By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
The Grand Bahama Port Authority’s (GBPA) president yesterday slammed as “disingenuous” the attack on its water provider subsidiary by the Grand Lucayan’s chairman.
Ian Rolle, responding to Michael Scott QC’s assertions that Grand Bahama Utility Company’s (GBUC) inferior quality water supply was responsible for “rotting” the resort’s chillers and knocking out its air conditioning supply, thus forcing it to close to overnight guests for seven to ten days, said the utility was not liable for any damages to personal property because it had been impacted by an “Act of God”.
That was Hurricane Dorian, whose storm surge inundated Grand Bahama Utility Company’s wellfields in September 2019. Mr Rolle’s statement, though, did not deny or address Mr Scott’s concerns directly, although he pointed to the utility’s provision of 1,000 gallons of water daily to the Grand Lucayan at no cost.
“We find it very unfortunate and disingenuous that the Grand Lucayan, with whom we have engaged in ongoing communication and continue to serve, would take this route to communicate with us,” Mr Rolle said in response to Tribune Business’s article yesterday.
“While the Grand Bahama Utility Company (GBUC) remains sensitive to the significant damage caused by Hurricane Dorian on Grand Bahama, the impact to the water table and salt intrusion was a direct result of the storm. Therefore, we are not liable for any direct or consequential damages to personal property as it relates to this Act of God.
“We have taken measures to lessen the impact to the Grand Lucayan and other impacted customers by providing a 25 per cent discount on water bills. Additionally, Grand Bahama Utility Company on a daily basis provides 1,000 gallons of potable water at no additional cost to the Grand Lucayan.”
Mr Rolle’s statement focused heavily on the measures that Grand Bahama Utility Company is taking to rectify the situation. “We have provided comprehensive updates on the progression of our $5m reverse osmosis system that is slated to be commissioned at the end of August 2021, barring no shipping delays,” he added.
“We understand and take very seriously the concerns of residents as it relates to water potability. We also continue to significantly progress our safety plan to have full island-wide potability by the end of August 2021.
“A key factor for this is the commissioning of our three million gallon reverse osmosis plant, which represents a $5m investment. This investment will not only restore water potability to the remaining 30 percent of customers across Grand Bahama, but will also ensure that Grand Bahamians will never again be without potable water for a prolonged period.”
Mr Scott on Tuesday slammed the cause of the government-owned property’s seven-ten day shutdown as “a disgrace”, and disclosed it is now investing around $500,000 in installing a reverse osmosis plant to produce its own water as the quality of Grand Bahama Utility Company’s supply cannot be trusted.
Revealing that the Grand Lucayan was presently paying the Grand Bahama Port Authority (GBPA) owned utility $40,000 per month for water, he told Tribune Business that the high salinity levels in this supply were responsible for corroding the resort’s chillers and thus shutting down its A/C systems.
The enforced closure resulted in the Grand Lucayan’s guests being accommodated at the nearby Pelican Bay resort, although they were still able to use some of the former property’s amenities. Mr Scott said the former property’, which is awaiting completion of long-running negotiations for its sale to the Royal Caribbean/ITM Group joint venture, is leasing a chiller while it awaits the arrival of a full-time replacement.
Explaining what led to the temporary closure, Mr Scott said: “Very simply, the water supply we are getting from Grand Bahama Utility Company, courtesy of the Grand Bahama Port Authority, is so bad that it’s rotting our pipes, it’s rotting our chillers and its rotting our infrastructure systems.
“The water they are pumping out to consumers, for which we are paying $40,000 a month, has too high a chloride/salinity content. Is it a surprise that our pipes are being corroded? Our A/C chillers are water cooled, and that destroys them. It’s palpably a disgrace.
“If water is being delivered to us in accordance with a contract of service from the Grand Bahama Utility Company, which is a GBPA company, and that water is above the limit for chloride/salinity content, can you imagine what it is doing to other people’s properties?”
Mr Scott added: “It’s impossible to use that water for anything else other than flushing toilets as it is currently being pumped. It’s a major problem. We’re now in the midst of putting in a reverse osmosis plant, a used reverse osmosis plant, and then will lease and buy a new chiller. We will lease a chiller then order a new one, as it takes seven to eight weeks’ lead time.”
The Grand Lucayan Renewal Holdings chair said the total investment, which will effectively be funded by Bahamian taxpayers via the Government’s ownership, will likely amount to around $500,000 as he confirmed the resort’s Lighthouse Pointe complex has fully re-opened once again.
“We’re back up and running now, but that was the cause of our problems,” Mr Scott said in reference to the water supply. “We want to keep the hotel open, and cannot do so unless you have an A/C system. We’ve been up and running since the end of last week; Thursday of last week. It was not our fault. We were trying to open with a situation that was not of our making.”