Update on the New River – Use of Aerators to Re-mediate Current Conditions of the New River

Belmopan.  September 14, 2019. The Department of the Environment (DOE) hereby informs the public, especially residents of Orange Walk Town and those living in the vicinity of the New River, that the Department is implementing a pilot initiative to use aerators in the river, as recommended by the recently established New River Task Force. The intention is to remedy the current conditions of the New River by using aerators to introduce oxygen in the water and revert the current anaerobic condition of the river, consequently decreasing the stench coming out of the river.

The anaerobic condition of the river produces several by-products including methane, carbon dioxide, and hydrogen sulfide among others. These substances can produce the stench that residents have been complaining about; however, whenever there is a smell of ‘rotten egg’, it is an indication of the presence of hydrogen sulfide. Hydrogen sulfide at small concentrations (more than 10 parts per million (ppm)) may have some impacts on human health such as headache, nausea or irritation among other mild effects. At extreme concentrations (>500 ppm) it becomes lethal/deadly.

On September 9, the DOE installed the first trial/pilot aerator at Maracas Bar and Grill property. The intention of the pilot is to introduce oxygen into the top layer of the river to stop the generation of hydrogen sulfide. The implementation of this activity started to show positive results with an improvement of the clarity of the top layer of the river; a slight increase in dissolved oxygen levels was also observed. Monitoring of hydrogen sulfide concentration in the area has shown to be far below the levels observed prior to the installation of the aerators.

Based on the positive results, the DOE has opted to install several other aerators within the vicinity of Orange Walk Town. To date, four sets of aerators have been installed in several locations of the river. The DOE will diligently monitor progress made at each location and the concentrations of hydrogen sulfide released.

The DOE advises the public to expect a period when the stench and hydrogen sulfide will peak but should normalize thereafter. This is normal since, whichever process is applied, a worse stage is initially expected but this should normalize after a period of time. Again, no significant negative impacts have been observed from the pilot phase, however, the public is also advised that rainfall on the river can also release the stench.

Finally, the DOE asks users of the river to take caution while navigating the river as several aerators have been installed near Orange Walk Town.

For further information, please contact:

Chief Environmental Officer

Department of the Environment, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, Forestry, the Environment & Sustainable Development

Market Square, Belmopan

Tel: 822-2548/2819           Fax: 822-2860

Email:  envirodept@btl.netor envirodept@environment.gov.bz

Website:  www.doe.gov.bz