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Feb 2, 2022

B.S.I. Invests $6 Million in Cleaner Emissions

Back in 2019, the community of Chan Pine Ridge in the Orange Walk District claimed it was being affected by air pollution from B.S.I.  Residents were especially concerned that the ashes emitted might contain hazardous chemicals. B.S.I. has since made a significant investment in its air emission system to drastically reduce the level of ash particles.  The difference between what was being emitted then and what is being emitted now, at face value, presents a stark contrast.  B.S.I. is boasting cleaner, much healthier air emissions that meet standards set by the Department of Environment.  Today, the company unveiled their six-million-dollar investment. News Five’s Paul Lopez has the story.


Paul Lopez, Reporting

The plumes of smoke emerging from the Belize Sugar Industry compound on Tower Hill are generated from their energy production plan. The company burns bagasse, the waste from sugar cane used to produce sugar, to produce energy. A percentage of that energy powers the factory’s operations, and a percentage is sold to the country’s power grids.  And, in those plumes, naturally, there are ashes floating around from the burning of the bagasse. Seidy Leinez, E.H.S. Regional Manager at B.S.I. explained that it is these ash particles that cause the dark coloration in the plumes of smoke.


Seidy Leinez

Seidy Leinez, E.H.S. Regional Manager, A.S.R./B.S.I.

“It is just like dust. It is dust. It is an allergen. So, I would say that would have been the biggest issue. Even here as we sit if we are not use to having a lot of dust as we have around the area, it will cause an issue. It is particulate matter, not something that is chemical. Lot of people has this misconception that it is chemical coming out of that. It is a plume, but essentially what makes it dark is like when you burn paper it is dark, that is the nature of it. That doesn’t necessarily mean it is bad.”


While the ashes are not necessarily bad, by D.O.E. standards, the amount of these particles that were being emitted into the air by the company, was double the particulate emission parameter.  The factory’s electric-based air emission system referred to as the Electrostatic System Precipitator, E.S.P. for short, and was identified as one of the causes of the problem.


Marco Manzanilla

Marco Manzanilla, E.H.S. Coordinator, B.S.I

“So what is the function of the E.S.P.? It is simply to collect the ash particles not to go into the air. So how this work, electrostatic precipitator, it uses electricity to charge the particles, the ash particles so that they collect on an opposite poll charge plate. This then is agitated or vibrated and it falls down into a hopper which is then conveyed into another hopper which is then transported outside the facility.”


That system became antiquated and grew inefficient over time, causing the need for a newer, more updated system. Installed during the off season on one of B.S.I.’s two boilers, a new air emission system came into commission only a couple of weeks ago. Instead of electric fields, this system uses a dust collector and a wet scrubber, described as a dry system and a wet system.


Marco Manzanilla

“The bigger particles are collected by the dust collector. Whatever smaller participles are not collected by the dust collector is then sprayed with water. As it says, it is a wet scrubber system. All it is doing is wetting the particles that then due to gravity heads downwards and then it goes into the clarifier.”


This is the clarifier, a hot bath of steaming water and ash particles that would have made it into the air we breathe, if not for the wet scrubber. It collects at the bottom of the chimney, transfers into the clarifier where the ash is separated from the water. The water is then recycled though one of the several open air ponds on the compound. This is the ash particles removed by the dust collector. This would have also made it into the air, leading to potentially severe allergy flare-ups.


Shawn Chavarria

Shawn Chavarria, Director of Finance, A.S.R./B.S.I.

“This first phase of the investment is six million, and it is a part of a total investment of eleven million we are doing to replace the air emission system of the power plant. It is really an important mile stone for us. We are really proud of this achievement.”


The upgrade in the quality of air now emitted from the power plant is evident.  The new system discharges a thick white plume which is the cleaner air, while the old electric system emits a darker plume.


Shawn Chavarria

“It is a positive project for the community. We have over ninety nine percent of our employees here are Belizeans, and a lot of them work in this community. So, even our employees are extremely proud that we have been able to bring these two major projects to fruition. And we look forward to completing the second phase which will be completed in this off crop season on the second boiler so that going forward you will see two very air emission stocks.”


And, in case you are wondering what becomes of the dust particles and the wet ash particles, those are trucked off the compound and used in fields across the north to improve the soil’s quality. Reporting for News Five, I am Paul Lopez.

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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