Mon | Jun 5, 2023

Letter of the Day | Some questions on Rio Cobre pollution

Published:Monday | May 22, 2023 | 12:18 AM


The Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) has noted the recent press release issued by the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) on May 14 on the pollution of Rio Cobre. In its release, NEPA stated that its technical team conducted “assessments” along the entire river. The report also said no “physical evidence of pollutants” was found, and there were no impacts on the river ecosystems. JET acknowledges the importance of advising the public after reports of pollution events, but it would be more useful for NEPA to also communicate the following clearly:

• What was the nature of the assessment, and did this include sample collection?

• If samples were collected:

– When were they collected?

– How many samples were collected?

– Where along the river were the samples collected?

– Which water-quality para-meters were tested, and what were the results?

If no samples were collected, NEPA should explain the criteria it used in determining that there was no evidence of pollution. If no samples were collected, why not?

This report comes on the heels of two other reported fish kills: Driver’s River, in April, and the Rio Cobre on May 5, in the vicinity of Gregory Park, Portmore. As far as we are aware, no report has been made public in response to these two incidents.

As such, we would also like to be clear on the mechanism that is in place to monitor our rivers. In general, we would like to know the following:

• When a report is made about a pollution incident affecting a river, which government agency is responsible for collecting water samples?

• What are the water-quality parameters selected for analysis, and who determines this?

• Are the water samples sent to a laboratory for analysis; if so, which labs, and is a report prepared?

• Who is the report shared with?

• What action is then taken?

• What is the mechanism for reporting to the public the results of such monitoring?

Our rivers are already under threat due to the climate crisis, and they need to be better protected by robust and effective monitoring followed by appropriate sanctions. Further, the public needs to be fully informed and engaged in the process.