Wed | Oct 4, 2023

Rio Cobre fishermen worried about another fish kill

Odour, discolouration of river linked to pollution that caused previous wipe-out

Published:Tuesday | May 16, 2023 | 1:37 AMRuddy Mathison/Gleaner Writer
Friends of the Rio Cobre President Kesonard Gordon administering a test as suspicions of the river’s pollution emerged yesterday.
Friends of the Rio Cobre President Kesonard Gordon administering a test as suspicions of the river’s pollution emerged yesterday.

A FRESH concern has emerged about pollution of a section of the Rio Cobre in St Catherine.

Fishermen have expressed concerns about a visible discolouration of the river, and an odour reminiscent of caustic soda, at a point where an underground water source empties into the main river stream.

The fishermen told The Gleaner that since Saturday they have been experiencing signs of pollution, such as the foul odour and discolouration, and fear that fish types such as the fry and fingerlings that are now going through their developmental stage could be wiped out.

This has prompted Friends of the Rio Cobre president, Kesonard Gordon, to test the water in the area yesterday.

“We are concerned about what we are witnessing, because after conducting two separate tests in the area where we saw the discolouration and where it smells like caustic soda, and upstream where the water was clear, we got two different readings,” Gordon told The Gleaner.

He continued: “Where we saw the discoloured water flowing into the main river stream the PH or acidity of the water was eight and trending up, while the turbidity or water clarity was 40 nephelometric turbidity unit (NTU).”

Gordon noted that in the area upstream the contrast was clear, with the PH readings between six and seven, and the turbidity between zero and one NTU.

“These readings indicate that there is a difference in the water quality, and this is troubling to us in light of the hardships we have experienced with previous pollutions,” Gordon said.

He disclosed that the test kits were supplied by the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET), a non-governmental agency, and the testing was conducted with strict adherence to the methods outlined to them by JET representatives.

Meanwhile, National Water Commission (NWC) field operations manager for St Catherine, Calvert Davis, observed that turbidity of 40 NTU is not detrimental because the water is treated at the treatment plant before it is pumped to the customers.

Davis added that if the PH level is trending upwards of 8.5, then this could be cause for concern.

Fisherman Marion Green of Bog Walk maintained that the river was polluted at the point where the water flows into the main river stream from under the earth.

“It is polluted right here. The only reason why it is not causing a major fish kill is because it comes from under the earth, and it is filtered. But where it comes out, we are smelling the caustic soda and the discolouration is obvious to the naked eyes,” he told The Gleaner.

Green’s assertions were supported by Everald Hyatt, another fisherman from the area, who agrees that the odour and discolouration were positive signs of the pollution that caused several fish kills in the past.