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DOE Fingers BSI/ASR for Pollution in New River

August 16
12:25 2019

The Department of the Environment (DOE) has issued a release noting that they will be meeting with key industrial and commercial facilities along the New River including the Belize Sugar Industries (BSI) to discuss ways of addressing the ongoing water pollution on the river in Orange Walk.

In a release issued last Thursday, the DOE pointed to BSI as one of the facilities that seems to be contributing to the problem, stating that “over recent years, the DOE has been working closely with BSI, and as such the company has instituted many improvements to their facility including their wastewater treatment system. The meeting is to discuss additional corrective actions that must be put in place to further protect the river and deal with the eutrophication that is occurring at the point where their effluent is discharged.”

While the Department says that they will also be meeting with L and R Liquors, that company has not discharged any effluent into the river since mid-2017. DOE says that in 2017 they stopped the company from discharging wastewater into the river and directed that the effluent be removed by truck and treated at an offsite location.

According to the Department, several testings done between the Toll Bridge and the San Estevan Bridge revealed eutrophication which is a high concentration of nutrients that contributes to the death of oxygen, plant and animal life. The DOE says that sulfate levels within that area are showing a visible spike, while oxygen levels are considerably low.

The DOE explained that due to the relatively flat surfaces in the northern districts the New River is described as a tidal river that is affected by the direction and speed of tides. The slow flow of the water gives solids and organic substances enough time to sink to the bottom of the river, trapping heavy metal and pesticides that enter the water system from runoffs. The boats which traverse the river then stir up the substances and quickly change the water quality. Another notable factor is the lack of any flushing effect that would remove the contamination.

Apart from planned meetings with the Orange Walk Town Council and the Public Health Department to identify all other commercial activities along the river, the Department says that they will be conducting investigations to determine their wastewater discharges.

The Departments said that they will also be expanding their current monitoring program which will assess all discharges along the river as well as agricultural runoffs.

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