Fri | Sep 21, 2018

Still no official decision on ShoreLock application in Jamaica

Published:Friday | April 24, 2015 | 12:00 AMPetre Williams-Raynor
KNIGHT...the position on the future use of the product will be relayed after detailed discussions with the Minster of the Ministry of Water, Land, Environment, and Climate Change.

WHILE CLAIMING to have promising test results from more than a year ago, the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) is, at least for now, withholding its public endorsement of the controversial erosion control agent, ShoreLock.

"The position on the future use of the product will be relayed after detailed discussions with the Minster of the Ministry of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change (Robert Pickersgill)," said NEPA boss Peter Knight, in a written response to Gleaner queries late last month.

"The NRCA (Natural Resources Conservation Authority, serving as the board of NEPA), has already received the report and have been made aware of the findings. We will, however, await the minister's decision before proceeding," he added.

Testing of the agent was done to the tune of $15 million in 2013, amid opposition from environmentalists and Negril stakeholders, who insisted the resort town ought not to be used as a pilot given its economic importance to Jamaica's tourism.

During testing, ShoreLock - developed and refined by Hydros Coastal Solutions, Inc, a corporation with headquarters in Miami, Florida - was applied to 250m of beach along Norman Manley Beach Park in Negril and 250m of beach in Font Hill, St Elizabeth.

There was also an independent control plot, also measuring 250m - established in Discovery Bay, St Ann - under the supervision of the University of the West Indies Discovery Bay Marine Laboratory.

"Baseline assessment of the survey sites were conducted in February and March of 2013 and application of the product at the selected sites were conducted in June, August, September, and October of 2013. Routine monitoring was done within seven to nine days following the application of ShoreLock at the sites. All monitoring activities were completed by December 2013," Knight revealed.

Testing included:

- Beach profiles and water quality (nitrates, phosphates, salinity, pH, dissolved oxygen, and faecal coliform);

- Benthic surveys (seagrass beds and corals nearshore);

- Sand grain analysis (composition, grain size and temperature); and

- Meiofauna (microscopically small invertebrates) surveys.

In the end, Knight said the results were positive.

"ShoreLock was designed to increase the cohesive properties of sand resulting in accumulation of sand. The product was able to do this at the three study sites," he noted.

"Based on the findings of the six-month study and the analysis of results, it is reasonable to infer that the product presents no threats to the environment or human health. The areas have been monitored since application (over one year) and there have been no adverse findings," Knight added.

A table summarising the general findings cited "beach profile changes over time" with "beach height increased in the short term" but no "potential impacts" on water quality, sediment quality or macro flora or fauna.

As to sand flora and fauna, potential impacts were said to have been "inconclusive" with "sand flora not removed" even as "there were changes in species abundance and composition".

It is still anyone's guess when the full report will be made publicly available.

"The details of the study will be articulated to the minister of water, land, environment and climate change then with the stakeholders - Jamaica in general, and Negril specifically," Knight said.

As to how, he said: "We will first share the documents on the agency's website, do a media release on the major findings and the way forward, and also meet directly with the Negril stakeholders."

Until then, monitoring of the test sites is ongoing.

"The agency continues to monitor the sites as part of its annual beach monitoring cycle and ecosystem assessments. UWI also continues to monitor the control site at the Discovery Bay Marine Lab," he said.

Efforts to get a comment from UWI proved futile up to press time.