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#491793 - 06/03/14 11:21 AM Rumor of Cracked Water Dam Circulates
Marty Online   happy


About twenty one miles south of San Ignacio Town in the Cayo District, sits a gravity dam on the Macal River, dubbed the Chalillo Dam. The dam, which was built between the years, 2002 and 2005, is an upstream storage facility meaning that its main purpose is to store waters during the rainy season…..but like everything manmade, things can go wrong and so, for the last two weeks the Belize Electric Company Limited (BECOL) has been conducting a public awareness campaign geared at educating the public on the emergency plan that is in place in the event of a dam break or a massive flood. This past Saturday formed part of that campaign as explained to us by the Vice President of Operations at BECOL, Stephen Usher.

STEPHEN USHER, VP of Operations

“Public awareness is a part of the environmental compliance plan that we have with the Department of Environment. A part of that ECP is the Emergency Preparedness Plan which is basically a plan to advise stakeholders along the Macal River of an event of a dam break if that arises. What you do; the safe zones you go to and the necessary preparedness you do in the event that should occur. What we do on an annual basis is we go out to all the stakeholders along the Macal River which includes the resorts, San Ignacio/Santa Elena Towns; some of the villages up the Mopan River which would be in the inundation area if we should have a dam break during a flood. We go out to these villages and schools and we explain how the project operates and how high the water would go in the event of a massive flood or a dam break and we advise the public where the safe zones would be in their area. We did a public awareness session on May 16 for San Ignacio/Santa Elena Towns; however we had feedback that some of the residents missed the event and so what we did, we did a follow up one on May 31, this past Saturday at the Welcome Centre in San Ignacio Town and we did that from 8am to midday. We basically covered the same information; we invited people in and we dialogued and interacted with the public and explained to the people that if in the event a dam breaks or a massive flood happens, what to do and about safe zones and what to expect and how you prepare for such disaster.”

Love News asked Usher what security measures are in place at the dams that would put the surrounding communities on alert.

STEPHEN USHER, VP of Operations

“The dam in question actually is the Chalillo Dam because that’s an upstream storage facility. This is the facility that stores water during the rainy season and we released it in the dry season for the other two dams which are the Mollejon and Vaca. We have instrumentation embedded in the dam to monitor for any movements; we monitor water levels. So, we have instrumentation to monitor the dams in the event that a failure should occur, we have sufficient warnings to tell us if a break should occur; we have the warning and we could advise the public. We installed an early warning system, which is a siren system in San Ignacio/Santa Elena Towns and the villages and resorts. In the event of a dam break, we would activate this system, once the public hears this they would go to the safe zones. We do the education part or the public awareness before the rainy season and this was done in the month of May.”

Of recent, particularly on the social media, there have been news circulating of a crack in one of the dams and that the Government had met to discuss evacuation of residents in the area. According to Usher, this is nothing more than merely a rumor.

STEPHEN USHER, VP of Operations

“The dam is on the Macal River in the Cayo District and what you just mentioned is a rumour and that rumour…I’ve gotten calls from the police in Benque, NEMO and in San Ignacio querying this and I advised them that, that is a rumour. If we should have a dam break, as I explained to you we would put our early warning system in place, the emergency preparedness plan and these organizations would be one of the first to know. We would advise NEMO, DEMO, the police, the fire, all these entities would be advised. This is a rumour; I’m not certain how it started; it’s a malicious rumour; it’s a bad rumour but there is no truth to that.”

The three dams, Chalillo, Vaca and Mollejon are currently owned and operated by the Belize Electric Company Limited (BECOL).

LOVEFM

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#491819 - 06/03/14 05:02 PM Re: Rumor of Cracked Water Dam Circulates [Re: Marty]
Marty Online   happy
I have just read the interview posted by LOVEFM .. and do take extreme offense to the statement that the rumor was "MALICIOUS" .. I started the "INQUIRY ONLY' thread above asking if anyone had heard the same as I had.. The facts are .. in fact, that there were local Belizeans in Santa Elena and San Ignacio that were believing that the scenario was true and were terrified of the consequence of the dam breaking.. they were transmitting that info to people who then contacted me to determine if it was true.. I did not know, So I posted and INQUIRY.. not a RUMOR. In the end, thank God, it is now obvious that this fear by some people in Belize was unfounded; that it was created by a meeting and scenario that was being held by the dam management in San Ignacio yesterday.. and as usual, they did a terrible job in getting their message out to the public, thus causing terror in the minds of many Belizeans. The "INQUIRY" posted above stated clearly that this was not known and information was being requested to its validity of these concerns .. As Katie Valk stated, even one or more of the upstream lodges do not hear the test alarms when they are sounded.. and I am quite sure, that the Dam management would do a poor job in ensuring all persons in Danger are warned in a timely manner if in fact, a catastrophic event did take place.

In ending I again state, there was NO malice intended in my inquiry.. and do take offense that the DAM MANAGEMENT comments that the inquire of events was made in malice.. and I would do the same again in the future in similar circumstances..

Ian Anderson
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