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Apr 24, 2003

New River pollution irks residents

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It is not a new story, but for people in Orange Walk it is still a big story. Once more, industrial pollution seems to be killing fish and nauseating residents. News 5′s Jacqueline Woods today spent some time on the river and returned with the following report.

Jacqueline Woods, Reporting

For those families residing along the New River in Orange Walk Town, the quality of life has taken a nosedive. A stench pervades the area, along with the sight of dead fish. Something, they believe is poisoning the waterway.

Orlando Orellana, Resident

“I personally, I can say for myself, headaches, affecting the throat, especially when we are sleeping at night. We cannot sleep good, every time this scent is affecting us, we wake up at night, I mean it’s something very irritable, we can’t even eat.”

Narcisa Leiva, Resident (Translated from Spanish)

“Now it is much worse. The place smells like poison. All the utensils such as knives, forks turn green, very ugly. Then the walls inside the house are very dirty. I had to go and see the eye doctor because I could not open my eyes and that is costing me money. Also, I had to take the little boy, he had to go to the doctor as well. And I think something must be done about this.”

The problem has also affected business in the area. Lamanai Riverside Retreat, which was constructed only two months ago, is usually crowded with people. Today, we were the only ones at the establishment.

Raul Pelayo Jr., Co-Manager, Lamanai Riverside Retreat

“The river used to look dark brown and beautiful. But now it looks green and dirty and it stinks. And everybody’s complaining. Today’s a big Thursday and I usually expect a lot of customers on Thursday before twelve o’clock, and as you can look around, I don’t even have any customers today.”

Co-Manager Raul Pelayo Junior says he is concerned that if the situation is allowed to continue, they will go out of business.

Raul Pelayo Jr.

“It’s affected my profits, my customers and my staff.”

Jacqueline Woods

“You said that the customers have been complaining.”

Raul Pelayo Jr.

“Because of the river there is a stinking scent, a stench coming out from the river. They have fishes floating up, dead fishes and my staff they complain because of breathing problems, illness in the stomach, and I suffered as well. I am here from seven in the morning until we close down the shop. And I didn’t suffer at first, but now I’m starting to feel it.”

Jacqueline Woods

“What are you feeling, how has it been affecting you?”

Raul Pelayo

“My symptoms, my stomach hurts, sometimes when I go to the restroom it’s hard for me to use the bathroom. Went I eat I feel provoked, like I want to vomit, like I want to throw up.”

When we visited the area, it was not that bad, however we did get an occasional whiff of the strong odour. According to the residents it is not the first time they have had the problem. They say that each year around this time there is a strong scent from the river…but this time is the worst yet.

Rosario Melendez, Pres., Louisiana Neighbourhood Watch

“I live three streets away from the river and I get the smell strong enough to bothers my whole family. It causes headaches and you know I wish something would be done about it now.”

Rosario Melendez is the President of the Louisiana Area Neighbourhood Watch. Melendez says at a meeting last Wednesday they voiced their concerns, but she is not certain if anything is being done to help them.

Rosario Melendez

“We invited the health inspector to one of our meeting and he has always attended our meetings. The last meeting he attended was on Wednesday and he told me that the day after Mr. Fabro in charge of the environment would have been here to take samples of the river. I do not know if it was done.”

The cause of the problem has not yet been determined. However, with three industries in the area, there have been many theories. The residents suspect that some activity at one of the factories is the culprit.

Raul Pelayo Jr.

“People say it’s not the river, maybe it’s something else, it’s the war, it’s this, it’s that. Some say it’s the sugar industry, other say it’s down the river.”

Jacqueline Woods

“What do you believe is causing the problem?”

Raul Pelayo

“Well the word is B.S.I. and I’m not questioning it and I’m not saying directly it’s B.S.I., but I have a strong feeling that’s the source.”

Jacqueline Woods

“Why?”

Raul Pelayo

“Because the river flows downwards and the scent comes from that direction where the B.S.I. factory is.”

Orlando Orellana

“I believe it is chemics on the river, waste of the chemics that they do the procedures of whatsoever they are processing. And I believe it is L and R.”

Jacqueline Woods

“Why do you say that?”

Orlando Orellana

“Because we only have two points, B.S.I., L and R this side. And we have Loskot; I don’t believe Loskot one can come up, that is what we’re calling coming down. And B.S.I. at this time, it doesn’t throw their waste because we’re not in the process in the rainy season. In the rainy season is the one when the deposit overflows.”

Jacqueline Woods

“So you believe it’s coming from the Cuello distillery?”

Orlando Orellana

“Yes ma’am, I do believe so.”

Rosario Melendez

“There are many rumours and I don’t want to point a finger, but it would be good for the people concern about the environment to stop by and check to find out where this problem is being caused.”

Jacqueline Woods

“We understand that representative of the Department of the Environment have taken samples from the river, but those results are not yet in. the residents say they don’t want to blame anyone for what has been occurring in the New River, but only want the problem to be addressed as soon as possible. Reporting from the banks of the News River, I’m Jacqueline Woods for News 5.”




Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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