Dear Amandala Editor,

The Amandala article entitled “Bay snook mercury risk in Macal: BELPO” (Wednesday, February 12, 2014) covered the high levels of mercury in the fish in the Macal River as well as issues of water quality. The article reported that the “Amandala was made to understand from an official of the DoE that since the Chalillo project is more than five years old, data reports on mercury levels are now provided once annually. The most recent data we have seen dates back to May 2013, and indicates that indeed, the mercury level of the snook is above normal.”

This is not accurate. The Environmental Compliance Plan for the Chalillo project states that: To prevent potential health effects to fish consumers, a risk management program will be put in place during the period of elevated mercury levels (i.e., for five years or until background levels are achieved). [emphasis added]

In case the DOE needs an interpretation, that means that testing continues as long as the levels of mercury remain high, which they are! Mercury in fish is not detectable by smell or taste. It cannot be cooked out of the fish. High levels of mercury in the body lead to neurological (nerve) problems in people, especially pregnant women and children. It is not to be taken lightly.

The same is true with water quality. The ECP states: “A water quality and quantity monitoring program must be established to monitor all relevant water quality parameters . . . over an extended period of time. A copy of the water quality monitoring program shall be submitted to the Hydrology Unit of the Meteorology Department and DOE for approval, and the results of the monitoring program submitted to the Hydrology Unit and the Department of the Environment on a weekly basis for the first two years after the filling of the reservoir or until water quality parameters stabilize and on a quarterly basis thereafter.” [emphasis added]

This is the responsibility of the DOE, the Ministry of Health and the Hydrology Unit. They are supposed to be looking out for the people of Belize! This is important information that needs to be shared with the public. Why aren’t they doing this?

Candy Gonzalez, J.D.