Sheldon Douglas charged for issuing “bounce” cheque

Controversial soca artiste, Sheldon Douglas has been charged by local police for “writing a cheque with insufficient funds” to a travel agency in connection with a failed show that he was promoting for Moonlight City on May 4.

Promoter Sheldon Douglas – ‘I indicated to the travel agent that I wasn’t going to let the cheque cash

The charge came weeks after a failed effort by Douglas to host a show with Reggae Sensation, Mikey Spice that created quite a stir among patrons and fans who waited for hours at Moonlight City in La Poterie, St. Andrew to their disappointment.

Douglas, who is currently out on bail, told a popular social media outfit that he chose to not allow a cheque for $9600.00 to be cashed because the travel agency did not carry through on an arrangement made with him.

According to the promoter, the $9600 was for payment in cheque, together with a cash payment of $3700 for airline tickets for the reggae act.

He said that the police came to his home to take him into custody based on a complaint about a “bounced” cheque.

“…My queen told me police outside for me. They said they have a report of a bounce cheque”, he remarked.

Douglas is insisting that the Travel Agent did not tell the truth to her boss about the transaction and as a result the police were called into the matter.

The Soca singer/promoter was charged early last week and released on bail.

Sheldon Douglas is expected to appear in court on June 25, 2019 to answer the charges slapped on him.

In relation to the no-show of his main act for the May 4th reggae show at Moonlight City, Douglas indicated that a free show from the same artiste Mikey Spice will be held on October 5 for the disappointed fans.

Over the years, Sheldon Douglas has emerged as one of the main acts on the national political platform of the ruling New National Party (NNP) during election campaigns on the island.

Sir Royston lands another major award

Sir Royston Hopkin, Chairman and Managing Director of Spice Island Beach Resort, Grenada was bestowed the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Caribbean Hotel and Resort Investment Summit (CHRIS) in Miami.

Each year CHRIS bestows a Lifetime Achievement Award on an individual who has made significant contribution to the hospitality industry over his/her lifetime.

Sir Royston Hopkin, KCMG and family at function in which he receives Lifetime Achievement Award

This year the award was given to Sir Royston who said in his thank you speech that he was honoured to receive this award since he has dedicated his life to Tourism.

Sir Royston and the Spice Island Beach Resort have raised the bar in the Tourism Industry to a level that has earned recognition locally, regionally and internationally.

Attending the summit on behalf of Grenada was Chief Executive Officer, Grenada Investment Development Corporation (GIDC), Ronald Theodore who said that there is currently a great level of interest in investment for tourism developments in the tri-island state.

With over 400 attendees at CHRIS representing development interests from all major brands/chains, investment houses, commercial and private equity firms, and of course destinations throughout the region, it was a good time to be at the Caribbean’s most noteworthy hotel investment conference.

Commenting on the Award, Minister for Tourism and Civil Aviation, Dr. Clarice Modeste-Curwen, highlighted the high percentage of Grenadians on island who own and operate hotels.

She was elated that Sir Royston, a well-known and respected leader, in the Caribbean tourism industry, was recognised at this stellar event.

The female Minister congratulated Sir Royston on being the recipient of this 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award.

The Government of Grenada is desirous of advancing and seeking investments in Tourism and this important recognition helps elevate the profile and media exposure of the destination.

Damion Francis pleads guilty to causing half brother’s death

The Office of the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) has reduced to manslaughter, the indictable non-capital murder charge brought by the State against Damion Francis, 27, of Mt. Horne in St. Andrew, for the March 2018 death of his elder half-brother Steve Jeffery, who was 31 years old at the time.

Steve Jeffery – received a fatal stab to his lower abdomen

Francis was arraigned last week Friday before Madam Justice Paula Gilford at the St. George’s No.1 High Court, where both charges were read out to him.

The accused pleaded not guilty to committing the offence of non-capital murder but guilty to the lesser offence of manslaughter, which is also an indictable offence.

Francis now faces a maximum penalty of 30 years imprisonment on the manslaughter charge instead of the maximum life sentence he faced on the non-capital murder charge.

Justice Gilford set July 12 as the day of sentencing.

Attorney-at-law Naeisha John-Diarra is representing Francis, who reportedly used a kitchen knife to stab his brother in the abdomen following an altercation over a piece of clothing belonging to him, which he wanted to use to attend the annual “Good Friday sporting event” in the small village.

According to an informed source, Francis was unable to wear the clothing because his now deceased brother had used it and had to wear something else in its place.

Damion Francis – faces 30 years imprisonment for stabbing to death his older brother

The source said Francis was highly intoxicated when he returned home from the village sporting event that dreadful morning, where he met his now deceased brother asleep on the floor and proceeded to wake him up with an aggressive argument over the clothing.

As the argument ensued, the older brother slapped Francis in the face because he felt that he was being very disrespectful to their mother who was sleeping in another room.

The altercation ended up in the kitchen, where Francis reportedly drew a knife and fatally stabbed his older brother in the lower abdomen.

The older brother was taken to the Princess Alice Hospital at Mirabeau in St. Andrew where he was pronounced dead.

THE NEW TODAY understands that Steve is the second brother in that family to lose his life to violence.

In October 2011, their older brother Dellon Jeffery, who resided at La Digue in St. Andrew, died at the age of 27, after receiving a chop to his neck at the hands of Sherwin Shane Buckmire, who was 20-years-old at the time and is close to completing a 15-year sentence at the Richmond Hill Prison for the atrocious crime.

Duncan: Bank fees are here to stay

“Not because you are not paying for something, means that there is no cost.”

Manager of Grenada Co-op Bank, Richard Duncan

Those were the words uttered by Managing Director of the Grenada Co-operative Bank Limited (GCBL), Richard Duncan as he responded to a question posed at a press conference on how the bank intends to deal with increasing queries from customers about the frequent increase in bank fees and charges.

Duncan told reporters gathered at the bank’s headquarters on Church Street, St. George’s, that the reason for the emergence of these fees and charges are because of compliance and regulatory requirements that are now placed on commercial banks.

“Bank fees are here to stay,” said the former Accountant General in the Ministry of Finance.

Duncan said that Co-op Bank’s Fair Fee Policy is intended to give assurances to customers about the affordability of their fees.

“…We always like to give customers adequate notice when we introduce a fee or we change a fee and I wish for us to give at least a month. I need to pause here and apologise for the fact that people did not get a full month the last time fees were revised, however, that is not the norm…”, he added.

According to Duncan, it is not the policy of Co-op bank to slap on the highest banking rates and charges to customers in the local banking sector.

He said: “…Our fees when we compare across financial institutions are reasonable and … we always encourage customers (to) choose their channels – choose the way they deal with the bank so as to avoid these fees or to minimise them.

“Customers must (get) accustomed to the fact that they have to pay for services. Choose how you access those services, so you can minimise the fees…and avoid those fees where possible and choose a bank that does not have the highest and those aggressive fee structure in banking,” he added.

The local banker also advised customers that they can look at alternative sources of banking to help reduce cost such as the use of debit and credit cards but to ensure that the proper security measures are always maintained.

Duncan noted that the convenience of these online services (debit and credit cards) has brought about a certain level of comfort for customers in terms of ease of doing business, and the ease of transactions.

But he quickly added that customers needed to be reminded “that they have a responsibility in keeping their information secure and by information, I mean, things like user names, passwords, your pins”.

“…What you find globally is that most, if not all financial institutions have very secure computerised systems, but sometimes the lapses by customers having their information shared or compromised is the beginning of problems for the majority of customers,” Duncan said.

The Co-op boss disclosed that the local financial institution has sought to address this issue by raising public awareness to encourage customers to keep their information secure at all times.

He said: “Remember your pin for your debit card or your credit card must be kept private like any other one. Your password, your user name for any system that you use on the internet, those are yours, do not go for example sharing with people that you do not know, either on the telephone or online clicking on certain links that might be there.

“…Cyber security as we know it is extremely important, and rest heavily on the customer keeping their information to themselves and not sharing it or giving it out to anyone directly, or going and submit information to people who would have lured you into making such submission, and these are global practices that we want people on the island to continue to cultivate and to harvest,” he added.


The once-feared “Ossie” will know in a matter of days whether a Jury has found him guilty or innocent of the 2015 robbery of the Patel family at their home in Belmont


Aldin ‘Ossie’ Phillip – claims he was not a part of the robbery team

The State last week Friday called its eighth and final witness in the case brought against the once feared gangster Aldin ‘Ossie’ Phillip, who is charged with Robbery with Violence and Possession of an offensive weapon in connection to the stealing of EC$16, 000 with the use of firearm from a St. George’s businessman Mahindra Patel, his wife and son on December 22, 2015.

High court judge, Justice Paula Gilford was on Friday expected to sum up the evidence before sending the 9-member jury panel out of court to deliberate on the verdict to be handed down on the convicted felon.

Both the State Prosecutor, Senior Crown Counsel, Howard Pinnock and veteran Defense attorney, Anselm Clouden were expected on Thursday to make their final presentations to the mixed jury sitting at the St. George’s No. 1 High Court.

It was the Crown’s case during the trial that the notorious Phillip, along with four (4) other men, all from St. George’s, ranging between ages of 18 and 40 were responsible for a spate of robberies on the island, most of which occurred between November 2015 and January 1, 2016.

Phillip, who lived at Grand Anse, St. George’s, along with Donnel Bonaparte of Mt. Rush and Isa Charles of Woburn, were slapped with robbery with violence, and gun related charges in connection to the alleged attack at the family’s home at Belmont, St. George, where they operated a small business.

The three suspects were jointly charged for stealing from the family, three (3) cellular phones valued $1,148.10, cash amounting to EC$15,000.00, and a coin box containing EC$160.00.

All three men have been on remand since their arrest for the crimes in 2015.

Bonaparte and Charles pleaded guilty to the offence before female high court judge, Justice Gilford in the January assizes and were ordered to spend the next 15 years of their lives behind bars at the Richmond Hill Prison for their crimes.

However, Ossie decided to go to trial and according to informed sources, he did not feel comfortable with his matter being tried before the Guyanese-born judge, in light of the stiff sentences handed down on Bonaparte and Charles.

Ossie, who is believed to be the mastermind behind a string of well orchestrated robberies on the island occurring during November 2015 and January 2016, had only been released from prison for just about six (6) months after serving a 10-year jail sentence for attempted murder, burglary, robbery and robbery with violence.

In 2011, Phillip received a 10-year jail sentence from Madam Justice Clare Henry at a high court sitting after he launched an attack on the home of the Antoine family in St. Andrew, wearing a mask and armed with a gun on February 23, 2009, and got away with EC $300.00 and US $2.00.

In the process, a member of the family, Reginald Charles was shot three times resulting in him spending 15 days in hospital.

Police also suspect that Phillip was involved in several other criminal activities on the island over the years but lacked sufficient evidence to slap charges on him.

High court judge, Justice Paula Gilford

The accused who is originally from St. Patrick spent most of his early childhood in Trinidad but returned home in the past 15 years after many encounters with the law in the neighbouring island, which saw him also spending prison time there.

Police had apprehended a third man, Sylvan Thomas, in connection to the Patel family robbery and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), managed to strike a deal with him to testify against Phillip as a key witness for the Crown.

Among the witnesses called to give evidence in the case led by Senior Crown Counsel, Howard Pinnock, was Patel’s son, who provided the court with a detailed account of the family’s encounter with the group of intruders who were all wearing stocking masks, and each carrying a gun at their Belmont home.

Ossie, who retained the services of seasoned criminal defense Attorney-at-Law Anselm Clouden to assist with his defense, was allowed to stand in the prisoner’s dock to address the court last week Friday.

He lashed out at Thomas, who he charged should be the one standing trial for the offences and not him because he is the one who “played all the roles in the crime.”

He referred to Thomas as the one responsible for the Patel family robbery, stating that he is not a credible witness because he is a felon and a liar, who had done time in the United States for sex-related offences and Burglary.

Ossie also alleged that there were several inconsistencies in the statements presented to the court against him during the trial.

The notorious gangster claimed that certain evidence in the case had been tampered with and maintained his innocence of the charges slapped on him.

He called for a fair trial and also made it clear that he is ready to face whatever penalty is handed down to him.

“All I am asking for is a fair trial…” he told the court.

If convicted, Ossie faces a maximum penalty of 30 years imprisonment for the charge of Robbery with Violence and a lesser penalty for Possession of a firearm.

NDC delegation meets with Baroness Scotland

An NDC delegation comprising of the Interim Political Leader, Joseph Andall, General Secretary, Glen Noel and Senator Kerryne James held talks on May 24 with Commonwealth Secretary General, Baroness Patricia Scotland.

NDC delegation meets with Baroness Scotland

The NDC team raised concerns about manipulation of the Parliamentary Elections Office by the ruling party, and government’s failure to get the Governor General to assent to the 2016 amendments that were made to the Representation of the People Act.

The issue of censorship, intimidation and control of the press was also discussed, with specific references to the replacement of Lew Smith with Katisha Williams, a government senator, as host of GBN’s Beyond the Headlines, the appointment of an NNP activist to head the News Department of a private media entity and the refusal of several newspapers to publish the NDC’s Heartbeat column, even as they bring the NNP Perspective.

NDC acknowledged the passing of progressive environmental legislation, but lamented government’s actions which pose direct and immediate threats to the local environment.

Sen. James highlighted concerns about the poor state of healthcare in general, and mental health in particular.

She addressed the need for better training and awareness regarding the handling of sexual abuse and harassment, as well as a reorientation of the education system so that young people can be better able to take advantage of existing opportunities.

Baroness Scotland commended the NDC for allocating the two senate seats offered by the Governor General to two youths.

The Secretary General spoke of several Commonwealth programmes and initiatives that young Grenadians can benefit from.

She was also made aware of the high levels of victimisation meted out by the NNP administration to young people who support or are members of the NDC.

Both delegations agreed that there should be follow up actions on the matters raised by Congress.

Attorney Hood points fingers at Keith Mitchell-led government

Former Attorney-General Cajeton Hood has said that a major part of the overall sum of the national debt has to do with the acquisition of lands from Grenadians by the Government of Grenada and not paying compensation.

Former Attorney General Cajeton Hood defends his integrity and legal competence

Hood, who served as principal legal adviser to the Keith Mitchell Government during the period 2013 – 2017, made this statement during last weekend’s, ‘Sunday with George Grant’ programme.

According to the attorney, he was forced to put out a letter last week in response to statements made by Prime Minister Mitchell at a meeting with staffers at the Ministry of Legal Affairs, in which he claimed that newly appointed Attorney-General, Guyana-born Darshan Ramdhani will give “far superior” legal advice than those who recently occupied the top positions.

Less than a week later, the much-talked about Ramdhani suffered a loss on behalf of the State in a case involving GRENLEC.

PM Mitchell’s onslaught was seen as a direct attack on both Hood and former Solicitor-General, Dwight Horsford who is now serving as Attorney-General in the British dependency of Anguilla.

According to Hood, he was duty bound to respond and “immediately reacted taking exception not only on behalf of myself personally but (also) on behalf of a number of lawyers who I would have worked with in the Ministry of Legal Affairs, who would have worked very hard (and) who gave a lot of their private time to advance the work of this nation…who gave committed service.”

He pointed out that he was surprised at the statement made by PM Mitchell that if competent legal advice was given the government would not have had to pay the large sums as awarded by the court in judgement debts.

He said: “When the issue of the debt and the part of the debt based on judgments came up and I read the comments of the Prime Minister, I was taken aback (because) I could not believe what was being said. The mere fact that one would speak in public and try to blame lawyers in Legal Affairs for the Government of Grenada being in several millions of dollars in debt based on court awarded sums, it is ludicrous”.

One of the major debts is believed to be in excess of EC$20 million to the construction firm known as Dipcon arising from the breach of contract by Works Minister Gregory Bowen within days of the New National Party (NNP) forming the government after the 1995 general elections.

Attorney Hood spoke of having to engage with female Queen’s Counsel Celia Clyne-Edwards regarding a debt for one of the islands that the government acquired and had given to an investor for development without compensating the original owners.

He recalled raising the issue of the debts arising from court decisions with former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance, Timothy Antoine who is now serving as Governor of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB).

PM Mitchell – not happy with the work of Legal Affairs in the 2013-18 period

“…We came up with a breakdown of all of these payments that are outstanding to citizens and in his (Antoine) mind, it would have been a good thing to pay these people off because monies would be going back into the economy. That was his (Antoine’s) idea.” he said.

“….Furthermore, the debts are acquiring about a 6% interest, so as we discussed it made good sense to take a loan at a lower interest and pay-off the debt and with the assistance of my staff we wrote every single lawyer who on behalf of their clients were owed debts by the Government of Grenada,” he added.

In August last year, the Richard Duncan-led Fiscal Responsibility Oversight Committee (FROC) put the national debt in the region of EC$2.4 billion.

The 2019 Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure indicated under the section Public Debt that government owes judgment claims of $57.3 million as of 2018.

The Mitchell-led government announced in the budget that it will begin making payments on the judgment claims at the end of February.

However, THE NEW TOADY has not been able to ascertain how much of the monies have actually been paid out to these debtors.

Attorney Hood said, while serving as Attorney General he engaged several attorneys who had debts owing to their clients by the Government of Grenada.

“I tried asking them if they would forgive some of the interests on the debt…I, with the assistance of my officers, we wrote every single lawyer, who on behalf of their client was owed debt by the Government of Grenada.

So what more could we have done?

According to Hood, he has been left with no choice since the utterances of PM Mitchell to defend his integrity and the integrity of “the other persons who worked with me in the Ministry of Legal Affairs (and) that’s the basis on which I responded”.

“It was not an attack on anybody but an attempt to defend myself”, he remarked.
Attorney Hood, who sought to maintain lawyer/client confidentiality in serving as the principal legal advisor to government, “if the Prime Minister took issue with any judgment of the court while I was Attorney General, he needs to say so and if he allow me, I can tell the nation what advice was given from the Ministry of Legal Affairs on those matters.”

Both Hood and Prime Minister Mitchell are from the St. George North-west constituency.

The attorney said that Dr. Mitchell approached him on three occasions after the 2013 general elections to accept the post of Chief Legal Advisor to the Cabinet of Ministers.

More dollars for airport workers

Workers at the state-controlled Grenada Airports Authority (GAA) are to benefit financially from a Collective Agreement signed on their behalf between Management and their bargaining unit, the Grenada Technical and Allied Workers Union (GTAWU).

Anya Chow Chung – Chairperson of Airport Authority

The agreement, signed last Wednesday at the Ministry of Labour Conference Room at the Ministerial Complex, covers the period 2017 to 2020 and sees employees receiving payment for impeccable attendance on the job.

It was jointly signed by head of the Board of Directors for GAA, Anya Chow Chung and President General of the union, Senator Andre Lewis.

In brief remarks at the ceremony, the female Airport Authority boss described the attendance incentive as one that will see workers get a bonus at the beginning of January each year for their performance.

She said: “On January of each year, employees are paid an incentive bonus based on their attendance record. So where you have a 100% attendance, you get a week’s pay as an incentive bonus. One day absent, you would get six days, and it scale as it goes down – so two days absent, you get five days and so on and so forth. I think that is something that really speaks towards engendering productivity and efficiency in the work place”.

Under the agreement signed, Chow Chung said that the working hours for employees at the airport have been reduced by half-an-hour moving from 8:00 a.m.-4:30 p.m. to 8:00-4:00 p.m.

“It is really a good day. We are here to sign off on industrial agreement for the period 2017/2020. I think all decisions were made in the best interest of the employees of the Grenada Airports Authority, and so I offer my appreciation to all those who gave of their time and efforts in the negotiation process and my congratulations and thanks to all parties concerned,” she remarked.
Sen. Lewis attributed the success of the signed agreement to the respect shown to the other side by GAA.

“We all know certainly from the union side and the authority side, we are able to come to this final mutual agreement, but obviously there were challenges along the road, and challenges once handled in a mature way by people and organisations that are well meaning, must result in the betterment of all the organisations concerned.

“This collective agreement with the changes and amendments that are being made, apart from salary, the salary is important – it’s a clear reflection of the mindset of the two partners because we see the Airport Authority as a partner.

“…We are representing the interest of the workers, but if the airport does not perform well, we would not be in a position to get this sort of increases that we have been able to secure. So, we want to again express our heartfelt thanks to the airport and please convey to the board our deepest appreciation. Yes, we know that there were some turbulence at sometime but we have been able to ride the boat.

Over the years, TAWU has emerged as the most dominant union among white collar workers on the island.

Imanis graduate from SGU with Bachelor’s Degrees

Plaques of congratulations were handed out to 11 Imani sponsored graduates from the St. George’s University by the Ministry of Youth, as they were recognised for their successful attainment of Bachelor’s Degrees in various programmes.

Graduates and Ministry of Youth officials in photo op

The group, which consisted of mainly females, gathered at the Ministerial Complex Conference Room last Tuesday to be officially acknowledged by Minister within the Ministry of Youth, Sports, Culture & the Arts, with responsibility for Youth Development, Kate Lewis.

Five of the 11 received a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, two in Biology, two in Information Technology, one in International Business and Tourism Hospitality Management, and one in Management.

Two of the graduates relayed their journey up to the point of graduation and gave thanks to the Imani Programme for the assistance.

Holder of a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, Lindy Jackasal, said the Imani Programme has made her dream come true as Nursing has always been a career goal.

“Growing up, I had four areas in my life which I wanted to accomplish. I wanted to be a Nurse, a Gynecologist, a Teacher and if that doesn’t work out an Air Hostess. In 2015, when I was still enrolled in the Imani Programme…I got placed as an Assistant Teacher at St. Joseph’s Convent Grenville, which is my alma mater and the experience that I had there was really amazing. After my one year of being at St. Joseph’s Convent Grenville, I heard that St. George’s University was taking (persons to do) nursing, so without a doubt, I signed up…and I got accepted.

“… I want to encourage other persons in the Imani Programme who (are) wishing to further their studies…nothing comes easy and in my story … the Imani Programme helped me, helped to finance my studies at SGU…I put in the work. So, persons who have the dreams out there, don’t let that dream just be inside you, act on that dream.

“I am now a nurse and I am very happy and I am excited to work under the Ministry of Health, and to give back to my country because my country gave a lot to me and I really appreciate that a lot.

Tarah Nicholas, who is now the holder of a Bachelor Degree in Management, said she owes it all to the Imani Programme.

“It was two months after the 2013 general election when the NNP government introduced the new Imani Programme. I was placed at the Rex Resort – after a year and a half at the Rex resort I decided it was time to seek information in applying for a Bachelor’s Programme.

“I gathered the information and took the necessary steps to get there. Luckily I was selected and thank God the little funds I saved while on job training assisted me to cover only half of the tuition for the semester, not knowing where the other will come from.

“Prior to the commencement of my bachelor programme I wrote a resignation letter to the Imani explaining my decision. I was later contacted and a meeting was held, informing me that I will not be removed from the programme and they will continue to provide the stipend, since I indicated that I was going to pursue my studies.

“… With that being said, I was able to pay out the outstanding balance of my tuition. On completing my first semester at SGU, I applied for the government scholarship, was not lucky on first attempt, but tried a second time and I was luckily awarded a full time scholarship to the St. George’s University.

“I take the opportunity to thank the Government of Grenada and the Imani Programme for assisting me tremendously throughout the four years of studies at SGU and for making this dream goal a reality; without your help this would not have been possible.

Minister in the Ministry of Youth with responsibility for Youth Development, Kate Lewis, who is also a graduate herself, with a Master’s in International Business from St. George’s University, said this is testament that the Imani Programme works for the benefit of young people.

The minister said: “ I am happy, our investment in the young people of this country is a worthwhile investment and the Government of Grenada will continue to invest in the future of our young people because we believe that no investment is ever too much, because the young people of our country, they are the future. And we have to ensure that they are properly equipped to take up the job opportunities that are out there waiting for them.

“…I am happy that the Imani Programme continues to speak volumes in the lives of our young people. It’s a wonderful opportunity, the programme is dynamic and I want to encourage those of you, as part of the programme as trainees, you have to seek out the opportunities, you have to help elevate yourselves”, she remarked.

A release from the Ministry of Youth indicated that a total of 18 persons are currently enrolled at SGU with others to get an opportunity in 2020, 16 in 2021, and 17 in 2022.

Dead fish floating in the River

GRENADA’S Health and Environment Department is investigating yet another fish kill in one of the rivers in St George’s but the head of that department has said it may not be a chemical factor.

Dead fish in the St John’s River

The dead fishes have been turning up in a section of the St John’s River which passes through the village of River Road and residents have undertaken a clean-up, removing and burying them.

THE NEW TODAY was called in to report on the situation and villagers speculated that the likely cause is the dumping of harmful waste.

When contacted, Chief Environment Officer Andre Worme said he would send a team to investigate, since our telephone call was the first time that his department had been informed of the problem.

Worme said the Waste Management Act, while it focuses heavily on solid waste, does have some regulations which prohibit the dumping of certain chemicals and other effluents into the country’s waterways.

However he said the Act needs strengthening.

He spoke of the need for stronger policies relating to the disposal of industrial waste, particularly with the number of small manufacturers setting up shop on the island.

Errol Thomas, one of the workers responsible for maintenance of the River Road section of the St John’s, told the newspaper that “this is not a first time thing”.

Errol Thomas – is concerned about dead fish in the St John’s River

He stated that fishes have been dying in the river for months and that Health Minister Nickolas Steele had “checked on it” but the problem has arisen again.

He said once the fishes began dying again he informed his supervisor, commonly known as Madame Ras and she had said she would contact the Department of the Environment.

But last week she told this newspaper she was unaware of the magnitude of the problem and had only facilitated some villagers who needed buckets to collect the fish for use.

She confirmed that Environment officials had not been contacted.

She suggested that the dead fishes were concentrated in an area about a mile upstream from the river mouth, and may have ventured out of the salt water and could not survive in the river water.

This latest incident has raised speculation that caustic soda, a cleaning agent, may be responsible for killing such a large amount of fish.

The Grenada Bottling Company, one of the production companies in the area that uses the cleaning agent was also contacted by this newspaper.

Operations Manager Chris Warner said the Bottling Company, which holds the local franchise for Coca Cola, operates according to the parent company’s standards.

He said the company operates a waste water treatment plant as required by the parent company and that the cleaning agent is recycled.

Worme did say  however that a preliminary investigation indicated that the fish kill appeared to be much further downstream and a chemical factor may not be the cause, since all aquatic life would have been affected.

Sewer waste which can reduce oxygen levels

He said, “from general observation we recognise that there is live aquatic organisms”, referring to the areas close to the company’s bottling plant.

However he did say that in the past his department has found concentrations of caustic soda in the river, despite the recycling programme.

While the environmental investigation remains incomplete, Worme said the likely cause is biological and may be related to low oxygen levels in the river.

Low oxygen levels, he said, can be as a result of organic let-off such as sewerage which can remove a large amount of oxygen from the water.

There is also the issue of hospital and medical waste as well as sewer waste.

Around the time that the dead fish begun turning up in an area just down river from the bridge leading to the Mt Gay Hospital, maintenance workers had cleared drains, which had been blocked for several months, allowing poorly treated sewer water from a NAWASA managed plant, to gush into the St John’s River.

A previous fish kill, a few years ago, had been traced back to waste from the nearby Mt Gay Hospital.

Worme said fish migrating upstream to spawn would be more susceptible to low oxygen level and may account for the selective nature of the fish kill.