The National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) says UC Rusal/West Indies Alumina Company (Windalco) will be served with a notice of intention to suspend its environmental permits and licences due to the recent Rio Cobre pollution that resulted in last Monday’s fish kill.
The company will also be subjected to prosecution for the latest spill of caustic effluent, which was found to have resulted in the fish kill, impacting several species and other aquatic organisms and residents of Kent Village in St Catherine.
The announcement was made by NEPA’s CEO Peter Knight at a press conference on Friday.
The pollution of the Rio Cobre, which occurred last weekend, has angered residents in the area who depend on the river for water and fishing.
Several communities in St Catherine have also experienced disruptions in their water supply as the state-owned National Water Commission (NWC) shut down its Spanish Town treatment plant to prevent contaminated water from reaching customers.
According to Knight, UC Rusal/Windalco has been given enough time to “comply with the terms and conditions of its operating environmental permits and environmental licences”.
He said the the Natural Resources Conservation Authority (NCRA) and NEPA is “resolute” and “unwavering” in its requirement for the company to be in full compliance with the necessary permits and licences, or face legal consequences.
In furtherance of such actions, Knight has indicated that NEPA will move to implement “all enforcement and legal actions at its disposal under the legislative framework against UC Rusal/Windalco”.
Those actions include:
1. Serving the company with a notice of intention to suspend the environmental permit and environmental licence as provided for under Section 11 of the National Resources Conservation Authority Act.
2. The notice of intention will be predicated on:
Immediate reducation of the volume of trade effluent being held in the effluent holding pond.Fast-tracking the completion of the effluent holding pond. Replenishment of the environmental perfomance bond to the previous amount. Restriction of the operalisation of existing environmental permits for mining operations… until the effluent holding pond is completed and commissioned.
Knight also indicated that NEPA intends to draw down on the full amount of the environmental performance bond valued at US$771,558.69.
“We have already written to the commercial bank holding the environmental performance bond posted by UC Rusal/Windalco as a condition of the operation of the refinery and the effluent holding pond, to recover the full amount of the NRCA,” he said.
“The company must also concurrently replenish the environment performance bond as soon as the draw down is completed to maintain an active environment performance bond, and to be in compliance of the environment permit and the environmental licences,” he added.
NEPA is also assessing whether there needs to be a re-evaluation of the bond and the terms associated with its operation.
“As previously stated, prosecution will be pursued against the company for the pollution incident and its breach of the Wildlife Protection Act and the Natural Resources Conservation Authority Act,” Knight reiterated.
Further, he said UC Rusal/Windalco has been called to a meeting on Monday to discuss the enforcement actions he presented on at the press conference.
Meanwhile, Knight is stressing that NEPA and other agencies “reaffirm” their commitments to act decisively in enforcing the laws against companies found to have committed environmental breaches.
“Effective today (Friday) and going forward, the agency will adopt an even more aggressive posture against companies, businesses, and individuals found in breach of permits and licences, or those taking actions deleterious to the environment,” he stated.
“Let me repeat, what took place over the past eight days is totally unacceptable, and the offending party, UC Rusal/Windalco, will be made to answer for the breaches of the laws, and stridently regulated until it fully complies with the environmental permits and licences,” declared Knight.