Opposition Leader Mark Golding says the spill of caustic effluent which led to the recent pollution of the Rio Cobre in St Catherine, should not be allowed to reoccur, as in the past.
“The bigger point is, going forward, this should never be allowed to happen again. There must be no release of this toxic waste into the river ever again,” declared Golding.
He was speaking on Friday after leading a tour with People’s National Party (PNP) officials of Kent Village and other St Catherine communities that have been affected by the pollution that resulted in a massive fish kill.
On Friday, the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) ndicated that it will serve a motive of intention to suspend UC Rusal/West Indies Alumina Company’s (Windalco’s) environmental permits and licences because of the pollution of the Rio Cobre.
According to Golding, the damage is severe, as not only fisher folk have been affected, but also farmers and “approximately 500,000 households in three parishes” have been impacted due to disruptions in water supply, as the National Water Commission (NWC) had to shut down its Spanish Town treatment plant to prevent contaminated water from reaching customers.
The PNP president said the Government must quickly update the legislation related to environmental breaches, as the fines are minuscule.
“Those penalties are minuscule. We have been calling on the Government to amend the NRCA (National Resources Conservation Authority) Act and put meaningful penalties and remediation and compensation clauses into it.
“They (the Government) have not done anything about it, and this has now inflicted a calamity on communities like this one here now in Kent Village,” Golding argued.
Going forward, he said UC Rusal/Windalco must ensure that the “toxic waste” is “either treated so it is fully neutralised before it is can be released, but until then, it is must be dealt with through a proper system of waste management.”
For her part, Member of Parliament (MP) for North Central St Catherine, Natalie Neita-Garvey, in whose constituency Kent Village falls is located, said NEPA should have alerted the residents of the effluent spill in the Rio Cobre.
She claimed that NEPA alerted the NWC about the spill, and the Spanish Town treatment plant was subsequently shut down.
“There should have been equal effort or greater effort to alert the people who live along the banks,” said the parliamentarian.