Editors' Forum | Environmentalists urge review of water quality monitoring
Having uncovered anomalies in the data collected on Jamaica's water quality, local environmentalists have called for a temporary closure and review of the island's monitoring system, administered by the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA).
"The monitoring programme should be shut down for six months or so and be reassessed. Get the laboratory to get their analytical methodologies in order, get accredited, get the database in order ... get the anomalies removed," insisted Dr Anthony Greenaway, main technical researcher and contributor to the Jamaica Environment Trust's (JET's) 'Review of the Legal and Policy Framework for Air and Water Quality in the Island of Jamaica' report.
Addressing a Gleaner Editors' Forum last Thursday Greenaway, a retired senior lecturer at the University of the West Indies, insisted that the existing gaps, including the absence of records of the time of day sampling is done, call into question the validity of the information provided to the public.
"Time of day of the sampling is critical in many in instances. I haven't seen that recorded anywhere. (They need to) get the data that NEPA have and combine it with data from the Water Resources Authority and the National Water Commission and the Ministry of Health and bring all of those into one central database ... and make sure that in future, as you go ahead, you are collecting the fundamental data that allows you to interpret the numbers," he added.
His recommendation is one reflected in the report, published by JET with funding from the Commonwealth Foundation under JET's 'Jamaicans for Clean Air and Water' 2016-2018 project.
Among other things, the report recommends that "fresh and marine water quality monitoring being done by NEPA needs to be reconsidered with respect to the parameters being measured and significantly expanded so as to adequately cover all environmental conditions - weather, industrial, land use and tourism variations, inter alia".
NEPA has noted its acceptance of the report and its findings and expressed no aversion to a review.
"We always welcome a review of any of our programmes," said Anthony McKenzie, director of environmental management and conservation at NEPA, who was also present at the forum.
He said NEPA is working at improving its monitoring efforts - and for both water and air quality.
"We have identified the gaps that need to be closed ... licensees and permitees are required to pay a fee. We are expecting that those fees can redound to the benefit of a monitoring programme and increase our capacity to monitor, do more frequent sampling and to boost our equipment," said McKenzie.