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Jul 3, 2012

Health risks associated with sedimentation in Macal River

For years, the Belize Institute for Environmental Law and Policy (BELPO) has been against the operation of the Chalillo Dam in the Mountain Pine Ridge area of Cayo. Their concerns include the question of how long the dam will hold security measures and the health risks associated with the release of sedimentation into the Macal River. Candy Gonzalez, the President of the BELPO Board of Directors, recently reached out to several specialists when she noticed that the water was discolored, which indicates an increase in sedimentation. Doctor Guy Lanza of the College of Environmental Science and Forestry, State University in New York, responded with a letter addressed to Minister Lisel Alamilla. News Five spoke via phone to Candy Gonzalez of BELPO.


Via Phone: Candy Gonzalez, President, Board of Directors, BELPO

Candy Gonzalez

“Just recently, we’ve had a lot of rains and of course, the water comes down very muddy. But there’s a really different color to the water when sedimentation is being let out of the dam and the river was starting to look like there was a lot of sedimentation being let out of the Chalillo Dam. And I took some photos and sent them to a number of people, among them, Dr. Lanza and he responded saying that yes, indeed the color of the water indicated that we might have a sedimentation problem if they continued to release the sedimentation at a high rate. His concerns, both about the water quality, the lack of any responses to all of the requests that BELPO has made, asking for the results of water testing. It’s fine to have someone tell you the water is okay, but we wanna see the results of the water testing to know what they’re testing for, to know what the levels are and see if the levels of things in the water have changed.”


Delahnie Bain

“So this sedimentation issue, it’s a health hazard right?”


Via Phone: Candy Gonzalez

“Absolutely, it’s a hazard because the sedimentation creates what’s called turbidity and turbidity means that the water isn’t clear, it’s so clouded that you lose oxygen in the water and so the bacteria grows and there is no process of photosynthesis happening in the water. It’s not a healthy situation and the longer it lasts, the more dangerous it becomes because it allows for bacteria to grow in the water.”


Delahnie Bain

“So do you think that him, as a professional personally writing to the minister will bring you all any kind of results?”


Via Phone: Candy Gonzalez

“Well, the last time he wrote, it certainly brought a lot of attention and we did have some meetings. Belize Water Services came forward—I hope it brings result, I’m hopeful. If I wasn’t hopeful then I wouldn’t continue bringing this up and I wouldn’t continue always trying to bring it to people’s attention what’s wrong, I’d just sort of dig a hole and get into it. So yes, I’m optimistic.”

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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4 Responses for “Health risks associated with sedimentation in Macal River”

  1. Storm says:

    Wouldn’t it help to require the dam to dredge out the sediment before it is released downriver to destroy the water quality for residents along the river?

    Qualified experts should find a reasonable solution, and GOB should make it happen.

  2. MACAL RIVERA says:

    no wonder so many person dying of cancer in the Cayo area, maybe Mrs Gonzalez should start an investigation and see if this water is good enough to drink.

  3. Joe says:

    They have already messed up San Ignacio’s beauty. Anyone remembers “Sandy bay”? — was the most beautiful sandy river side in Belize. 25 yrs ago I use to swim in that river and enjoy that sandy beach —- It hurt mi heart last time I went to visit – all that remains is a muddy bank!!!!!!


  4. Ray says:

    What proof did this lady present? How can an expert sitting in an office 2000 miles away, determine that there was severe sedimentation buildup and that there are health risks just by looking at the color of the water in a picture taken during a flood? The DOE investigated this issue in 2009 and concluded that the turbidity in the water was from the flood run off. it happens in all the rivers sround this time of year and every Belizean who lives nesar a river knows not to drink or swim in a river during floods. The dam captures the flood water and releases it over a longer period so the discolouration lasts a bit longer on the Macal than on some other rivers. if there was such a massive build up of sediment in the dam, the water would be cloudy all year, and not just during floods. As creole say, da fool di talk but no fool di listen.

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