Environmentalists say acres of brownfield sites are going to waste while Kindley Air Force Base and Morgan’s Point are blighted by vast quantities of oil and other hazardous wastes.

They say the sites would make an ideal spot to build affordable homes or industrial projects so that precious greenfield sites elsewhere can be preserved.

It comes as Government’s investigation continues into claims lethal defoliant Agent Orange was dumped and burned at Kindley in the 1960s.

Earlier this week, former Opposition Leader Grant Gibbons reignited calls for a massive clean-up of both Baselands, saying a huge opportunity for development is being missed while large areas remain a no-go zone because of dangerous substances, including thousands of gallons of viscous oil and sludge at Bassett’s Cove, Morgan’s Point.

Yesterday, Bermuda Environmental and Sustainability Taskforce chairman Stuart Hayward said: “The longer they are not used, the more precious they become.

“The real value is if they are used as trade-off for greenfield sites that we really ought to preserve.

“If a developer wants to put a high-density development on some place that’s really valuable, then the Government could trade with them for a brownfield site.”

Mr. Hayward said Bermuda needs to make appropriate use of as much of its land as it can.

“It’s perhaps more important in a small place like this because there are so few options,” he said. “There needs to be a comprehensive look at the space we have, particularly brownfield sites. This area is most suitable for industrial type development.”

Andrew Vaucrosson, of sustainable development group Greenrock, said: “It’s sad that we are not utilising the spaces there.

“One of the things Bermuda has to recognise is that there is limited space.

“Whenever open space is available, you have to look at how can we provide low-cost housing.

“Bermuda’s populace is growing, the cost of living is rising.

“It’s been a decade since anything has been done (at the Baselands). Can we afford to do that in Bermuda’s current circumstances? The answer is no.”

The Ministry of Public Safety and Housing and the Ministry of Works and Engineering both declined to comment on the issue.

Bills of up to $65 million were estimated to remove materials including asbestos, jet fuel, paint, batteries, chemicals and oil left behind when the bases were handed back to Bermuda by the US in 1995.

America paid an $11 million settlement in 2002, with the cash earmarked for projects of the Government’s choice.

The Ministry of Finance says that $3 million of that cash went on repairs to Longbird Bridge. In the 2004-05 Budget, Finance Minister Paula Cox indicated a further $1.2 million would go on a housing for the homeless initiative; $300,000 on National Drugs Commission projects; $1 million on Bermuda Small Business Development Corporation; and $500,000 on facilities at the National Sports Centre. A further $2 million initially intended for the Contributory Pension Fund was later redirected to the Health Insurance Fund to finance prescription-drug benefits for seniors. Around $3 million of the settlement has been kept as a general reserve.

The Baselands issue was reopened after US Army veteran Ronald Slater claimed around 200 barrels of toxic waste — including Agent Orange, now said to cause horrific disfigurements and illness to those exposed to it — were dumped and burned at Kindley before he was instructed to bulldoze the remains into the sea at Annie’s Bay.

During the 1960s, millions of gallons of Agent Orange were sprayed across parts of Vietnam by the US military. Many war veterans who have suffered ill health after being exposed to its chemical clouds have since claimed compensation from the US Government.

Mr. Slater believes his poor health, including Type Two diabetes, is a result of exposure to the herbicide. He is awaiting a hearing before a veterans’ board and hopes to be awarded compensation, although the US says it does not recognise that Agent Orange was used anywhere other than South East Asia.

Claims have previously been made that Agent Orange was used in Puerto Rico, Panama, Canada and parts of the US including Florida, Hawaii and Mississippi.

Works and Engineering has been investigating Mr. Slater’s claims and initially stated they were thought to be without foundation.

Baselands clean-up calls

About Greenrock

According to The Footprint Network, which measures the ability of the planet to produce resources and absorb waste, our resource use and waste production is 60% more than the earth can produce or absorb annually.

This overshoot is the result of decisions that we each make every day. We seek to generate debate and to influence people to change their behaviour.We strive to be catalysts: Success for us is when we can Change the Mindset so that sustainable use of resources is included in decision-making for individuals, government or businesses. ... read more

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