Friends of the Rio Cobre accuses NEPA of cover-up
The National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) has been accused of covering up the results of a suspected pollution of the Rio Cobre River.
Members of the Friends of the Rio Cobre, a non-profit organisation formed to give voice to persons who make their living and use the Rio Cobre for recreational purposes, staged a demonstration on Monday demanding that NEPA make public results of tests the agency conducted near Zephyrton in Linstead on May 16.
According to the organisation’s president and chief spokesman, Kesonard Gordon, residents complained of itching when they bathed in the river. He said there is also evidence of discolouration and caustic soda odour coming from an underground tributary that empties into the main river flow.
Gordon said tests carried out by the organisation showed elevated levels of PH and turbidity at the point where the underground spring flows into the river.
NEPA, in a release dated May 14, indicated that their technical team had done an assessment and have determined the report of a pollution incident to not be credible, and that anecdotal information is that the phenomenon has been occurring for upward of six months.
The environmental agency also said that the team doing the investigation noticed water emerging from an underground source 300 metres upstream of the recreation bathing area at Zephyrton and referred it to the Water Resources Authority to carry out a hydrological assessment.
Gordon, however, dismissed the May 14 findings by NEPA, saying that it predated tests carried out by the agency’s technical team on May 16, which were done after Friends of the Rio Cobre conducted its tests on May 15.
“We have requested the results of the May 16 tests from NEPA and they have refused to make them public,” Gordon said.
He continued: “We know that the river is polluted. We tested it and the readings confirmed it. Therefore, tests conducted by NEPA would also show elevated levels of PH and turbidity levels. We want the results to be made public in the interest of the people who use the river.”
Gordon said anything short of full disclosure will be seen as a cover-up by the environmental agency that is entrusted with the responsibility to protect the river.
When contacted for comments, public relations officer at NEPA Sharhi Miller asked that The Gleaner send the questions via email to the agency.
The following questions were then forwarded to NEPA:
1. Can you confirm that a technical team carry out tests at the area mentioned on May 16, 2023?
2. What were the results of the tests?
3. What actions will NEPA take to cauterise the problem?
The Gleaner was informed in a response that the inquiry was noted for an internal response, but up to press time no response was forthcoming.