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Minister hits out over state of Eleuthera water supply

Central and South Eleuthera MP Clay Sweeting said yesterday his constituents have been without running water for more than seven days and he has expressed disappointment to both the minister of works and the chairman of the Water and Sewerage Corporation (WSC).

WSC acknowledged in a Facebook post on Sunday that it experienced “severe challenges” in the production, storage and distribution of safe potable water in Central Eleuthera.

Sweeting, who is the minister for agriculture, marine resources and family island affairs, issued a statement on his ministry’s letter head as Cabinet met yesterday.

“My constituents in Central and South Eleuthera have been without water now for some seven days,” Sweeting said.

“In fact, the water supply has not been consistent for several months. This is totally unacceptable and extremely frustrating.

“This afternoon, I will attend a meeting with the Ministry of Works, Water and Sewerage and Aqua Design, the company contracted by the government of The Bahamas to supply water to Central Eleuthera and other islands.

“The management team at Aqua Design must act with great urgency in addressing this longstanding issue, which the residents of Eleuthera have faced for far too long. There is no justification that any company can give that it is acceptable for residents not to have access to water for approximately seven days.

“I have been candid in expressing my disappointment to both the minister of works and the chairman of the Water and Sewerage Corporation. The residents of Eleuthera deserve better.

“No access to water is far more than an inconvenience. It is an extreme hazard to both health and safety.

“I will continue to update the residents of Eleuthera on the progress in resolving this issue. If the people of Eleuthera cannot be satisfied that any company’s efforts do not meet even their most basic requirements, then an alternative must be employed.”

Free National Movement (FNM) Leader Michael Pintard said yesterday he was “alarmed” by Sweeting’s statement, adding that it “exposes the fault-lines in this new day administration”.

“His statements are especially alarming since he is a Cabinet minister who put out a press release on an official letterhead throwing both the minister of works and the chairman of the Water and Sewerage Corporation under the bus,” Pintard said.

He added, “It appears that as Cabinet colleagues, Clay Sweeting and Alfred Sears (the minister of works) are not having serious collaborative conversations about the state of affairs in Eleuthera as it relates to water supply.”

Last week, Sears said WSC was working aggressively to address water supply issues on the island.

He apologized to residents and said he was deeply concerned by the matter.

Sears said the corporation ordered two storage tanks that have a capacity of one million imperial gallons each.

He said they are being manufactured and will be available by mid-2023.

Sears said WSC is securing temporary tanks in the meantime and added that water wells on the island are also being rehabilitated.

In its Sunday Facebook post, WSC noted that its chairman, Sylvanus Petty, who also serves as the North Eleuthera MP, helped distribute bottled water to residents.

Commenters under the post questioned if the publicity of a politician handing out water was needed.

“I’m conflicted about the publicity of this distribution effort making a hero out of the politician,” wrote Selima Campbell Hauber.

“I find it very hard to swallow that in the 21st century, in a country that although developing, has enough tertiary-trained professionals who I have no doubt can come to a sustainable solution. This is absolutely unacceptable that we are dealing with the problem over and over again. Get to the root cause, and fix it post haste.”

Eleuthera resident George Major told The Nassau Guardian yesterday the situation is humiliating.

“It’s unfair to the paying consumer,” he said.

“It’s disruptive to your health. Sometimes, there’s no water to bathe in the morning when you get up, no water to flush the toilets. So, it’s humiliating, really. It’s a problem.”