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Columns : Who is in control? - Joseph Darville Last Updated: Feb 6, 2017 - 2:32:04 PM

The Ongoing Industrial Park Debacle: Who is in Charge?
By Joseph Darville
Mar 31, 2013 - 11:59:21 PM

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Response to Mr. Maurice Moore’s comments and a personal review of the industrial park debacle

I read with utter amazement and unbelief the interview Mr. Maurice Moore gave to the Tribune and published into Tuesday, March 27, 2013 edition, with reference to the tragedies which have befallen the residents in the areas around the industrial park.  Back in the days when I personally waged a battle against these industrial giants which were destroying that area, sickening the residents and students, not one single politician or any elder from Pinders Point or Lewis Yard came to our assistance. As principal of Grand Bahama Catholic High School, I led a demonstration in front of BORCO and the then Syntex.  We decried the foul odors our students and staff had to inhale on a daily basis.  Not even the Government schools then in that area, namely Lewis Yard, Hawksbill High and Hawksbill Primary, who suffered equally as we did, or even worse, were courageous enough to join us for fear of retribution; but they all did give us their moral support.

On one tragic occasion, when five ambulances had to be called to transport some thirty students, seriously ailing, from Hawksbill Primary, I almost came to physical blows with the dearly departed Edward St. George, who accused me of prompting the reaction of  these children to physically fall out from the foul odors.  Only the intervention of his dear wife, Lady Henrietta St. George, saved the day.  He, later that same evening, contacted me later to apologize after he visited the Rand Memorial Hospital and personally witnessed the scene of those children on ventilators to support their breathing and recuperation.

Finally gaining the attention of the then government, an independent investigation in the foul emissions from Syntex was carried out.  That company, which prided itself on a ninety-nine percent pollution control mechanism, had to spend in excess of seven million dollars to upgrade their scrubber systems. That company never forgave me for that financial ‘inconvenience’.

 Since at that time BORCO was not the most offending company, no measures were taken to audit its operations, or those of  the Freeport Power Company, even though they both were significant offenders.   As far as BORCO was concerned, we knew what irreparable damage was being done to the environment due to oil seepage into the fresh water table.  Just months before his untimely death, my then good friend Edward St. George admitted to me and bemoaned the fact that BORCO had completely polluted the water table in that entire surrounding area; no apron had been inserted into the ground to prevent oil spillage from migrating in every direction. This may be the reason that they cannot now account for the frequent oil spills being experienced in that area.

Leading the move to have the schools in that area relocated, I was personally maligned, as well, by even the chairman of the Catholic Board of Education, who accused me of instigating the situation just to have Catholic High removed from that area. This was after we had lost two of our best teachers to other schools outside the area, and a large number of students as well, who could no longer endure the sickening odors emanating from the industrial park, particularly from BORCO and Syntex.  Fortunately, land was provided by Edward St. George for the relocation, and funds were generated by the Catholic Board and fund raising events by PTA for the new school on Settlers Way. Catholic High was relocated in 1988, and not long after Hawksbill High and Hawksbill Primary had to followed.

It is in light of the above, that, I stand puzzled by the remarks of Mr. Maurice Moore, when for one solid decade between 1978 and 1988, we battled those companies and begged for some relief; where was he then, and the other politicians in power during that period.?  Even his children attended CHS, and had to endure the foul odors, and God only knows what else.  I am still saddened today to know that a good number of my students from that area have died untimely of cancer, directly related to industrial pollution.

For so many long years, residents and students perished in that hellish environment, and still do so today.  But why? Is it because at the very commencement of the decision to plant an industrial park in the backyard of schools and residents, some good elders from the area, ignorant of the consequences, were winded and dined in California, and thus were bereft of the moral will to speak up and rescind their original approval, even in the midst of such tragedies?

I certainly agree with Mr. Moore, no matter his present personal motive, that that industrial park is a potential cataclysmic event, comparable to that of the BP oil rig explosion, waiting to happen. Our government must now, immediately, have the moral and political will to demand that the offending companies in that park be responsible for the relocation of all residents, voluntarily, in case some opt to remain, from that inhabitable area.  Enough evidence, empirical, firsthand,  and otherwise has been documented; any further procrastinating can only be seen to be intentional unwillingness to act.

I pray Mr. Maurice Moore takes a visible and pronounced lead in this regard. I am happy too that the PM himself has finally taken this matter in hand personally, with respect to the BORCO present debacle. The audit to take place must be thorough and quick in order to arrive at solutions  to prevent the total destruction of our glorious marine resources which have already been negatively impacted by BORCO and other industries in that area.  The residents and their wellbeing in that area are, of course, the priority.

For the foregoing reasons and many more I am very apprehensive about the speedy approval now being given to BPC to begin drilling for oil exploration.  If we cannot now handle a situation such as BORCO or the BEC oil leakage and spills, how are we prepared to deal with a potential  catastrophic spillage in the middle of the ocean without established environmental protection measures and strategies to clean up such.  Indeed, a referendum may not be necessary to commence exploration, however, no drilling should be allowed until every possible avenue is explored for dealing with large scale oil spillage in our pristine oceans. The seabed is the heritage for all Bahamian generations, born and unborn; and no government, present or future, has any right to usurp that legacy for the financial benefit of a few greedy Bahamians and a group of exploiting foreigners.

About the Author:   Joseph Darville is a native of Long Island, Bahamas and a resident of Freeport, Grand Bahama. He is the founding member and past president of the Bahamas Counselor's Association; past president of the Bahamas Mental Health Association and the Grand Bahama Mental Health Association; founding member and past president, and presently Vice-President, of the Grand Bahama Humane Rights Association; founding member and presently co-chairman of the Bahamas National Drug Council; a founding member of the Caribbean Human Rights Network; past VP of the Caribbean Federation of Mental Health; founding member and chairman of Operation Hope, [volunteer drug prevention, education & rehabilitation program]; and an administrative VP of the Freeport YMCA. Joseph is a past VP of the Bahamas Union of Teachers and taught at the St. Augustine's College in Nassau as well as at Queens' College, where he was also a guidance counselor; principal of Grand Bahama Catholic High School from 1977-1997. He is an advanced master/teacher in Reiki training, a natural energy healing method, as well as a teacher of Transcendental Meditation. He has received many awards for outstanding service and achievement in teaching, communication, and citizenship, including the 25th year of independence Commonwealth of the Bahamas Citizen’s Award. He now serves as a director of the Coalition to Save The Bays, and presently Board Chairman for the Grand Bahama Humane Society. Joseph is married to Melanie and they have two children, and two grand children. Joseph can be reached at jdarville2002@yahoo.com

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