Chalillo Dam

BECOL warning system failed

(June 16, 2013) Belize: Various reports indicate a planned test of an early warning system in the event of a break at the Chalillo dam on the Macal River has failed.

From Belize regional newspaper the Star reports on June 16:

BECOL (Belize Electric Company Limited) Warning System Failed:
Reliable reports reaching us indicates that the Tuesday, June 4, 2013, planned testing of BECOL’s early warning system, in the event of a dam break, failed.

The rather embarrassing incident reportedly occurred in the presence of representatives from the National Emergency Management Organization and from the Department of the Environment both legally charged with overseeing such exercises.

The system at San Ignacio fire station failed as well as the one located at Black Rock Resort. The siren was to have blasted seven times for three consecutive minutes at three minute intervals none of which reportedly occurred.

The failure now begs the question: Is BECOL really prepared to issue the relevant warning in the event of a dam break, or will residences in the destructive path of the dam feel before they hear the warning?

Residence in the areas that can be affected in the event of a dam break are requesting for BECOL to get the system up and running properly as soon as possible as the testing and proper functioning of the system is essential for public safety especially during the hurricane season.

*****

Although, dam operator, the Belize Electric Company Limited (BECOL), has repeatedly stressed its commitment to a Dam Safety Emergency Preparedness Plan, activists and residents say otherwise. Candy Gonzalez of the Belize Environmental Law and Policy Office (BELPO), an instrumental force in the Belize campaign against the Chalillo Dam’s construction, said in a recent radio interview with KREM, Belize: “We still have no real dam break emergency plan here.” Also see Ms. Gonzalez’s letter dated June 16, published by the Star, and other news outlets, in which she points out that there have been “no meetings of the Public Participation Committee and questionable actions in terms of educating people on the dam break early warning system.

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