E-coli contamination sourced to shantytown in Andros

E-coli contamination sourced to shantytown in Andros
DaQuin Scott, chief councillor for North Andros

SAN ANDROS, ANDROS — The discovery of E. coli contamination in the water table in Mastic Point, Andros, has been sourced to unsanitary practices in a growing shantytown in the area, according to local government officials.

In an interview with Eyewitness News Online, DaQuin Scott, chief councilor for the North Andros District, said: “The main contributing factor is sanitation; that they do not have proper sanitation. There are no toilets; no cesspit tanks — everything is like open bore holes; open, however they discard of their waste; just throwing on top of the soil, noting that we have a water table, which you can dig six to eight inches and you actually enter into the water table.”

Eviction notices were posted on more than 150 households in shantytowns in Andros, giving those residents 30 days to leave the area. An estimated 1,800 people reside in the shantytown communities in Mastic Point and San Andros.

A makeshift wooden home in a shantytown in San Andros

Officials said that number expanded since Hurricane Dorian ravaged Grand Bahama and Abaco, destroying one of the largest shantytowns known as The Mudd and others.

The Category 5 storm displaced thousands, many of whom resided in those unregulated communities, which now lay in ruin and continue to be cleared by the government. 

Island Administrator Joseph Ferguson said officials “must and will contain” the E. Coli in North Andros with “fear or favor”.

Joseph Ferguson, Island Administrator

He made clear that the contamination of the water table has not impacted the public water system, but it is centralized to the private well system.

“The building code regulation gave the town planning committee the powers to demolish any building structure that was not approved by the local town planning committee.

“We in Andros will follow the letter and spirit of the law.

“All building structures have to comply — no exceptions — to the rule.

“Our environmental laws must also be adhered to. We must and will contain the E. Coli in North Andros without fear or favor.”

Ferguson said officials have taken holistics steps to contain the issue.

“What we are doing now is every produce that comes out of Andros has to be washed properly before we send it to Nassau to be distributed to the various food stores, so we are doing our best to make sure that it is clean and it is free of E. Coli.

The contamination was confirmed after a test commissioned by a private citizen indicated the presence of E. coli and faecal streptococcus last month.

The BAHFSA alerted the Ministry of Agriculture, and an investigation into the extent of the groundwater contamination was conducted on January 13 and 14.

While tests revealed the presence of E. coli in the groundwater, BAHFSA said the results were inconclusive relative to faecal streptococcus.

In court documents filed in January, former Chief Councilor Peter Douglas claimed that chicken and goat sacrifices were performed in churches of worship located in the three large shantytowns in Andros.

The affidavit was used in support of a summons issued to attorney representing 177 New Providence and Abaco shantytowns residents, seeking to lift an injunction blocking the demolitions of those structures.

When asked about claims of these practices, Scott said: “We can’t substantiate that. But what we do know for a fact is that they are not integrating into the regular churches and then we know that the Haitian denomination, they actually bring their religion with them and their religion is based on the sacrifices and stuff.”

Eyewitness News toured the Mastic Point shantytown community in an area known as The Codd and spoke to residents, who said they have nowhere else to go and pleaded with the government for more time.

Garbage littered the outskirts of the area.

The makeshift homes were erected with misshapen plywood and metal sheets.