Sat | Dec 5, 2020

NEPA yet to confirm Rio Cobre pollutant

Published:Monday | July 30, 2018 | 12:00 AMSyranno Baines/Gleaner Writer
Youngsters take a swim in the Rio Cobre in Zephyrton community in Linstead, St Catherine, where the water is discoloured due to alleged pollution from the nearby bauxite company. The state of the river caused a cancellation of the weekly ‘River Bash Sundays’ last Sunday.

Up to late yesterday, the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) said that it was yet to confirm the identity and source of the pollutant that was observed in a tributary of the Rio Cobre in Linstead, St Catherine.

NEPA began carrying out checks into the contamination shortly after residents of Zephyrton raised alarm when a foul-smelling white substance was seen in the water.

The vocal residents were quick to blame the nearby West Indies Alumina Company (Windalco) for the contamination of the river.

Updating The Gleaner yesterday evening, Richard Nelson, senior manager of the agency's environmental management sub-division, explained that a multi-agency team was dispatched on Monday morning to do a more in-depth investigation in addition to collecting more water samples for further lab analysis.

"We also will be visiting the Windalco site, because based on the report in the papers this morning (Monday), we see where the residents are pointing fingers at Windalco," he said.

"So, we are now spreading our investigation wider to see if there was anything happening at the facility that may have contributed to what we observed in the water," said Nelson, noting that up to yesterday, the agency had not received any formal report from Windalco to indicate that they have had any spill.

Nelson further explained "I must say that Windalco have a licence from us for discharge, and one of the conditions of that licence is that if there is any spill they should report same to us.

"So, all of that will come out in our investigation. By law, if you breach the permit the agency can take enforcement action and, depending on the severity of the breach, that enforcement action can be as far as court."