By SHUFFEL HEPBURN
IN THE basin that surrounds the Chesapeake Waste Water Treatment Plant sit ten residences and two incomplete structures, all mostly duplexes.
Two of these residences have been abandoned by the owners. At the very top (north) of the basin sits the most expensive and technologically-advanced school in Grand Bahama and, perhaps, The Bahamas. Two of the residences have been abandoned by the owners.
Resident A, in which the occupant lives alone, sits to the north west of the plant and gets the full brunt of the odours emanating from it during the summer when the breezes are predominantly from the south and south east. She has been chronically ill for some time and has made many trips to the hospital in the ambulance; she was in hospital as recently as ten days ago.
Moving clockwise, we skip residence B (which is north east of the plant) and come to C, the residence that is just a few hundred feet from the plant. The husband who lived in Residence C was lost this summer. He came down with the flu and it developed into full blown bronchitis that left him hospitalised for a week. He spent five weeks at home convalescing, then returned to work. A couple of weeks later he was diagnosed with fluid in the lungs. On a Sunday not too long after, he was rushed to the hospital with breathing problems and an hour later he was pronounced dead. The wife in residence C is now battling a serious illness that, according to Wikipedia, may have been caused by ‘living in a toxic environment’.
Residence D, sitting directly across the street from C, has at least one family member who sufers from some kind of respiratory issues from time to time.
Residence E, which is at the very entrance to the sewage plant, has been abandoned by its owners for a few years. These residents were the first to complain about the sewage plant via letters to the Department of Environmental Health and the Grand Bahama Utility Company (GBUC), operators of the waste treatment plant. They got no result from either.
Moving northwards, we come to residence F. The wife in this residence came down with the flu shortly after the deceased resident in residence C came down with the flu. This similarily developed into bronchitis and she was hospitalised for two weeks. Her family is now working to get her body strong again. A family member who rented from her and lived on the other side of her duplex died suddenly several months ago of an undisclosed illness; it is possible that his death is related to years of living in the mouth of a sewage plant.
Continuing to move northwards along Midshipman Road we come to residence G, which is reportedly up for sale. The residents in this duplex have suffered long from sewage odours and have had enough.
Next we have resident H, who abandoned his residence this summer after learning of the death of resident C. He has vowed never to return to the area as long as the sewage plant is operational. He reported having the flu more often since the sewage plant moved into the basin, prior to which he said he hardly ever suffered.
The last residence on this side of the basin, residence I, has at least one occupant who has reported that at “least twice a year she has to be rushed to the hospital with breathing problems and has to be hooked up to a respirator”. This is consistent with the fact that living near a sewage plant causes respiratory problems. She moved into her home before the sewage plant was built and reported that she never had this problem before.
Going back to the entrance to the sewage plant and moving to the south across Midshipman Road and behind the bushes sits residence J. The owner had a debilitating illness for which she is continuing to receive therapy and is progressing well. There are two other members of her residence who have been diagnosed with illness, one of which has been critical. It is a mystery to resident J why all of this has happened all at the same time.
Finally, we have Lucaya International School (LIS) to the extreme north of the basin. A state-of-the-art educational facility that takes children from kindergarten all the way to College level. Shortly after the sewage plant was built, a number of students at LIS came down with giardia, a ‘hepatitis like’ illness. This was reported to the GBUC, who at first denied it was anything related to the sewage plant. One physician insisted that it was their problem, and that they should fix it. The company then relented and came back reporting that they had fixed the problem, never explaining what the cause was.
What if we have a similar occurrence today? Is the GBUC willing to take responsibility for this? What about the Zika virus epidemic that has appeared recently in our land? Some 80 persons in the Bahamas have been checked for the Zika virus according to the Minister of Health. Four have been found to be positive. Can the teachers feel safe working at that school with boat loads of sewage sitting in open tanks just to the east of the school? Should parents turn a blind eye and say nothing is going to happen?
The pond near the school is an area that attracts mosquitoes. Can students and teachers feel that they are safe from this dreaded, untreatable disease? Every time a student or teacher is bitten by a mosquitos in that area there will be cause for concern.
The residents of Chesapeake living in this basin all have a similar concern. We have long felt that the sewage plant is too close to our residences. We continue to voice our disgust with the Grand Bahama Port Authority, parent company of the GBUC, over their lack of respect and concern for our health.
Shuffel Hepburn is a resident of Chesapeake, Grand Bahama. These are his findings having surveyed local residents about living near the water treatment plant.