Samuda Encourages Civil Remedies for Latest Chemical Spill 

Minister with responsibility for the Environment, Senator Matthew Samuda is encouraging Jamaicans who have been impacted by the latest Rio Cobre chemical spill to take the necessary action. He insists the government will also be applying pressure to stem the continued pollution linked to the Windalco bauxite plant.

In a statement on Wednesday, the Minister explains that steps have been taken to ensure safety of the aquatic life and security of the water with the construction of a second effluent holding pond and increasing the capacity of the old pond to prevent spillages of chemical into the river. It is to be completed between September and November. He notes this was the directive of the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) to Windalco, following another massive effluent leak in 2019, which also caused a fish kill.

Additionally, the government is planning on drawing down on the environmental performance bond of $115 million from Windalco, to address the damage.

Samuda went further assuring citizens that if they fall ill due to the spill, they will be provided with the necessary support by the Ministry of Health and Wellness; and those whose livelihoods have been disrupted by the spill will also receive government support through the Ministries of Labour and Social Security and the Agriculture and Fisheries in the case of fisherfolk.  The Minister says there are also plans to provide trucked water for impacted citizens. Samuda also encourages citizens to seek redress if they feel so inclined, adding that the government, through the judiciary, has civil remedies available.

Plans are also afoot to amend the Natural Resources Conservation Act (NRCA) and the wildlife protection act after the parliamentary break to increase the fines.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Andrew Holness has instructed that a working group be convened to look at the issue of discharge into the Rio Cobre as well as the matter of development along the course of the river.

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