Town meeting about Bahama Rock issues gets heated

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By Genea Noel

The Freeport News – The issue of Bahama Rock’s ongoing blasting and its effect on the Eight Mile Rock Community finally came to a head between government officials of The Grand Bahama Committee for Concerned Residents (GBCCR) Thursday evening at a town meeting held at the Eight Mile Rock High auditorium.

Environmental Minster Earl Deveaux attempted to allay some of the concerns of the residents who insisted that the company’s operations have not only caused damage to their homes, but are destroying the water lens and are contributing to an apparent hairline crack in the island’s coastal bed.

Committee members maintained that after waiting for more than a year to meet with the Minister on the matter they were told that their request would only be granted if questions were sent to him to respond to.

Deveaux however said that although he insisted that questions be sent to him before hand, this was only done to ensure that accurate answers could be given to the concerns of the residents and he was willing to answer any other questions and address any other concerns that the residents might have had.

He noted that the questions and answers will be made available for public knowledge.

During Thursday’s meeting, which became heated at times, Deveaux and other Members of Parliament -Zhivargo Laing, Kenneth Russell, Neko Grant, Verna Grant and Obediah Wilchcombe- were able to provide answers, charting the way forward in handling the matter.

The matter of most concern was the fear from residents that Bahama Rock is proceeding to move across the Warren J. Lavarity Highway to continue its dredging into “Area 4,” further disrupting residents in the Jones Town area and other neighbouring communities.

Deveaux however said that despite public perception the government has no application and are currently giving no consideration for approval for that area.

Though pleased with this response residents however said that more must be done to control the operations of the company.

It was suggested that Bahama Rock notify residents via the media when the blasting will occur and set aside a fund to compensate homeowners for the damages incurred.

They also suggested that the Bahamian people should be profiting from the amount of agritate that the company exports.

” I did not come here to defend or demonize Bahama Rock,” said Minister Deveaux.

“Thirty percent of the aggregate is produced as a result of your harbour and is consumed in your country. It is up to you how you evaluate what happened as a result of your complaints.

“When Bahama Rock started they did not need an Environmental Impact Assessment, the project was stopped for one to be done and they provided a report of the claimed damages to det-ermine the seismic vibrations, he added.

“Since that happened in 2006 the level of complaints have dropped to zero, but that is something you have to determine, not me, I don’t live here.

“Before the EIA and before controlled blasting there were a lot of complaints attributed to their activity. If it has not changed then there is more that needs to be done.”

Government officials also asked residents whether or not they wanted the operations of Bahama Rock to cease, understanding that every decision made has its consequences.

While some residents said that this should be the case, others said that as long as the blasting does not continue across the highway, it could be a livable situation.

“Our fight has been that they should not operate in crossing the highway to continue the drilling and blasting, that is what we have always been saying and continue to say we are opposed to Bahama Rock to continue drilling even closer to that community.”

Minister of Public Works and Transport Neko Grant said that the government will seek to bring some resolution to the issue.

“The government will seek to bring you the comfort deserved, but nothing comes without a price and we must in all things consider the situation in its entirety. It is wonderful for us to sit in this room to say let Bahama Rock go, however persons are employed there and these are the things that we have to consider.

“I have no beef with them they should be controlled they should be staying within the limits set out by the laws of our country, but we have to be conscious of decisions that could be made in haste.”

Minister of Housing for Lucaya, Kenneth Russell said that immediately following the Independence holiday the government intends to put together an inspection team that will be disbursed throughout the areas of the community to physically review and interview homeowners and inspect homes so that the government is able to get historical data on what has happened in the past and the problems that exist today.