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RCI answers environmental questions, publishes report

In an 89-page public consultation report released on Friday, Royal Caribbean International (RCI) is once again defending its environmental footprint and vowing again to uphold six key environmental commitments in the development and operation of the Royal Beach Club at Paradise Island.

The report was compiled following a September 2021 public consultation and addresses questions submitted via town hall meetings, emails and letters.

Participants included local environmental activists, tourism stakeholders and the general public.

Many have voiced concern about the environmental impact the $100 million project will have on what local activists have described as the last remaining pristine tract of publicly held land on Paradise Island.

Atlantis’ Senior Vice President of Government Affairs and Special Projects Vaughn Roberts asked via email, “RCCL (Royal Caribbean Cruise Line) has had a history of discharging oil, toxic waste and falsifying records. What protections or commitments can be put in place in respect of this project?”

In response, RCI said, “No one’s history is perfect, but over 30 years ago, we took a stance and began our Save the Waves program. Since then, Royal Caribbean has a formidable environmental record for consistently going above and beyond the environmental regulations put in place by various authorities around the world.

“Royal Caribbean Group has been recognized for the last eight years as one of the 2023 World’s Most Ethical Companies and the only honoree in the leisure and recreation industry.

“As part of our development, we are committed to certifying the Royal Beach Club under the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) destination criteria. Lastly, an independent environmental monitor will oversee all construction and operational practices and generate a publicly available environmental report card.”

Atlantis President and Managing Director Audrey Oswell has publicly voiced concerns about the project, and has urged employees at the resort to take a stand on the proposed project if they also had concerns.

It prompted an investigation by the Department of Labour.

RCI’s yet-to-be-released environmental management plan pledges to build responsibly as well as to include zero waste-to-landfill, renewable energy, wastewater treatment, protecting and enhancing the surrounding habitats, and environmental monitoring.

In its consultation report, RCI also gave a detailed answer to Atlantis’ question regarding its proposed desalination (SWRO) and wastewater treatment (WWTP) plants.

“At the Beach Club, we anticipate, based on our experience at Coco Cay, that of the 100 percent of wastewater, greater than 95 percent of the WWTP process will result in treated wastewater that will be available for beneficial reuse for irrigation, washing of hard surfaces, vehicles, and other suitable practices,” the company said.

“The less than five percent remaining by-product from the WWTP process will be further refined into organic material, through a new partnership in The Bahamas, for fertilizer or composted for future vegetation and landscaping.

“Due to the limited access to fresh water and to lessen the impact on local resources, water will be produced through an onsite RO plant.

“Two reverse osmosis skids, each with a generating capacity of 150,000 gallons per day, are planned to facilitate site operations.

“Two storage tanks, each with a usable storage volume of 158,000 gallons, will support drinking water and fire protection functions.

“An onsite deep supply well will be constructed to facilitate raw water intake. In addition, we are studying the use of rainwater harvesting through cisterns and the use of treated wastewater for beneficial use.

“Brine from the RO plant will be discharged through a deep well injection system under the guidance and requirements of the Water and Sewer Corporation of The Bahamas.”

Atlantis also asked how solid waste would be handled and processed, to which RCI elaborated on its zero waste-to-landfill policy.

“Solid waste and recyclables will be collected, sorted and processed (recycling, composting, through a biodigester, etc.) with a commitment that zero waste reaches the landfill,” RCI said.

“Some processing may occur onsite (e.g. biodigester), while much of the processing will occur offsite.

“Partners helping process waste will be required to certify that the solid waste from the beach club does not reach the landfill.

“The beach club’s waste reduction program will eliminate single-use plastics, incorporate compostable food wares (e.g. utensils, plates, bowls) for food and beverage venues.

“The beach club will partner with the New Providence Ecological Park on its recycling program.

“Cooking oil will be processed into biodiesel to support energy production through a local partner and multiple biodigesters will be used throughout the site to reduce the amount of waste created by food and other organic material.

“Additionally, other waste reduction systems are under consideration as well as local partnerships with companies that help create sustainable waste solutions.

“Solid waste will be transported from the beach club through specialized water transportation to various partners for processing.

“Throughout the design, construction, and operation of the beach club, we intend on benchmarking against other waste management best practices on Paradise Island and throughout The Bahamas. We are committed to adjusting our waste management practices to ensure zero solid waste reaches the landfill.”

RCI is preparing to host another round of public consultation which is scheduled for June 8.

Following that and final review of its environmental documents, RCI said its Environmental Management Plan and Terms of Reference (TOR) will be submitted to the Department of Environmental Planning and Protection (DEPP) for review.

“While we need to complete the public consultation process, we are currently finalizing our draft EMP, which will reflect the six key environmental commitments we have made that exceed nearly all similar land-based development projects, including zero waste-to-landfill, 100 percent renewable energy production by 2030, best-in-class wastewater treatment, no dredging, protecting and enhancing the surrounding habitats, and local environmental monitoring during construction and operation,” the company said.