The government is looking into whether the contamination of groundwater in North Andros is due to nearby unregulated communities, according to a statement from Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries Michael Pintard.
According to the statement, a test of well water in the area revealed that 72 percent of the samples contained E. coli. Pintard said the government is looking into the possibility that those informal communities are on Crown land.
“A discussion ensued as to the possible source of well water contamination which was suggested to be as a result of unregulated development (lack of bathroom facilities attached to structures not approved for construction),” the statement read.
“The task force will have more to say on this issue after the ongoing tests are completed within the next two weeks.
“The Ministry of Agriculture & Marine Resource has been actively working to determine whether any agricultural Crown land has been encroached upon by the migrant community of North Andros or Bahamians and will do everything under the law to ensure that if such encroachment has occurred, it is brought to an end. Furthermore, the use of Crown land is strictly for agricultural purposes by those who are registered to lease the land and thus, have no right to sublease to any individual or group of persons.”
The statement noted further testing is being conducted to determine the source of the contamination with certainty.
“Initial tests for faecal streptococcus were inconclusive thus, are being retested,” it read.
While residents of the area have been told not to use well water, officials said municipal water is unaffected.
“The public water system overseen by Water and Sewerage Corporation (WSC) is not, in any way, affected by E. coli contamination and remains safe for human use and consumption,” the statement read.
“The corporation continues its regular evaluation and inspection of its water wells in North, Central and South Andros where none of the wells have been compromised.”
North Andros is known to be a major source of local produce.
However, Bahamas Agricultural Food Safety Authority (BAHFSA) Executive Director Christopher Worrell assured yesterday that any fruits and vegetables coming out of the area will be treated and confirmed as safe for consumption before being made available for purchase.
“The situation is definitely under control,” he said.
“We have two sanitation stations down in North Andros, one in The Bahamas Agriculture and Marine Science Institute (BAMSI) packing house as well as the Department of Agriculture packing house in North Andros. All fruits and vegetables that are going to be for sale are going to those two packing houses.
“[S]o, the fruit and vegetables coming out of North Andros are safe.”
Worrell said that while nearby shantytowns have always been a concern, they have not been definitively linked to the contamination.
“That’s always going to be a concern,” he said.
“That was a concern even before this came up. So, we really don’t have anything to say to that.
“Regardless of if there’s a shantytown or not, that’s not BAHFA’s remit.”
Worrell said the results of further testing to determine the source of the contamination should be available today.