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Sep 27, 2000

Dangrigans protest water pollution

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It has been the victim of at least three major outbreaks of water pollution and this morning residents of Dangriga decided it was time to go public with their frustration. News Five’s Jose Sanchez reports.

Jose Sanchez, Reporting

Usually quiet Dangriga town was in uproar this morning as men, women, and children left their homes and classrooms to take to the streets, protesting the poor quality of water they have had to tolerate for the past few months.

Demonstrator #1

“Don’t pay water bill, until they give us good water.”

Demonstrator #2

“Right now if anybody come here to drink a cup of water they are going to run away because we don’t have any good water now.”

Demonstrator #3

“We have to pay for two types of water, one to WASA and then we have to buy good drinking water from Crystal. This isn’t fair to the people. We are paying WASA for good drinking water and that’s what we want.”

This morning’s demonstration is a result of the sporadic overflows of the Del Oro citrus company’s leachate ponds and the Water and Sewerage Authority’s inability to provide potable water that is pleasing to the palate of Dangrigans. The organizer of today’s demonstration, Fred Garcia, intends to lead his community in protest not only by walking the streets, but also by hitting WASA’s pocket book.

Fred Garcia, Committee for Restoration of Safe Water Supply

“We are demanding that we get quality drinking water. That is what we are paying for that is what we demand. Secondly we demand an end to the pollution. It is not good for the environment and it’s not good for us. Thirdly we are demanding that WASA forego the collection of any monies from the people of Dangriga.”

Jose Sanchez

“You are saying that the community of Dangriga is refusing to pay their water bill?”

Fred Garcia

“I am saying that we are asking that they refuse to pay. If you notice, I have torn up mine this morning. I am not paying, they will come by and turn off my water. But I will persevere because I would want to see that quality water returns to this town.”

Demonstrator #4

“I think the Mayor should put more emphasis and try go behind those people especially the head people for WASA and Del Oro to speed up the process because all of us are suffering including he.”

A lot of blame has been placed on the Mayor of Dangriga. He has been in talks with the community, WASA and Del Oro, however, as today’s protest shows, some Dangrigans are tired of waiting. They want immediate results.

Cassian Nunez, Mayor, Dangriga

“For there are stages, even if you send an experienced engineer to Del Oro you have to wait. You still have to talk, you still have to analyze what he sees. Therefore we are talking about time, well lets use the time diligently. And I hope that no Dangrigan, no Belizean, considering the critical issue of water, that no one should take this emotional advantage and whip the tail of the dog just because this is an emotional issue. Believe me we all want the same thing. We may all come from different perspectives but we want to get to the same point. We want quality water we want it as soon as possible and we want it right.”

Crowd Shouts

“We want it now!”

The peaceful demonstration continued to the office of Dangriga’s Area Representative who promised results, once again.

Theodore Aranda, Area Representative

“Fellow Dangrigans, I will take your cause again to the highest office of the land, that is the Prime Minister. And I will also take it to the Minister of Natural Resources and the other people that should know about it. Restoration of the North Stann Creek River and Dangriga safe and pure water is certainly a vital and a just cause.”

Demonstrator #5

“Next stop Del Oro, mile thirty and a half Stann Creek Valley Road.”

Though Del Oro personnel were not present at the demonstration, they weren’t shy about telling us what they have been doing to alleviate the problem.

Cecil Arnold, Public Relations Officer, Del Oro

“There are several things we have done. If you go to the peel site itself where the peel is dump, we have around the peel, put a drainage system where none of the storm water can run into the peel; so reducing the amount of water that comes into these ponds in short term. We put in a third pond to increase a treatment of this water. We’ve put in a drainage system that takes the water when there is an overflow. Instead of going through the river, it passes through a three-quarter mile wetland area that provides filtration. We’re adding lime to the water at the same time to reduce the acidity. And the long term we’ll be discontinuing this site and then take the peel and go into a compost project. And so this site from now on, only remedial activity will be done here, it will not be used as an active worksite for peel disposal anymore.”

Jose Sanchez

“After the speeches and all the protests are over, there is still one thing that Dangrigans want… Water.”

Crowd Chanting

“Sweet, sweet water. Gumagarugu Water.”

“Reporting for News Five, I am Jose Sanchez.”

A representative of the Water and Sewerage Authority told News Five that WASA is in the process of drilling new wells near Hope Creek, which would be used to supply Dangriga with clean water.

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