Posted: Thursday, February 10, 2022. 8:43 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: Smoke rising from the chimneys at the Tower Hill Sugar Factory for the first half of the year is one of the sights most Belizeans passing through the Orange Walk District are accustomed to seeing.
But few stop to consider the untold environmental impact of the practices of Belize Sugar Industries Limited (BSI) in producing sugar, prior to its acquisition by American Sugar Refining (ASR).
In recent years, starting with the creation of the Belize Electricity Co-Generation plant (BELCOGEN), BSI/ASR has been putting significant money into reducing its environmental footprint in the waters, land and air surrounding the factory – and the communities that both benefit from and suffer from its activities.
The most recent example is its installment of a wet/dry air emission system, designed to more closely trap and collect ash particles from the emission generated by the co-generation of the bagasse into steam and electricity at BELCOGEN.
The prior system, known as an electrostatic precipitator (ESP), proved insufficient at handling the collection, causing darkly-colored smoke to emerge and waft into the air surrounding Tower Hill, causing problems for residents of Chan Pine Ridge Village about a mile down the Philip Goldson Highway.
The new system wets those smaller particles that are not dried on the dust collector, creating clumps of muddy ash that are trucked off and treated in Department of the Environment-approved (DOE) fields and re-used as fertilizer for cane fields.
The first half of the installation cost six million dollars and by next crop season, according to Director of Finance Shawn Chavarria, a further five million will be spent replacing the electrostatic precipitator on the second boiler. (Installation on the first boiler delayed its use to open this year’s crop).
As Chavarria explains, “It is a positive project for the community. We have over ninety nine percent of our employees here are Belizeans, and a lot of them work in this community. So, even our employees are extremely proud that we have been able to bring these two major projects to fruition. And we look forward to completing the second phase which will be completed in this off crop season on the second boiler so that going forward you will see two very air emission stocks.”
The result is one that it is hoped will please DOE and the community, and the test comes in March when according to environmental health and safety regional coordinator Seidy Lienez, an international specialist company will come in and inspect the apparatus and measure the level of emission, which it hopes will be reduced by at least 50 percent.
This latest investment follows earlier investment in water cooling towers which cleans up emissions into the New River.
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