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Govt ‘not serious’ in BORCO relocation

Activist and former MP claims officials never visited homes, insisting that up to 170 residents are in need of $200M in compensation
  • Bahamas Oil Refining Company International Limited (BORCO) has come under increased scrutiny in recent months following several publicized oil spills off Freeport. FILE

Guardian Business Editor

Published: May 01, 2013

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A former member of Parliament and community activist in Grand Bahama says the government is "not very serious" and "disrespectful" towards residents in desperate need of relocation from the Bahamas Oil Refining Company International Limited (BORCO) facility in Freeport, Grand Bahama.

Maurice Moore, who is also a former ambassador to the U.S., is unaware of any

intervention on the part of government to help the affected residents. During a recent inspection of the oil terminal, government officials noted that they would go door-to-door and speak with Bahamians nearby.

Moore claimed that those inspections and meetings never occurred.

"The matter is very serious.  Being an adviser to the committee for this area, I am not aware of any meetings or consultations," he said.  "These people are not serious and we're talking about a life and death matter to the community."

Insisting that local residents are growing increasingly "afraid", the former MP estimated that up to 150 to 170 homes require relocation from the area. Factoring in construction, land and any health compensation, he said residents are owed at least $200 million in damages.

It is currently unknown where this compensation will come from.  For the government's part, it has spoken about action after hearing the concerns of residents on Grand Bahama, although at the moment, homeowners appear to be in the dark.

For many years, residents in the area have complained about strong odors, hazardous fumes and pollution from the storage facility, which is the largest of its kind in the region.

Phillip Weesh, head of the Bahamas Environment, Science and Technology Commission (BEST), has praised BORCO for its cooperation with government in recent weeks, particularly after a number of publicized oil spills off Freeport.

He called certain leaks at the BORCO plant a “mystery”.  Government officials and executives from the company have been working together to solve the problem.

Kenred Dorsett, the minister of environment and housing, has grown silent on the matter since the inspection team toured BORCO last month.

"We have looked at a couple of places in Freeport for the relocation, towards the eastern end," Moore continued.  "All of those things have to be formalized, including how it will be paid for.  The people here in the community did not invite this."

The former ambassador said the government needs to take more initiative and responsibility for industrial partners.

"At minimum you are looking at $200 million to rebuild these homes, buy the land and take care of any health compensations.  The homes need to be comparable or better.  You also do not know when the actual effect of this industrial environment will impact the health of the people," he explained.

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