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‘Disconcerted’ by Water Corporation supply takeover

By YOURI KEMP

Tribune Business Reporter

ykemp@tribunemedia.net

A South Eleuthera business owner yesterday described the Water & Sewerage Corporation’s planned takeover of the area’s water production as “disconcerting” and not representing “a step forward”.

Christopher Cates, owner of the Lumber Shed, voiced fears that the cash-strapped, state-owned utility will be stretched too thin and unable to provide a consistent potable water supply when it takes over the area’s reverse osmosis plant - as well as those in Inagua and San Salvador - from private operator, Aqua Design Bahamas. 

“I don’t consider this a step forward. I think is a lateral step to the right or to the left. Hopefully it is not a step backwards,” Mr Cates said. He praised Aqua Design and its commitment to delivering potable water to south Eleuthera on a consistent basis despite its recent impasse with the government over allegedly being owed $3.8m in unpaid bills.

Mr Cates added: “Aqua Design has really done a super job in providing us with water, so it’s a bit disconcerting. We are challenged in so many areas. Why we would want to take over a service that has been managed by a vendor relatively well and, in many instances, very well?

“They have done a great job in supplying us with water. Water is a necessity; it’s not an option. This is going to put us in a serious bind.  If the Water & Sewerage Corporation cannot meet the requirements of the public then that’s going to be a problem.

“We know that there are challenges as it is, and how their resources are stretched to the nth degree. I would call it as a businessman in South Eleuthera very disconcerting.” 

Mr Cates spoke out after Desmond Bannister, deputy prime minister who, as minister of works, has responsibility for the Water & Sewerage Corporation, confirmed that it will take over water production in those three communities from Aqua Design by year-end.

Speaking to media ahead of the weekly Cabinet meeting yesterday, Mr Bannister suggested that it was time for Aqua Design to move on as the company has been present in The Bahamas for a long time.

He said: “Water and Sewerage is putting in [reverse osmosis] plants, and we anticipate that by the end of the year they’re going to be able to operate those plants. The contracts for the company that has been here for many, many years have expired. They have agreed to stay on basically until the end of the year, and then we anticipate that Water and Sewerage is going to run those plants.”

Aqua Design Bahamas presently produces what the Water & Sewerage Corporation provides to customers in those three communities, and this move means that the latter will once again be in charge of both production and distribution - a step that Adrian Gibson, its executive chairman, had hinted at previously.

The Water & Sewerage Corporation has also acted after Aqua Design recently threatened to shut-off supply to the three communities, and demobilise its three plants, unless the state-owned utility paid at least a portion of the $3.8m debt said to be owed to it.

However, a deal was struck on May 2 that involves Aqua Design Bahamas continuing to operate the three reverse osmosis plants until November 1 this year. It warned that a supply cut-off could still happen if the Government and Water & Sewerage Corporation failed to deliver by last Saturday, May 8, but the latest developments suggest both sides are fulfilling their obligations.

Stephen Cartwright, owner/operator of Nagua Springs in Inagua, said he had heard the Water & Sewerage Corporation brought a container with equipment to the island, but was unsure of the purpose.

Now understanding that its plans to take over the reverse osmosis operation from Aqua Design, Mr Cartwright said: “I hope that the Government paid people for the monies that they owed them because that will make it look bad on them, because I think they owed them $3.8 million. If they can just put a system in place and not pay the company that would be a very bad look for the country.”  

Allison Mortimer, co-owner of J’s Discount in San Salvador, who had told this newspaper Aqua Designs could leave the country because the island had a back-up system installed by Water & Sewerage Corporation last year, said: “The Water & Sewerage Corporation tested their system with us and it had lots of pressure.

“So we just have to sit back and wait. If Water & Sewerage Corporation are going to take over the management of the water plants all we have to do is just sit back and wait and see.” 

Aqua Design had said previously: “On Sunday, May 2, the Water & Sewerage Corporation accepted the terms proposed by Aqua Design Bahamas to resolve all outstanding issues between the parties.

“A letter of comfort is to be issued by the Government of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas by the close of business on May 7, assuring payments by the Corporation. Water & Sewerage Corporation and Aqua Design are working to finalise written agreements in the coming days.

“Should the parties comply with their obligations, Aqua Design will continue production at these plants through November 1, 2021. Should Water & Sewerage Corporation not meet its obligations, we will cease production on May 8, 2021. We are hopeful that our dialogue with Water & Sewerage Corporation and the Government of the Bahamas will remain productive, and that Aqua Design will be able to continue operations.”

Comments

tribanon 1 year, 1 month ago

Anyone who thinks a government run corporation will do better by our people than a privately owned one need only look at the dismal state of all the other government run corporations like Bahamasair, Broadcasting Corporation of The Bahamas, The Hotel Corporation of The Bahamas (owner of Grand Lucayan hotel property), Bank of The Bahamas, BPL, etc., etc. etc. And the risks are especially great here because as we all know, water is essential to sustain life.

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sheeprunner12 1 year, 1 month ago

This Cates opinion best describes the challenge that our people have with our Government ...... But, why should our Government continue to pay a FOREIGN company exorbitant fees/contracts that the WSC or a local PPP can do???? .... Cates is telling half of the story

Can Cates or anyone else reasonably justify a broke 242 corporation continuing to pay a foreign company to make RO water in The Bahamas? ........ I think not

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tribanon 1 year, 1 month ago

The costs to produce potable water are not insignificant and I would like to think the private contact that has been in place for so many years was not a padded one to line the pockets of any one or more corrupt government officials.

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sheeprunner12 1 year, 1 month ago

Tribanon

How much money has Aqua Design made off the Government contracts in those 3 islands ........ compared to its initial investment, maintenance & local salaries etc?????? ........ Let us know what was its profit margin?????

Can you speak to that???????? .......... Will anyone do??????

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The_Oracle 1 year, 1 month ago

I have no doubt Aqua design was a profitable venture, otherwise what fool would have done it? Meanwhile profits will be the furthest from the minds of the residents/communities without water which will be inevitble if Government takes over. .

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