Government Works to Address Soot Coming From BELCO Smoke Stacks  

“I am aware of the numerous justifiable complaints concerning the unacceptable situation area residents and businesses face from BELCO’s emissions,” said the Minister of Home Affairs, the Hon. Walter Roban, following incidents of soot impacting neighbouring areas. “We can and must do better to protect the health and safety of those in our community and our environment.”

The Ministry of Home Affairs can advise that complaints reported to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) associated with BELCO’s Pembroke operations fall into three main categories:

  1. The new North Power Station (NPS) engines emit soot particles into the environment.
  2. The Downdrafting of exhaust emissions from the tall stacks to residents in the Ocean Lane area.
  3. Fume odours from St. Johns Road tanks holding hot oils and fuels.

The public will recall that the Ministry of Home Affairs will be introducing the Clean Air Act Amendment Bill, which is currently in the draft stages. This bill will put new clean air limits to ensure businesses take the necessary steps to prevent the down drafting of exhaust emissions and fumes from tanks entering the environment. It will also introduce new odour regulations for controlled plants licenced under the Clean Air Act 1991. Modern enforcement measures and penalties will also be reviewed and considered for these draft legislative measures.

That said, the highest number of complaints relate to the periodic emissions of soot from the new NPS engines. This is primarily due to the visible and longer-lived impact of large soot particles on Bermuda’s roofs, patios, gardens, driveways and road vehicles.

The soot appears to be periodically emitted from the normal operation of the new dual-fuel NPS engines. A root cause of the soot emissions has not been identified. DENR await updates from BELCO on the successful implementation of measures to resolve these issues.

Monitoring soot emissions in the smoke stacks are unsuccessful; thus difficult to set measurable limits. As it stands now, BELCO and the EA learn of such soot events from impacted area residents. We are investigating methods to improve this system.

The Ministry can also advise that tank drinking water analysed from soot-impacted roofs meets the drinking water standards and the World Health Organization’s guidelines. Despite this, we understand that these standards are of little comfort to people with vehicles and property covered with debris from the BELCO powerplant and entering their only water source. Water tanks used to contain drinking water should not contain soot mixed in with the sediment at the bottom of the tank.

Minister Roban explained, “Urgent action is needed by BELCO and the Environmental Authority (EA) to ensure that the volume of soot entering the environment is addressed.”

“For many years, Pembroke residents, particularly in the vicinity of Belco, have been subjected to unfortunate incidences of discharges from Belco. I know the company has been working to find solutions to mitigate this issue for quite some time. At a meeting some weeks ago, Belco gave area residents great detail on their actions and the result they hoped would come. It is apparent that thus far, the residents have not perceived the benefits of these actions.”

Following the Environmental Agency identifying the approach to tackling the soot issue, we will discuss this with other relevant agencies and then advise the public on the next steps.

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