Mon | Sep 27, 2021

Fish kill creates new stink in Bog Walk Gorge

Published:Tuesday | August 3, 2021 | 12:10 AMTanesha Mundle/Staff Reporter
Dwight Burke, councillor of the Sligoville division, is calling for action after another fish kill in the Rio Cobre on Monday.
Dwight Burke, councillor of the Sligoville division, is calling for action after another fish kill in the Rio Cobre on Monday.
Dead fish are seen in the Rio Cobre on Monday.
Dead fish are seen in the Rio Cobre on Monday.

Fisherfolk and residents in the Bog Walk Gorge in St Catherine are again appealing to environmental authorities to take decisive action to stop the pollution of the Rio Cobre after a fish kill on Monday.

Findings of a test analysis of water and the dead fish could be ready by today, the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) informed The Gleaner.

Large and small dead fish were observed afloat in the river, while some live fish swam around in the murky-looking water. A white, froth-like substance settled in sections of the river.

One resident, Nicola Coombs, behind whose home the river runs, said that she had noticed the water appearing discoloured on Sunday, and dead fish were discovered along the riverside on Monday.

This is the third fish kill she has observed in the last four years, Coombs told The Gleaner.

“They need to stop it and they need to take responsibility for their action. Government needs to talk to them,” she said.

‘Them’ might refer to industrial interests that occupy lands close to the river, but no specific allegation is as yet verifiable in the instant case.

Danger for kids

Fisherman Daniel Gayle, who also visited the river and saw dead fish floating and other apparently stunted fish trying to escape the polluted water, urged the authorities to step in immediately.

“A first we ever see it look this bad in history, and right now this is dangerous to the kids dem. Any one of the kids dem go to the river right now, this a go chip off dem skin,” he said in reference to the white substance in the river.

“It kill the fish dem, so that show you how dangerous it is, all a de fish dem, all a big eel wey a weigh five to 10 pounds dem find down on the banking this morning. Right now we want some justice, this can’t continue going on like this, is a daily basis dem tek this thing fa,” he said.

Gayle, a fisherman for the past 10 years, said that he and other fishermen will not be able to carry on their trade for the next couple of months.

“We want somebody come forward and talk to us about the river, because a di river we live off on a daily basis. Right now we have we fish pot in the river and right now all the fish dem dead out and we nuh know what we a go do,” he added.

Both Coombs and Gayle are now bracing for the foul stench that follows every recurring fish kill.

“By Wednesday, we nah go can ketch we breath when dem start stink up down here, especially the pond cleaner,” Coombs said.

Court case

Councillor for the Sligoville division, Dwight Burke, who visited the gorge on Monday, emphasised that mechanisms need to be implemented to prevent a repeat of the incident. A similar occurrence had happened in 2019. NEPA had taken Windalco to court in relation to a spill. The matter is still before the court.

“The community of Kent Village depends so much on the river to catch fish, so when effluent is discharged into the river, it puts the residents’ lives at risk for cancer and all sort of complaints,” he told The Gleaner.

Anthony McKenzie, director of environmental management at NEPA, confirmed that the environmental watchdog has launched an investigation. A team visited the community on Monday and collected samples of water and dead fish.

However, McKenzie said that a monitoring system is in place to mitigate pollution.

In the meantime, he is appealing to residents not to use water from the Rio Cobre or consume any of its fish.

Monique Grange, corporate communication manager of Windalco, said she could not comment on the issue as she had not been briefed.

Subsequent calls went unanswered.