Health Secretary is investigating Belco emissions, a lawyer has said – The Royal Gazette

Updated: March 11, 2023 8:00 am

Kim Wilson, Secretary of Health (Photo by Akil Simmons)

The health minister has confirmed a letter delivered to her by a lawyer urging her to take action against the Belco pollution.

Mark Pettingill, the director of Chancery Legal, wrote to Kim Wilson on Wednesday on behalf of the Bermuda Clean Air Coalition, an advocacy group, and individual residents, asking her to use her powers under the Public Health Act of 1949 to control soot and other emissions check the facility is a legal nuisance and have it shut down.

He gave her seven days to inform him of her intended action and said that if no action were taken, he would consider seeking a judicial review.

Responding to Mr Pettingill and his clients today, Kim Wilson said: “The Department of Health is conducting a thorough investigation and can assure the public that all necessary steps are being taken to review the matter under the Public Health Act 1949 and operating license from Belco as a controlled facility under the Clean Air Regulations 1993.”

It’s the same comment she made to The Royal Gazette on February 27 when asked about her intended action under the law on February 17, although in that reply she said “the government” was conducting the inquiry.

Mark Pettingill, the director of Chancery Legal (file photo)

She also told Mr Pettingill: “Please note that I too share the concerns expressed by BCAC and other residents in the area near Belco.”

Asked this week about the status of the investigation, Ms Wilson said: “The investigation into this matter is ongoing.”

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She did not respond to a question about whether she intended to respond to the attorney and his clients within seven days.

In his letter, Mr Pettingill also called for urgent steps to be taken to ensure Belco uses a cleaner burning fuel at the plant to reduce pollutants.

The Royal Gazette revealed last month via a public information request that a top UK consultancy said in 2021 that dumping heavy oil – Belco’s main fuel – was probably the most effective way to tackle soot fallout from the North Power Station.

Ms Wilson was asked by the Gazette if, as Health Secretary, she had any position on whether Belco should burn a less polluting fuel. She was also asked if her ministry agreed with the regulator’s decision to reject a proposal by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to ban the use of fuel with a sulfur content of 2 percent or more, also uncovered by this newspaper through Pati.

The spokeswoman replied: “Questions about official decisions and the Clean Air Ordinance should be addressed to the regulatory authority or the Ministry of the Interior.”