NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Water supply to the majority of New Providence was cut off for hours yesterday as a result of “sabotage”, according to Water and Sewerage Corporation (WSC) Chairman Adrian Gibson, who said the corporation was forced to mobilize its emergency teams as members of the line staff union withdrew their labour for a second day.
“These malicious acts of sabotage, criminality and a sick effort to terrorize and inflict hardship upon Bahamians on residents come on the heels of condemnable and incendiary utterances made elsewhere,” Gibson advised Parliament.
“This has become a national security issue and is an attempt to cause damage to WSC’s standing. It is simply unpatriotic.
“Mr. Speaker, we have referred this matter to the police and we are in the process of filing our second police complaint in two days.
“Night before last, our camera footage showed a truck, familiar to managers and staff at WSC, entering the compound via the back gate. The truck stayed for two to three minutes.
“The driver of the vehicle then chained the gate and knocked out our camera.
“The police have been reviewing footage from various other cameras, taking statements of security officers and other personnel, and will no doubt be addressing the matter further.
“An official complaint has been filed.”
On a point of order, Cat Island, Rum Cay and San Salvador MP Philip Brave Davis said Parliament was being exposed to “one side of a story”.
He suggested that Gibson could appraise the House of the substantive issues relating to water without going into details and ascribing blame, as police were investigating the matter — as indicated by the chairman.
“The police are investigating and here it is, he is telling us what the police [are] to be finding,” Davis said.
“That is a concern Mr. Speaker.
“We have to be careful in how we are describing; set of circumstances that are subjective to you.”
Rising to his feet, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis said Gibson, who has oversight over an essential utility which is depending on by the public and healthcare system, “has a responsibility to report to the nation as to what exactly is happening, what had transpired and why their water supply is not functioning”.
He continued, “This is an opportunity for him to speak to the Bahamian populous and opportunities given should not be denied.”
Outside the corporation Tuesday, Bahamas Utilities Services and Allied Workers Union (BUSAWU) President Dwayne Woods called for Gibson and General Manager Elwood Donaldson to resign or be removed as employees “withdrew enthusiasm”.
Among other concerns, the union has taken exception to the recent five-day suspension of a union member because he reportedly left his personal vehicle on the corporations’ grounds over the weekend.
Woods claimed the employee was suspended on the basis that he was using WSC property for the storage of personal items without approval.
He also alleged that nepotism was at play at the corporation relating to promotions.
Making clear that the partial withdrawal of labour undertaken by the line staff union at WSC is illegal, Gibson said anyone found to have tampered with WSC’s equipment will be dismissed and reported to authorities.
“I believe in accountability, structure, a disciplined environment, and running a clean ship.
“Mr. Speaker after an illegal strike action yesterday and today certain persons intimately familiar with the workings at the Water and Sewerage Corporation have engaged in an illegal shutdown of the water supply in various parts of New Providence.
“As I saw here a moment ago it was reported that the sewer network was also tampered with; that there were lift stations overflows at the Arawak Cay, Chippingham sewer station as well and Pinewood Gardens.”
According to the chairman, pressure valve alarms were triggered throughout New Providence on Tuesday night, hours after the union demonstrated outside of WSC’s headquarters on Thompson Boulevard.
He said this indicated that pressure regulating valves shut off in a “concerted and intentional effort to disrupt the water supply”.
The corporation also found that stones and large rocks have been thrown into the valves, causing irreparable damage, which represents a major cost to the corporation and “untold hardship to our customers”.
Areas impacted included Wulff Road south, Prince Charles, Solider Road, Fox Hill, Elizabeth Estates, Bain Town, Palmdale, Princess Margaret hospital (PMH), Doctors Hospital and Baha Mar.
Other areas in central, western and southern were also impacted.
Gibson bemoaned the interruption of a necessity amenity to residents.
He said notwithstanding the illegal strike, he encouraged those who demonstrated to return to work.
The corporation employs 440 people.
Approximately 50 people participated in the withdrawal of labour.
Meanwhile at a later press conference held yesterday evening at WSC headquarters, Gibson told the media that he and WSC General Manager Elwood Donaldson plans to sue BUSAWU president Dwayne Woods for defamation after he made allegations about how promotions were being awarded to female staff.
Woods, however, apologized on Wednesday for his statement.
“I made the statement in the heat of the moment and for that reason I’d like to be the bigger person and comeback and withdraw the statement I made,” Woods said.