Nassau, 01 Aug 2015 – The government displayed poor judgment and risked giving false hope to Marathon residents by releasing incomplete findings on the health risks associated with the Rubis fuel spill on Robinson Road, Vanessa Haley-Benjamin said.
Lending her support to last week’s protest by Marathon residents outside the station, Haley-Benjamin, CEO of fast-growing social and environmental movement Save The Bays (STB), said authorities were wrong to tell residents they have nothing to fear from the toxic chemicals to which they were exposed for upwards of two years, as medical tests are far from complete – and likely to be less than conclusive when they are.
“The release of these premature results is unfortunate,” she said. “The government clearly jumped the gun. In reality, there is no satisfactory way in the short term to verify conclusively whether a person has been exposed to low levels of certain chemicals, for example benzene.”
Haley-Benjamin noted that according to Dr. van de Weerdt, toxicologist and consultant with the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO), while the preliminary results may be encouraging, it remains important to establish a complete picture of the situation – both in terms of completing the health risk assessments and being in a position to reassure concerned citizens.
“The government should not be in the business of communicating simplified versions of this very serious situation to the public,” she said.
“With regard to the 223 persons tested, more information is required to understand the extent of the evaluations and if those tested are representative of both the original and possibly any newly impacted areas. To date, we know that 17,000 gallons of fuel have yet to be recovered from the ground. Over time, the impacted area will grow as the benzene spreads with the natural flow of groundwater.
“Residents of this area are very concerned for their safety – and rightfully so considering the known link between aggressive cancer and benzene exposure; and in light of the more than 20 recent cancer-related deaths in the area,” said Haley-Benjamin. “Exposure to low levels of benzene can result in chronic health effects and take a longer period of time to manifest. This underscores the need for long-term medical surveillance by a medical practitioner to detect abnormalities during early onset.”
Haley-Benjamin called for a full report of the investigation by the Department of Environmental Health (DEHS) and PAHO to be compiled and released to the public, and said officials should refrain from making any sweeping statements until such time.
She went on to stress STB’s full support for Justice for Marathon, the grassroots community group that organized last week’s protest, citing the lack of proper response to the leak by both government and Rubis, and the ongoing failure to fully address the concerns of residents.
Haley-Benjamin said STB’s call for stronger environmental legislation is also an effort to protect human health by either through prevention of hazardous pollution, or mitigation of the effects if such situations do arise. To that end, she called for the implementation of an effective response and public warning system for hydrocarbon leaks, and a comprehensive monitoring program for all fuel stations, in line with the recommendations in the report by consultants Black & Veatch, who were contracted by the government to evaluate the response to the Marathon spill more than a year ago.
Save The Bays CEO Vanessa Haley-Benjamin participates in last week’s protest, pointing out 20 recent cancer-related deaths in the area of the fuel leak.
In January 2013, it came to the attention of Rubis and the government that the Robinson Road station had leaked around 24,000 gallons of gasoline into the ground.
The resultant presence of strong hydrocarbon vapors and discovery of large pools of underground gasoline forced the station’s immediate neighbor, Cable Bahamas to evacuate its Customer Service Building (CSB) amid fears of health and safety issues for customers and staff. Eventually, more than 40 staff members had to be treated for exposure.
It has been confirmed that the leak led to the contamination of a wide area of groundwater, including the water supply to several homes and residents have reported a range of health problems.
For two years, Rubis and government officials were aware of the leak and the associated dangers, but failed to make any public announcements, sparking widespread outrage.
Since then, two further possible leaks at Rubis stations in New Providence have come to light. In the wake of the fallout from the Marathon case, both Rubis and the government appeared to take swift action. However yet again, they only broke their silence in response to concerns raised by members of the public.
Washington MISICK challenged, and holds onto Leadership of the PNP
#TurksandCaicos, February 24, 2024 – Magnetic Media can report that WASHINGTON MISICK has emerged and remains LEADER of the governing Progressive National Party.The run for party leader was a risky maneuver by Saunders, son of former PNP Party leader and Chief Minister Norman Saunders. Delegates cast votes, giving E Jay Saunders 58 votes and Washington Misick 88. The elder statesman convincingly retaining delegates’ confidence. It is also reported that, based on the PNP Constitution, Saunders needed 70% support from delegates in a preliminary run off. He was unable to secure that much backing. A constitutional motion to change the selection process of the deputy leader to a delegate vote reportedly failed. It is therefore unclear what the immediate future, politically is for Saunders whose party and government roles are hinged on Washington Misick’s prerogative to have him or someone else in these posts. However Misick is already promoting a strict focus on uniting the party following the NGC meeting held at the Shore Club.It has been a contentious battle today at the PNPs National General Congress (NGC) for party leadership with interest coming from: Jas Walkin, the party’s 2021 campaign manager who this week publicly withdrew his bid; Dameko Dean, former Wheeland candidate who had published an article revealing his quest to lead the PNP and E Jay Saunders who today unsuccessfully challenged MISICK for the role. Saunders has tried for leader before and has served as the party’s deputy leader, at the pleasure and selection of Washington Misick since June 2019.
TCI Community College staff struck and robbed, another chased in car by attackers
#TurksandCaicos, February 23, 2024 – Attacks against several of its staff members last week have forced the Turks and Caicos Islands Community College to reassess its security.
“The college is robustly ending in immediate steps to review and reinforce our campus security protocols,” said a February 16 letter to staff seen by Magnetic Media.
The letter puts the date of the incidents as February 15th at one of its Providenciales campuses.
In the first, a male member of staff was attacked and his car stolen after he left a meeting. When Magnetic Media queried police about the event, they released additional details of the robbery.
We were told around 9:15 pm, Thursday February 15, a 39-year-old male and his colleagues were leaving the TCI Community College Campus, Princess Drive, Providenciales, when a group of men surrounded his vehicle.
The man, noticing that one of the men had stopped at the rear of the vehicle, approached him to investigate and was struck on the head. In the immediate aftermath, the assailants escaped in the victim’s car, leaving the TCICC staff member injured at the scene.
The victim was transported to the Cheshire Hall Medical Center by police officers, and up until news production time, the car had not yet been recovered.
Following this incident, the Community College also revealed that a car chase had taken place.
A female member of staff this time, was chased down by suspected criminals as she left the campus. The employee managed to outdrive the people pursuing her and arrive safely at her destination, but she was described as shaken.
Now both, police officers and campus administration are urging residents to remain vigilant, especially when heading into their cars at night.
Safety tips that can help residents avoid attack, robbery, injury, or worse include:
- Stay alert when heading to your vehicle; don’t be distracted by your phone; pay attention to your surroundings.
- if you see anything or anyone suspicious, do not investigate on your own; go back and get a security guard or similar personnel to assist.
- Have your keys ready in your hands before approaching your car, so you can enter the safety of your vehicle immediately.
The police have not yet arrested anyone for the robbery attack against the employee.
Royal TCI Police share CAREER DAY Highlights
#TurksandCaicos, February 23, 2024 – On Thursday, 8th February 2024, between 9 am – and 2 pm, the Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police Force attended a Career Day event at the Enid Capron Primary School, Five Cays, Providenciales.
Under the theme “Be aware, choose a career”, the RTCIPF showcased the many career options available in policing.
Members of the Community Policing Unit, Safeguarding and Public Protection, Anti-Gang and Drugs Unit, Marine Branch, Traffic Enforcement, Air Support Unit and Mechanical Department were present. Officers answered questions posed by the young, impressionable minds.
Insp Ensa Wilson lectured students on various topics, including: “Good Touch, Bad Touch”, alerting adults to inappropriate situations and the importance of calling 911.
Students were asked questions following the lecture and were given RTCIPF tokens.
Sgt. Kavin Mars, along with PC Fitzlewis McDonald and Kiyon Doughty of the Anti Gang and Drug Unit, freestyled “Don’t Huff, Don’t Puff, Don’t Do That Stuff” and warned students of the dangers –health and legal – of using drugs.
Superintendent (Community Policing and Divisions) Dwight Gardiner commended the school’s initiative and applauded the representation of officers present.
Supt. Gardiner said: “Career Days often highlight the importance of community policing and underscore law enforcement’s vital role in fostering trust, collaboration, and safety within neighbourhoods.
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