WEDNESDAY, JULY 25: Up to a million gallons of raw sewage is pumped into the sea around Bermuda each day, according to a blueprint for a greener Bermuda published yesterday.
And pressure groups and scientists agree that the sewage — together with pollution from fuel and pesticides — could damage the island’s fragile reefs.
Bermuda Environmental Sustainability Taskforce (BEST) chairman Stuart Hayward said: “It’s a lot of waste and we need to find ways to cope with it that are not harmful to humans, the environment or wildlife.”
Mr Hayward said that Bermuda’s traditional position was that “the solution to pollution is dilution” — with the island’s isolated location meaning it could dump waste in the sea.
But he added: “The difficulty with that is that if every territory operated in the same way, the entire atmosphere, biosphere and marine sphere would be severely polluted.”
He added: “We need to take more responsibility for the amount of waste produced. Things like low-flush toilets or alternatives to disposing of that waste into the marine environment.
“We have always had that luxury of having this great expanse of marine territory around us that, no matter what we dumped into it, it was diluted and dispersed. That cannot continue.”
The eye-opening statistic is contained in the waste management section of the 30-page report designed to encourage better stewardship of the environment.
Mr Hayward added that the Bermuda’s waste problem was increased because of the numbers of tourists visiting the island.
He said: “We do consider ourselves a tourist destination — part of our product is the importation of waste producers. The amount is naturally going to be higher than most countries because, for every permanent resident, there’s ten or twenty tourists.”
Quoting the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences (BIOS), the Blueprint for Environmental Sustainability 2012 said that Bermuda discharged so much raw sewage due to “very limited sewage treatment facilities”.
A statement on the BIOS website reads: “Groundwater contamination by pesticides, petrochemicals and sewage is a possibility and seepage into the marine environment constitutes a potentially significant diffuse source of pollution to the inner reef environment.”
The BEST report also said that the island had the largest stores of potentially deadly asbestos per square mile than anywhere else in the world.
The bulk of the asbestos — once a common fire-proofing material but which can cause cancer if its fibres get into the lungs — is mostly stored in containers at the Government Quarry near Harrington Sound.
The report added: “We deposit used cars and appliances, reportedly an average of seven hundred truckloads of waste a week, at the ocean’s edge at managed landfill.”
The report added that other BIOS research had found high levels of metals and toxic chemicals like PCBs and dioxin in sediments within 80 metres of the dump near the airport in St George’s.
“The report said: “Such findings highlight the importance of addressing our waste issues, both for human and ecosystem health.”
It added: “BEST recognizes the scale, complexity and cost involved in formulating and executing a comprehensive waste management strategy.
“However, by improving existing waste-handling processes and programmes and expanding communication with the public, Bermuda can avoid the greater costs to ecological and public health.”
BEST’s main concerns were listed under three report headings – social, economic and physical.
Among the recommendations:
• A greater responsibility on households and businesses to reduce waste;
• A tighter rein on Ministerial discretion to overturn planning decisions;
• A change in lifestyle with less emphasis on consumerism and material wealth.
Mr Hayward said: “These will stretch our comfort zones.”
He added: “Some of our suggestions will be viewed as new or innovative, such as an Environmental Strategic Plan or a Comprehensive Cultural Development Plan. For those we invite thoughtful discussion.
“Some seem to be just common sense. As examples, more diligent enforcement of traffic laws and the need to be more friendly towards tourism and international business.
“For this we trust that common sense will become even more common.”
The 30-page document, the Blueprint for Environmental Sustainability 2012, was three years in the making and has been delivered to Premier Paula Cox, Opposition Leader Craig Cannonier and the UBP’s Kim Swan.
But Mr Hayward said: “This is not a BEST manifesto. We believe that any individual or group aspiring to a position of policy leadership in our community ought to have, at minimum, these issues on their minds.”
He added: “Our blueprint deals mainly with content rather than process. This is deliberate intent on our part. Comments on process, such as ‘transparency’. ‘consultation’ and ‘good governance’ would of necessity focus on how the current Government does things.
“We wanted to enable and join a discussion on what can be done and not become embroiled in what arguments on how and how well things are or are not being done.”