By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
The Democratic National Alliance’s (DNA) leader yesterday suggested it would be impossible to open Baha Mar without stopping the New Providence landfill’s frequent fires, describing the resulting air pollution as “equivalent to raw sewage on the beach”.
Branville McCartney told Tribune Business that any potential Baha Mar investor, whether in a purchasing or management capacity, needed to take the landfill’s impact on the resort’s air quality into consideration.
Suggesting that the constant smoke and pollution from the landfill’s fires could undermine the $3.5 billion project’s value, Mr McCartney said the issue could also cause visitors to either leave or “bad mouth” the Bahamas whenever the resort opened.
Noting that the landfill fires and resulting air pollution had now lasted two weeks, Mr McCartney said the smoke was not only impacting his wife’s Meridian School and their home, but also drifting over to the Baha Mar site.
“If Baha Mar was open last night, visitors would have left and they would have been bad-mouthing the Bahamas because of the smoke from the dump,” Mr McCartney told Tribune Business. “They [Baha Mar investors] ought to take that landfill into consideration.
“I cannot see Baha Mar opening up with that landfill still smoking. It’s been going on for two weeks, and last night it [the smoke] came right over my house and directly over Baha Mar.
“From my bedroom I look straight across to Baha Mar, and if guests were there, I said in my blog post this morning, they’d have left or sued and bad-mouthed the Bahamas.”
Mr McCartney added: “Any investor going to purchase that property, I suggest they test the air quality when that dump is burning.
“The value of that property will have to be adjusted, no ‘if’s’, ‘and’s’ and ‘but’s’ about it.”
Suggesting that the Government seemed not to care about the negative health and environmental impacts from the persistent fires at the Tonique Williams-Darling Highway-based landfill, the DNA leader suggested confusion also reigned over who was ultimately responsible for dealing with the matter.
The Government handed a five-year contract to Renew Bahamas to manage the landfill, lasting until 2018-2019, to manage the landfill and deal with problems that have built up over decades.
To finance operations and ensure a profitable return on its $8 million investment, Renew Bahamas has developed a materials recycling facility at the site, which turns incoming waste streams into product that can be exported.
This is also designed ultimately to alleviate the pressures on the landfill, and remediate the recurring fires, by reducing the volume of waste going into its various cell sites.
This, though, does little in the immediate term to eradicate the fires of which Mr McCartney is complaining. And the DNA leader queried the ‘chain of command’, suggesting that Renew Bahamas’ original pronouncements on responsibility for the latest fires contrasted with earlier comments.
The DNA leader said Renew Bahamas officials first informed his wife’s school, after it was forced to move classes to the New Providence Community Centre on Blake Road, that the company was “only responsible for the recycling element of the landfill”.
Yet he added that their comments in the wake of the latest fire outbreaks informed Bahamians it would take years to remediate and eradicate the problem - suggesting that Renew Bahamas is, after all, responsible for tackling the situation.
“They’ve got to fix that dump, or no one is coming here,” Mr McCartney said in relation to Baha Mar.
“That air quality is smack dab right in front of that resort. That’s equivalent to sewage being on the beach; that’s how bad it is.”
As for the involvement of Sir Sol Kerzner in a bid to complete, operate and manage Baha Mar, Mr McCartney said more information was needed on the group’s plans and who the other ‘interested parties’ were.
“Are they investors in terms of buying, or are they investors more as a management company,” the DNA leader added of the group involving the former Kerzner International chief and Andrew Farkas, principal of Island Global Capital.
“It would take up to $4 billion to get that project completed and open,” Mr McCartney reiterated. “Sir Sol brings expert knowledge, a good name and potentially some hope of this eventually coming to fruition.”