As the government carries out investigations into contamination of groundwater in North Andros, Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resources Michael Pintard yesterday urged landowners to ensure there are no “unregulated developments” on their properties that could lead to unsanitary conditions.
He also said that as the task force on Andros conducts testing this week, members of the land unit will also be checking for unregulated developments in the impacted areas.
“We’ll have persons from our land unit going in to make sure that there are no unregulated developments on government land and we’re encouraging private landowners to urgently address the issue of any unregulated development that is on their property,” Pintard said.
“If you have persons who are on unregulated developments, they should then immediately move for eviction to ensure that we have no unsanitary or unregulated conditions on any of the properties.”
He added, “Or if they, themselves, have entered into a private arrangement with anyone, to end those private arrangements. And if people are encroaching, then, of course, you pursue it through legal channels.”
According to a statement released last week, the ministry said it was notified of “an incident of groundwater contamination on a single farm in North Andros,” which spurred the launch of the investigation.
The statement noted that a test of well water in the area revealed that 72 percent of the samples contained E. coli., however, it noted that public water supply was unaffected.
Bahamas Agricultural Food Safety Authority (BAHFSA) Executive Director Christopher Worrell also assured 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.
Worrell noted that while nearby shantytowns have always been a concern, they have not been definitively linked to the contamination, and Pintard yesterday also said that the tests being conducted would determine the source of the contamination.
“It is to get more definitive answers on whether it’s a presence of faecal strep (faecal streptococcus) as well as to isolate…whether it’s from animals, from humans, et cetera, and what the nature of the strain is, because there are various strains – perfectly harmless and others to be concerned about,” Pintard said.
“So, they are seeking to isolate those at the moment.”
As he outlined that agriculture officials have already been encouraging landowners to treat their groundwater wells and produce, Pintard added: “Then, of course, we’ll continue to monitor the impact of the treatment on the wells that sit on the properties where the E. coli was discovered.
“But once you know what the strain is, you get a better sense of what the source is and we’re able to tackle the source.”
Pintard said that once testing and investigations are completed, a public statement would be released by the end of this week.