Good news for the Government

WRA gives all clear for more buildings on Bernard Lodge lands with strict provisions

BY ARTHUR HALL
Editor-at-Large
halla@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, September 08, 2019

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The Water Resources Authority (WRA) has moved to allay fears that the massive new town that the Government plans to build on lands in Bernard Lodge, St Catherine, could destroy one of the island's key aquifers, which is a major source of potable water.

The Jamaica Observer has learnt that the WRA has changed its designation of the Bernard Lodge lands from a “no-build zone” to a “care-build zone”, providing the all-clear for planned development of 2,000 acres of the land into residential and commercial spaces.

In a recent submission to the Cabinet the WRA noted that in 2004 it approved housing developments on the Bernard Lodge lands with a provision that, “no further approval should be granted for housing developments in the aquifer area” which is a key source of water for parts of St Catherine.

According to the WRA, at a meeting of its board of directors on June 17, the Government's proposed development on the land was discussed at length and a decision made to change the classification to allow the buildings with clear provision to protect the aquifer.

The WRA said one of the main reasons for the change in the definition is that it now has tools that can more reliably provide data that can be used to determine water quality as well as quantity issues.

Illegal sand mining, the dumping of solid waste, and squatting are already compromising the quality of the aquifer which is not receiving the level of recharge it received in the past.

Expanding on the reasons for its decision the WRA said: “The change of land use in the development area from agriculture to housing means that aquifer recharge of the underlying alluvium aquifer, which was being driven by flood irrigation methods, has ceased.

“However, sustainable development methods, that utilise captured surface water run-off as well as treated grey water discharge in detention ponds and swales, can effectively provide recharge for the alluvium aquifer.”

It added: “A Managed Artificial Recharge facility has been constructed for the replenishment of the nearby limestone aquifer. Recharge of this nearby aquifer will enable the possibility of easing water stress in and around the APZ (Aquifer Protection Zone) by improving the water store available to augment water demand.”

But the WRA said the development would need the implementation of an effective solid waste management plan including regular collection strategy and the use of standard impermeable bins.

Other provisions include that, “No final effluent should be disposed of onsite or on any site within the APZ, save and except separated and treated grey water which may be mixed with storm water and used for aquifer recharge.

In addition, the WRA has insisted that a grey water reuse programme and recharge system should be implemented and maintained to ensure the quality and quantity of water recharging the aquifer.”

The WRA has also demanded that covenants be implemented which restrict the types of vehicles allowed to park in a residential development and restrict the types of commercial activity within the development area.

The authority further charged that the developers would have to design and construct “permeable storm water treatment and storage systems to allow aquifer recharge, inclusive of detention ponds and swales”.

The other provisions include measures to reduce the impact of pollutants and the use of native plants only and:

Implementing a buffer zone of at least 100-metre radius around each well, for well point protection, where no activity will be allowed; the interior 25-metre radius is to be fenced and padlocked for restricted access.

Including all un-regularised settlers in all infrastructural development plans including water supply plans, sewage treatment, and disposal plans.

No insecticides should be used within the well buffer zone and the application of insecticides should be undertaken only by professional providers, and only under dry soil conditions.


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