DOE Shuts Down Work At Vaca Dam
350 Belizean workers and 150 Chinese workers won’t be getting a paycheck from their worksite at the Vaca dam in the Cayo district this week.
That’s because on Monday afternoon the department of the Environment sent an enforcement order to BECOL telling them that there were significant infractions of environmental regulations and they had to shut down operations until they were resolved.
It’s a radical move, almost unheard of in these major projects which are typically fined, a penalty which – considering the economics and the scale of the project – is a slap on the wrist.
But not this time. Chief Environmental Officer Martin Allegria told us that the Chinese subcontractor retained by BECOL was not living up to its obligations for properly disposing of human waste. He added that there had been a number of warnings stretching out over months before the stop order was issued.
BECOL’s Vice President of Operations Stephen Usher confirmed that the Department found a stream contaminated with fecal matter and concluded that the stream could also end up feeding into drinking water.
Usher told us that typically bottled water is used but stressed that he’s not arguing and that the stop order was adhered to within minutes of receiving it. The project was shut down and the 500 workers went home at 4:15 on Monday afternoon.
Presently all the workers are not earning but they have not lost their jobs. He says remedial measures are being taken and a meeting will be held with the Department of the Environment on Friday. Both sides hope that the construction project – one of the biggest in Belize - can re-open early next week. http://www.7newsbelize.com/sstory.php?nid=14756