Kingston Harbour unsafe for swimming, fishing

A marine scientist has sounded a warning that the Kingston Harbour is seeing high levels of contamination that could pose serious health risks for persons who visit popular spots along the coastline for recreational swimming and fishing.

The level of pollution from faeces and harmful chemicals is so high that Professor Mona Webber, director of marine sciences at The University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, says the water should not come in contact with human skin.

“It’s not fit for human skin, and that primarily is because of the high coliform levels in it,” Webber, a marine biologist and ecologist with more than 28 years of experience in teaching and research at The UWI, told The Gleaner at the recent GraceKennedy annual lecture series, ‘Clean Kingston Harbour: Pipe Dream or Pot of Gold’, at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston.

“If there isn’t an algal bloom in it ... and so the water is a strange colour or anything like that, you could probably venture into it [and] you maybe get a little itching or something, but if there is sewage contamination in the water and there is coliform bacteria, you can get seriously sick,” the marine scientist warned.

Although she could not recall, off hand, the latest coliform levels, which are based on a standard established by the National Environment and Planning Agency, Webber advised that the regulatory body would have the latest readings.

However, Safiya Rhoden of the Pollution Monitoring Branch told our news team to send an access to information request for the data, despite the immediate danger persons could be exposing themselves to daily.

Marine ecologist Dr Dayne Buddo, who is the CEO of the Alligator Head Foundation, said that marine life in Kingston Harbour has long been ingesting heavy metals resulting from industrial run-off.

“We did tests for mercury, cadmium and chromium. Mercury [level] was fine. Even though we did test in the industrial area, we didn’t find mercury to be a problem. [However,] cadmium and chromium were off the charts, and those cause neurological problems, etc. So there is a problem with heavy metals from industries in Kingston Harbour,” he said.


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