St. Maarten – For years the pollution of the Great Salt Pond has been an issue that is not taken care of properly. Even after several complains from organizations like the St. Maarten Nature Foundation, the problem persists. Over the years the Nature Foundation has conducted research on the quality of the water in the Great Salt Pond.
Even after official measurements and tests the Nature Foundation conducted and which indicated that there was something really wrong, nothing has changed. In fact, the situation only became worse after the installation of the pump systems to pump water from the Salt Pond towards Great Bay.
When looking at the results of several tests, it is easy to conclude that there is, or must be a connection between the bad quality of the water and the fact that the water from the Great Salt Pond is rerouted trough the Firgos channel and the Rolandus channel with the help of the pump installations. Actually the areas of Great Bay, the Fresh Pond and the Great Salt Pond are the testing locations where the results diverge quite a lot from the other locations where the Nature Foundation conducted the tests.
The tests that normally are conducted bi-annually, were mainly focused on the water quality and were carried out on seven different sites to determine the levels of water pollution. The tests were carried out to determine the levels of Nitrate, Phosphate, Nitrogen, Dissolved Oxygen, and ph.
These latest tests were carried out on the following locations at the end of September; Cole Bay Lagoon, Simpson Bay Lagoon, Mullet Pond, Kim Sha Beach, Great Bay Beach, Belair Pond, Fresh Pond, and the Great Salt Pond.
When comparing the results it is noticeable that the tests at some locations were quite different from those at other locations at the Fresh Pond, the Great Salt Pond and Great Bay. In the reports that were published by the Nature Foundation they also link the fish die-off to the poor quality of the water at the Great Salt Pond. Considering the fact that these test results are not the first ones, but just recent ones, and that the link between the dump at the landfill and the pump installation was made in the past as well, it is quite concerning that nothing has been done by governmental organizations to solve the problem.
Another thing that comes to mind when looking at the different test locations is that there are no comparable results from other locations around the island, so that the different results can be compared to those from cleaner areas. After speaking to Tadzio Bervoets and asking him about the reason for the fact that there were no other comparable results from other locations, he promised that the Nature Foundation would sample some water of other locations to have proper testing results to compare them with the other results.
Considering the fact that the government released an official warning about the poisoned fish from the Great Salt Pond, and the fact that the results of the conducted test clearly show that there is something wrong with the quality of the water at certain locations, it is not hard to link these facts.
Early in September this newspaper already wrote an article about the drought surveys that took place back then at the area of the Great Salt Pond. Back then the Nature Foundation took various soil samples to test for a wider spectrum of heavy metals and other poisons in the area of the Great Salt Pond that were caused by the landfill on Pond Island.
The soil samples the Nature Foundation took at that time, returned positive for a number of heavy metals like; chromium, arsenic, cadmium, zinc, mercury, copper, lead, nickel and other heavy metals.
Because of the numerous amounts of materials containing heavy metals that are being dumped on the landfill at Pond Island, the poisons that stem from the dumped material have percolated into the Great Salt Pond, causing the area to test positive for heavy metals and other poisoned compounds.
The heavy metal compounds that are of a huge concern to our environment are arsenic, lead, cadmium, mercury and copper because of the disastrous effects on human health. Although the samples that were tested back then, did not give us levels on the amount of these heavy metals, but it clearly showed that these heavy metals were present, which are a concern to the health of people and animals that live on St. Maarten. Especially copper, arsenic and lead can be very toxic to humans and animals and have been shown to cause serious forms of cancer
According to several international well respected institutes of health, the main threats to human health from heavy metals are associated with exposure to cadmium, mercury, lead and arsenic. Cadmium compounds are currently mainly used in re-chargeable nickel-cadmium batteries and have been shown to have cancer-causing agents that will most probably make people very sick.
The presence of heavy metals must be directly related to contaminants from the Philipsburg landfill and are in no way a natural occurrence. And these are only the heavy metals that got in to the soil and the water, because basically the same poison will end up in the air when they burn garbage at the landfill.
Not so long ago Vromi announced that the management of the landfill will be up for public tender, but there was no information available about the already existing contract and the agreements and responsibility regarding environmental rules, laws and regulations. The contract will end in a couple of weeks and it would be interesting to know if the government will put some thought into how they are going to cope with the many environmental problems and issues that go hand in hand with the landfill and the public tender of it.
Source: Today SXM Great Salt Pond pollution continues