Thursday, 25 September 2014

JAMALCO's Coal Plant: Risk to the Environment

While the proposed conversion of the Bogue Power Station in Montego Bay, St James, to replace the existing heavy fuel oil power plants at Old Harbour and Hunts Bay with a gas turbine plant, fuelled with liquid natural gas, is nothing to holler too much about because Natural Gas might be the best environmentally safe and economical option for Jamaica.

But as it pertains to Jamalco’s expected coal-fired co-generation facility, we should take pause and assess what a coal powered plant of any capacity could possibly mean for the natural environment and public health of the immediate community and Jamaica at large. It is no secret that “clean coal” is give and take; to get the “clean air” (which is merely lessened pollutants); the scrubbing process which cleans the air creates wastewater which also comes from power plant boiler and cooling systems contains lethal chemicals.

These chemicals are as serious as nuclear waste; although we hear that the plan is to import coal from Colombia, supposedly low sulphur coal. The United States’ Environment Protection Agency (USEPA) data shows that coal produces high levels of Arsenic, Lead and other chemicals harmful to humans, plants and animals. USEPA explains storage of the raw coal is important as rain can flush the chemicals and the wind can carry the heavily toxic dust. 

This wastewater is easily soaked into the ground contaminating ground water sources or due to negligence or misconduct can be released into rivers and other water ways causing serious damages.
There are too many incidences of coal related issues across the world not just in the US but especially in China (our climate change causing pals). These are developed countries with the capabilities to monitor and properly deal with the risk of using coal.

The emissions at the coal plant are expected to be less than of the oil plant but the issue goes beyond emissions. We have neglected in the past to ensure that the plants we currently have and other sources of toxic wastewater are consistently policed, it’s hard to see NEPA (not tasked to protect the environment) thoroughly regulating this new facility.