The Department of Environment has held meetings, conferences, public presentations and many other forums pertaining to the conditions of the New River and possible solutions. As it stands right now, the river is a milky green color. Reports of dead crocodiles, manatees and fish have continued unabated. The public has been pleading for something to be done as the stench from the river is almost unbearable and the health risks have raised concerns. Last we heard from the officials at the Department of the Environment, they were injecting oxygen into the river but there were adverse effects that such a solution would pose. Reporter, Naim Borges, traveled to Orange Walk to get the latest.
Naim Borges, Love FM News: After months of the New River being in a dire state of pollution and eutrophication, the government is finally making a move to remedy the problem. The river brings many health risks to aquatic life and those who live near the river, in particular students from La Inmaculada RC School, they were forced to cancel classes for an entire week, today the school decided to resume classes and students were asked to attend. We spoke with the principal of the school Lenny Umana who told us about the decision to reopen the school.
Lenny Umana, Principal, La Inmaculada RC School: “When it comes to the environment it has improved. I was a bit nervous this morning wondering how many children would be coming to school, I am glad to report that this morning we have between two to three children absent per class which is definitely good, that means that our parents are really trying to give it a break. The few children that are not coming are either children that are suffering from allergies or asthma so they’re trying to hold out a bit and I think that is the right and responsibility of the parent to do that but I can safely say right now that 85%- 90% of our students are back in school so that is very good for us. The Ministry of Health, the Ministry of the Environment are still monitoring the situation and they are in close contact with the school and our managments. Our teachers and our administration are also on alert as to ensuring that any reports coming from our students, our teachers be addressed immediately. So far so good, the atmosphere is not bad like last week, in fact I think its one of our best days since we have returned to school. The children have little masks in the event that they need it and today’s a day of observation, we are monitoring the situation rather closely and the Ministry of Health like the Ministry of Environment are ready to give us a final decision and I can’t even say final because our day is different every day, some days it’s better some days its worse so right now I can safely say today has been a good day for our school.”
Naim Borges, Love FM News: The school’s administration is carefully monitoring the area along with the Department of Environment to see if there are any major changes. When we were there everything seemed to be normal, there was no strong stench lingering around however the administration is prepared to mobilize if things go sour.
Lenny Umana, Principal, La Inmaculada RC School: “There are three options still on the table, we haven’t done away with it because we know we may need to pull out any one any time soon, hoping for the best but preparing for the worst. We have the relocation which is our last choice, we also have the shift system which I think our assistant local manager is well aware of and he is leaning to that in the event that we will have to go and the other option is to have children stay at home until Monday and when they return on Monday we start classes at 8 and we dismiss them at 1:30 so that they have the least time, especially the afternoon part of the day which is the hottest. I am certain that at our school the concerns have not been coming in as of today but the concerns were here last week, today no concerns have been brought in. We have had two transfers but it wasn’t because of the river, it was something of a change of location so so far our parent community is staying firm with us. I think they have a little confidence in our administration and our staff that we will get through this and we will meet all their demands and the demands of our students. So I feel really good that they are giving us this opportunity, giving the school an opportunity because if we don’t get this through we will relocate and we don’t want to go anywhere.”
Naim Borges, Love FM News: While at the school we couldn’t help but listen to the sound of the aerators coming from Lamanai Landing restaurant. The restaurant is one of the many locations where the department has set up these aerators to help remedy the New River’s condition. This has many people concerned over the health risk that aerating the river might cause. To be specific the exhaustion of toxic gasses that are being trapped inside. We spoke with Anthony Mai, an environmental officer, who gave us an explanation of the process done before setting up an aerator.
Anthony Mai, Environmental Officer, Department of Environment: “We installed an aerator like the one you see behind us Monday at Maracas, we ran it for a period of time and immediately we realized that it showed some improvement in terms of the clarity of the water, the top layer of the river was clearing up a bit and so the plan then is – we installed this one yesterday on the 10th and then we are installing one today and we want to install a couple more throughout the day. We have them a distance apart so that we could then begin to monitor if there is any significant change. What we are doing is we monitor the water quality and the H2H level before we install the aerators and then when we install it we monitor the water column, we water 20ft, 15ft, 10ft, 5ft and surface for various parameters and we do that 50ft upstream from the aerator and 100ft upstream from the aerator and then we measure the same column we measure 50ft down from the aerator 100ft, 150ft, and 200ft and so we are still in the process of collecting this data to show concretely if it’s working. At least, for now, we see clarity in terms of the surface layer but we want to see if we will get any major increase in dissolved oxygen. Of note however is that you’ll see the aerator behind us and it’s operating and we have it operating at a very low speed because the school is a couple meters from us and we want to run it at this level for at least a few days and then hopefully Friday or Saturday we could take it up a bit more so we want to start slow just out of precaution and then we could increase the revolutions as we need to. We are doing testing, we are monitoring, we want to ensure that we do everything safe first and that we are getting the results that we want.”
Naim Borges, Love FM News: Testing continues to be done on the river and concrete results have not been established. We will continue to bring you the latest on the New River conditions.”