Grand Bahamians struggling with brackish water

FREEPORT, Grand Bahama – Samantha Rose, 28, a resident of Queens Cove, stood in the middle of the rubble of her childhood home.

Behind her is the saltwater Hawksbill Creek.

“Since the storm, our running water is like that,” she said, pointing at the creek.

“Clean water has become a commodity here. It’s an essential thing.”

The house is not habitable.

Walls have crumbled inside the home.

The kitchen sink is still in place, but water only drips from the faucet.

Rose said she has been living in an abandoned house in Freeport since Hurricane Dorian destroyed chunks of Grand Bahama last month.

Like many other places on the island, she said, there is no clean water.

The water supplied to her new, temporary house is brackish.

“I’ve been going to Polymers almost every other day even though I have access to the brackish water for cleaning,” Rose told The Nassau Guardian as she removed debris from her house.

“For eating and for my dogs that are camels, I have to go there every two days. I take about 12 to 14 gallons and fill them up and then come back.

“In the next two days, I’ll go back and that’s just for water boiling the chicken or boiling some tea or some iced tea or just for the water for the dogs.

“You don’t notice how fast it goes when you have a running tap in your house, but now that I have to go and get it every day, every other day, you notice.”

Although Dorian is the strongest storm in Bahamian history, it is not the first to devastate Grand Bahama.

Residents of the island have survived the back-to-back storms of 2004: Hurricane Frances and Hurricane Jeanne, which resulted in the closure of the Royal Oasis resort in Freeport.

In 2005, Grand Bahama was battered by Wilma.

The island’s history with brackish water has led some Grand Bahamians to become accustomed to poor water supply and brackish water.

“It’s never been to this extent,” said Edith Gibson, a 64-year-old resident of Lucaya.

“Many of us, since the passing of Jeanne and Francis in 2004, have not really gone back to drinking the water from the tap. We’ve been using the bottled water from that time.”

Gibson said she worries the poor water quality may become a long-term issue.

“We are very worried about that, so many persons are stocking up on the water that has been given out,” she said. The Grand Bahama Port Authority (GBPA) has maintained its commitment to the restoration of utilities, including water, on the island.

It is unclear how long it will be before the water is approved for consumption.

GBPA President Ian Rolle could not be reached for a comment up to press time.

In the meantime, organizations like Samaritan’s Purse continue to provide clean drinking water to residents of the island.

“We’re looking at improving the water quality,” said Caitlin Terry,  who works as an engineer and a program manager for the Samaritan’s Purse water program.

“We’ve set up bladders at different locations so that communities have access to safe drinking water. That water has been treated…so that we’re able to provide people with water that’s consumable for cooking and for drinking.”

The program has been running since the week after Dorian.

It provides at least 6,000 gallons of water daily, according to Terry.

The program, which also provides clean water to various clinics on the island, is expected to be operational for at least a year.

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Jasper Ward

Jasper Ward started at The Nassau Guardian in September 2018. Ward covers a wide range of national and social issues. Education: Goldsmiths, University of London, MA in Race, Media and Social Justice

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