matter. You cannot defect that or defer that or abdicate that,” he explained.

Chemical emissions have been major issue and complaint of residents for more than 30 years. Three schools – the GB Catholic High, The Hawksbill Senior and Junior High Schools, and more recently the Lewis Yard Primary school - have been relocated from the area.

The Grand Bahama Environmental Association and residents have been calling for relocation of families living near the industrial plants.

During an interview with The Tribune, when asked how he felt about residents and the GBEA intentions to sue the government, the minister said it is their right.

“They have a legitimate right to take legal action,” he said.

Mr Ferreira said he is aware of what the residents have been going through and has read all the studies his ministry has.

“This is why we freely make them available to the public. As a matter of fact, I said residents can have the information they need; we are not going to hide anything from them.

“Any information we have, they can have. We will do everything within our power to facilitate the necessary conversations to bring this to a resolution.

“At the end of the day everybody has to do their part. They have a role play as private citizens, we have a role to play as government, and of course there is industry, and the GB Port Authority.”

The minster said a resolution of the matter is going to require everybody to be at the table.

When asked if he had read the reports and studies and what he had gathered from them, Mr Ferreira indicated he had read them but did not wish to comment on the contents.

“Yes, I have read the reports in the ministry; all the reports I read personally. I do not want to comment on the contents because personal injury cases are always predicated on causation, and so whatever the Ministry of Environment and Housing has in its possession to assist anyone in relation to this matter in establishing that, we won’t be like the previous administration and hide the information in relation to Rubis. We will make it available to the people.”

When asked his thoughts about remarks made by former FNM cabinet minister and ambassador Maurice Moore’s call for relocation, he said: “I would imagine all options are on the table, but he also said it would cost half a billion dollars - I don’t know how he came up with that figure.

“At the end of the day the residents want resolution to the matter, relocation is a resolution of course and all options are on the table.”

Shuffel Hepburn said the government has all the information it needs about the issues that have plagued residents.

He asked the minister whether he was prepared to also present to residents a 1989 report of the Epidemiology Study conducted under former PLP Minister of Health, the late Dr Norman Gay.

He said the report recommended schools and residents be moved.

“The PLP and FNM governments have come and gone, and the study they hid, never presented to the residents who went to the Rand Memorial Hospital and gave their blood, and had their children go and give blood,” he said.

“And at end of day, the report was tucked away. Hubert Ingraham knew about it because he was in the PLP government at the time. And other ministers and prime ministers would come along had some idea about it,” he said.

Other recent studies conducted were an Environmental and Health Risk Assessment Study conducted by the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2014.

A Safety Risk Assessment conducted by Antea Group and E-nose Air Quality Monitoring study conducted by Comon Invent.

The residents and GBEA have rejected the findings in all three reports.

Comments

TalRussell 5 years, 9 months ago

Comrade Minister Romauld leaves behind significant pollution problems wherever he steps on opens his trap spout out bullshi#.... Freeporter's and Out Islander's daring walk behind him have pull up they pants legs to avoid stepping in minister's droppings. I have this feeling that Freeport my become the birthplace Grand Bahamaland Spring, against this red regime. Keep pushing Freeporter's and they just might run the red shirts right out Grand Bahamaland.

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bogart 5 years, 9 months ago

Thank you Mr Environment Minister for bring to the forefront the govt studies from decades ago that the pore Bahamian people did not know.

Suggestion ...given these large giants parties involved...is it possible for att the Arbitration Centre to be located in Freeport be activated with this Case and govt support or guidance for the people ??????

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birdiestrachan 5 years, 9 months ago

All this is worse than the RUBIS spill.

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sheeprunner12 5 years, 9 months ago

Every island has an open, unregulated garbage dump (or more) that seep dangerous toxins into the water table of the island and becomes an environmental hazard when flooded during hurricanes or on fire ......... Does that count?????? .......... We are still waiting for Hubbity's state-of-the-art landfills that were promised 20 years ago.

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bogart 5 years, 9 months ago

7 paragraph from bottom ....'1989 report.....conducted under former PLP Minister of Health, the late....?.??? ...'

P.S. Minister of the Environment, would it be too much to also ask to present the Report on Bank of the Bahamas BOB by the Canadians to the Bahamian public....???..

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Socrates 5 years, 9 months ago

Given the current dire financial state of affairs, i dont see how we can turn away any.potential opportunities regardless of risk. Like they say, manage it.

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