~ Protest planned ~
COLE BAY–Following lengthy discussions, Government says the joint Dutch-/French-side sewage plant can best be located at the current Harold Jack snack bar on Cole Bay Hill. However, not all are happy, with particularly tour bus operators and taxi drivers fearing loss of business, so motorists have been asked to show their disapproval for this latest development today, Friday, by blowing their horns and flashing their car lights when passing the lookout point.
The idea of building an island in Simpson Bay Lagoon to accommodate the facility was abandoned, also based on objections of St. Maarten Nature Foundation, after Minister of Public Housing, Spatial Planning, Environment and Infrastructure VROMI Angel Meyers went on a boat tour to personally inspect the recently-designated spot near the causeway and agreed the ecological impact would be too great.
DP leader Sarah Wescot-Williams had called earlier for a similar trip with Members of Parliament to see for themselves.
One of the main factors in the sudden change is that the limited water resources all over the world have sparked policies to use what is available as effectively as possible. In conjunction with the European Union (EU), which is funding the project, alternatives were explored on how to adjust the plans to make that possible in this case, but stay within the financing deadline.
It is a known fact that St. Maarten/St. Martin relies almost exclusively on the hospitality industry for its livelihood, which puts the two-nation island in a vulnerable position. Promoting the growing of food for both local residents and the restaurants catering to visitors is seen as a good way of lowering imports to keep more earnings and reduce the dependence on tourism dollars.
However, lack of proper farming structures and services make this difficult, so the idea was born to use the purified water from the future plant to irrigate an agricultural zone to be created in the area directly beneath Harold Jack known as Cay Bay.
While it may seem a bit strange to send sewage uphill, experts say that does not make much difference, because pumping is required anyway. What is important is a natural flow of the purified water into the planted fields of the valley below.
To be sure, the water will not be suitable for crops where it directly touches the part to be consumed, but is fine once filtered through roots, branches, etc., of for example fruit trees. The idea is being championed by independent parliamentarian and coalition member Maurice Lake, who chairs the legislative VROMI Committee.
Several stakeholders in the vicinity like Seaside Nature Park and Indigo Bay are already on board. The intention is to work closely with them and help ensure the venture’s success.
VROMI Ministry Head of Maintenance Claudius Buncamper confirmed the news. He said initially there had been some reluctance about using processed wastewater to grow food, but experts had explained that there is absolutely no health risk if done correctly.
Bret Mucklow of Coldwell Banker, who works with Indigo, also said the plans fitted in well with the envisioned development of the greenery, including natural pools in the area.
Roderick Halley of Seaside Nature Park said he had been sceptical at first, also because of the need to protect horses and other animals there from drinking any possibly contaminated water, but his concerns had been addressed adequately. He too saw the long-term benefits and agreed to give his full cooperation.
However, tour bus operators and taxi drivers who often bring visitors to the spot because of its views, as well as local nature lovers, have organised a first “honk and flash your lights if you disagree” all-day protest, whereby a special camera will make a recording of those taking part so it can be presented later as proof that many oppose this new plan.
Source: The Daily Herald Sewage plant at Harold Jack