The Department of the Environment (DOE) hereby informs the public, especially residents of Orange Walk Town and those people living in the vicinity of the New River, that the general condition of the river has improved over the past weeks.
Since early September 2019, the DOE has been monitoring the water quality of the river near Orange Walk Town on a daily basis and has observed a steady improvement of the river. The improvement is as a result of several factors: (i) the DOE has conducted remedial actions in the river, (ii) inspections of local industries by the DOE and other agencies to address discharge of wastewater, and (iii) the recharging of the river due to localized rainfall in central and northern Belize.
Since the start of October 2019, monitoring of the readings of the hydrogen sulphide stations along the New River has not indicated any presence of the gas, and therefore, the malodour has not affected the area recently.
The DOE will continue to monitor the situation on a weekly basis and we will modify our remediation activities based on information gathered during our weekly monitoring.
In accordance with its medium- and long-term plans, the DOE along with the New River Task Force will continue to meet regularly to continue to implement the medium-term activities that will greatly assist in the preparation and implementation of the New River Watershed Management Plan (long-term plan).
The public is advised to contact the DOE to report any abnormal observations on the New River.
Over the last 2 months, we've been reporting on the resurgence of environmental problems connected with New River. Tonight, the Department of the Environment is sounding the alarm that once again, there are portions of the river that are critically stressed as a result of water pollution.
Every month, representatives of the DOE have been collecting and testing water samples at 20 sample points along the river.
The DOE reports that according to their tests, the portion of the river that is struggling with the highest levels of stress is the area from the Toll Bridge to the Trial Farm Village. The say that this portion of the river has the lowest levels of dissolved oxygen and the highest concentration of Chlorophyll. This indicates that there is an algal bloom that is reaching a critical state. Under those conditions, the river will not be able to adequately support aquatic life - in short, ripe conditions for a fish-kill.
This morning, the Deputy Chief Environmental Officer granted us an interview via Zoom. Here's what he had to say about what the monthly tests are revealing about the overall health of this major waterway in the north:
So, do the DOE officials know the sources of water pollution? Well, according to the Deputy Chief Environmental Officer, it appears that the build-up of polluting nutrients is coming from farming activities, the light industries in the town, as well as the residential homes near the river.:
We also asked about the DOE's efforts to step up enforcement against those business owners and homeowners who are knowingly harming the river's ecological functions. The Deputy Chief Environmental Officer told us that their presence on the Town's trade licensing board means that businesses will have to be more responsible about their wastewater and effluent discharge practices:
The Department says that industrial farmers and the residents living near the river can help the authorities look after it by ensuring that they are complying within their property with adequate waste management practices.
They are receiving support to implement a 2-year monthly water quality monitoring program for the river.
RESIDENTS & OTHER STAKEHOLDERS TO BE CONSULTED ON RESTORATION ACTIVITIES FOR THE NEW RIVER
A consultative process has just begun and will be carried out over a four-week period with various stakeholder groups that reside within the New River watershed. Identified stakeholder groups include residents along the New River, representatives of local governments and institutions, factory operators, farmers, tourism and business operators, and civil society representatives.
This consultation will provide valuable insight into stakeholders’ views, concerns, and recommendations for consideration in developing a management plan to restore and conserve the New River watershed.
A comprehensive and integrated watershed management plan is critical to guide the restoration, protection and promotion of the sustainable use and benefits of the resources of the New River watershed for all users and stakeholders, present and future. The Department of the Environment (DOE) is implementing the development of the New River Watershed Plan with the financial assistance of the Protected Areas Conservation Trust.
The DOE encourages all identified stakeholders to actively engage with the consulting team to be able to participate in the successful completion of this activity. Members of the consultation team will possess a letter from the DOE identifying themselves as part of this activity.
For further information or clarification, please contact Fermin Olivera at 672-1428 or email [email protected]
Restoration Activities for the New River
A portion of New River which stretches from the toll bridge to Trial Farm Village in Orange Walk District remains critically stressed and shows the highest levels of chlorophyll and lowest levels of dissolved oxygen. According to the Department of the Environment, this is indicative of an algal bloom which is detrimental to aquatic life. The D.O.E. says that the area is being affected mainly by industrial, agricultural and urban discharges. On Friday, government announced via press release that consultations have begun with various stakeholder groups that reside within the New River watershed. The process will provide valuable insight into stakeholders’ views, concerns and recommendations for consideration in developing a management plan to restore and conserve the New River watershed. Industries, farmers and the public can assist by ensuring that they are complying within their property with adequate waste management practices and vegetation buffer along the river to reduce the organic load entering the river.