Fri | Nov 26, 2021

Windalco says discharge didn’t kill fish in Rio Cobre

Published:Thursday | August 5, 2021 | 12:38 AM
Dead fish are seen in the Rio Cobre on Monday.
Dead fish are seen in the Rio Cobre on Monday.

Mining company Windalco says it is not responsible for Sunday’s fish kill in the Rio Cobre, for which it has been blamed by the Government’s chief environmental regulator.

The National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) conducted tests and concluded that effluent from the bauxite company had caused the fish kill.

The agency also confirmed that Windalco was served with an enforcement notice on Wednesday.

However, in a statement issued on Wednesday, Windalco, while acknowledging that there was an overflow of effluent from its plant on Sunday, said, based on the company’s monitoring data and preventative measures, it was confident that the spillage did not have any “deleterious impact” on the environment.

“We do not accept liability for the fish kill. However, we are mindful of the importance of the river to residents in and around the affected areas of the Rio Cobre and have taken measures to restore normalcy to the river, inclusive of the removal of dead fish,” the statement said.

According to the mining company, heavy rains over the past week had caused the effluent to spill from the pond at the plant.

However, it said several measures had been implemented to minimise the discharge into the river.

Windalco said that NEPA, the Water Resources Authority, the Ministry of Health and the Jamaica Bauxite Institute had been advised of the effluent discharge within 30 minutes of the incident.

The Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) said that it was alarmed at repeated discharges into the Rio Cobre.

Windalco is currently in court over a 2019 incident.

JET said that fines for such offences under the Natural Resources Conservation Authority (NRCA) Act – J$50,000 for a breach of permit, and $100,000 under the Wild Life Protection Act, were “quite low”.

“Fines at this level do not act as a deterrent for companies that earn millions of dollars in revenue annually,” the lobby group said in a statement.