POND ISLAND–Government has asked Utilities Company GEBE, US Laundry and SOL, which all operate in the Cay Bay area, to finance the rewiring of the electrical system at the Leonald Conner School and to furnish all classrooms with air-conditioning.
Education Minister Silveria Jacobs said a formal letter to this effect will be sent to each company. Jacobs along with the Council of Ministers met with representatives of the three companies on Thursday, November 24, regarding the environmental and health situation in the Cay Bay area.
Jacobs said while no firm commitment could be made by the representatives present at the meeting about government’s request for financing, the three companies “were willing” to consider the request. The Council is aware that it is not the final solution of the situation at hand, but it will allow the children of the school to return safely to their own classrooms.”
The Leonald Connor School has been closed after health and environmental concerns arose.
Jacobs said although she had been addressing the situation in the Cay Bay area for the last few weeks, the complaints of residents in the Cay Bay area as well as of the Miss Lalie Center have increased. For this reason, the Council upon request of Minister Jacobs called for the urgent meetings.
During the meeting SOL, represented by Operations Manager Robert James and Senior Engineer from SOL’s corporate office Bernard Cumberbatch told the Council that the company is the distributor of end products to their users and that no processing of any of their products occurs. SOL, which has been in operation in St. Maarten over the last 11 years, adheres to strict rules and regulations in accordance with its 11 existing policies among which is its Health Safety and Environment Policy, it was stated in the release.
Annual audits are conducted which form the basis of the ratings of the company. This is all part of the vision and mission of SOL which adheres to the central themes of safety, service and integrity, according to the representatives of SOL.
Minister of VROMI Angel Meyers said also that SOL is in its final stage of obtaining a hindrance permit from the Ministry. SOL has been working closely with the ministry on this matter for the last years and the permit will aid in the adherence of proper environmental regulations.
US Laundry representative Hans van der Moot said the problem with its fuel pump has been solved and general checks are done on a consistent basis. The outcome of the general checks will be shared with the Council and can be shared to provide insight to the residents of the area and the parents of the students attending Leonald Conner School.
A hindrance permit for the company is in place; hence the company needs to meet certain government standards and undergo regular controls to maintain the required level, the release said.
GEBE’s management team – Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Kenrick Chittick, Chief Operations Officer (COO) Veronica Jansen-Webster and Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Iris Arrindell – spoke about the steps GEBE will take. One of the steps include having the majority of their engines, including the new upcoming one for the month of December, run on natural gas which will eliminate the emission of gases. Solar Energy was also discussed as an option. Government is currently in the process of reviewing GEBE’s request for a solar project.
The Council requested GEBE to prepare a timeline of the actions planned to reduce the environmental situation in the Cay Bay area and to ensure that the public and in particular residents of the area are aware of the remedies being taken.
In the meantime, Jacobs said the testing of the environmental and health situation will continue in the area and GEBE is committed to have a full testing executed to ascertain the level of roughly nine gasses in the air. “The results can be concluded in approximately three weeks once the contract has been signed. The outcome will be communicated to those concerned. The Ministry of VROMI will also conduct an independent study on the air quality in the area to aid in the determination of the source and possible solutions moving forward.”
Jacobs said she was satisfied with the outcome of the meeting. She said the information provided sheds more light on the environmental and health situation at hand and showed the willingness for and cooperation of the three companies to facilitate an immediate solution for the Leonald Conner School.
“These meetings also showed willingness of all concerned to investigate and remedy the situation in the interest of environmental and public health. The situation at Cay Bay area will continue to have the Council’s full attention,” she said in the release.