The ongoing waste management issues at the Pockwood Pond dump site on Tortola has now become a hazard to engine performance at the BVI Electricity Corporation’s main power plant, which services 11 islands in the territory.
This was highlighted after a massive fire broke out at the dumpsite. It took five firemen eight hours to extinguish the blaze early Tuesday morning.
The fire came within 20 to 25 feet of the BVIEC’s compound, authorities told BVI News.
“The last thing you want fire encountering is a power plant because, bear in mind, you have the main building, but you have a lot of storage tanks around the building, so you would want to keep something like a bush fire as far away from the compound as possible,” Chief Fire Officer Zebalon McLean told BVI News on Tuesday.
McLean said his department received an alert about the fire at 9:57 pm on Monday and responded shortly after. But by the time the firefighters responded at the scene, the fire had reached the hills and began spreading on the hill towards the direction of the power plant.
“It took like a full day’s work and the officers had to move very carefully. It was a very large area, so it was quite challenging,” Chief McLean said, adding that the exact cause of the fire is still unknown.
The matter is of concern to us
In the meantime, General Manager at the BVIEC Leroy Abraham described the incident as concerning.
“The fire was extremely close to our premises … just over the fence. Those fires have been unfortunately quite frequent in recent times, and the consistent open-air burning also creates some concern to us based on the close proximity of it to our facility,” he said.
The BVIEC boss further said the operations of the powerplant could potentially be affected if the issue is not brought under control.
“We were impacted — not by the fire but by the volume of smoke in general because we need clean air to operate from a human health standpoint. And also for combustion of the engine to take place efficiently. So, that would affect the operations of the plant from a technical standpoint as well, and it could potentially derate the production of the units which may not be able to produce at its full capacity based on the smoke,” Abrahams pointed out.
However, Abrahams said, as far as he understands, Monday night’s episode has not affected the plant’s productivity.
He further said the plant could potentially become affected if the fires and the large volumes of smoke they produce continue.
We can’t fight major fires
Meanwhile, the BVIEC boss said the plant is not equipped to fight major external fires such as the recent one.
“It is very difficult in predicting a fire of this magnitude getting on our compound. But we do have a firefighting system. Whether that firefighting system would be able to fully control and mitigate a fire of that nature and degree is somewhat questionable. I don’t think we have the capability to fight a fire originating from the incinerator. Based on the close proximity of the incinerator to our fuel storage, we do not have the firefighting capabilities for that.”
He said their firefighting system is limited to fires originating on their compound.
“We have a limited volume of water, we have some foam extinguishers and different types of extinguishers for the different types of fires that can occur on the compound,” he explained.
BVIEC’s staff was unaware of the fire
Notably, Abraham said despite the facility being manned 24/7, the staff of BVIEC were not the ones who alerted authorities about the fire.
“We didn’t know the fire department was down there until we saw that someone had connected to one of our fire hydrants,” he said
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