Thursday, November 28, 2019
By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
MORE than 7,000 gallons of clean potable water are produced every day by Mercy Corps and distributed to over a dozen water distribution sites on Grand Bahama.
Water quality in Grand Bahama has been significantly reduced following Hurricane Dorian, which brought 20ft storm surge that affected more than 200 of the island's well fields, resulting in salty tap water.
Mercy Corp, a global humanitarian aid group, in partnership with Mission Resolve and Seamans, was one of the first responders on the island to provide assistance after the storm in early September.
The organisation has set up a reverse osmosis system at the Grand Bahama Sports Complex in Freeport. The water that is produced daily is free to anyone who needs it.
Tezel Lightbourne, programme officer, said that Mercy Corps was recently provided funding that would allow the group to continue to remain here producing potable water - water that is safe to drink or use - until June/July 2020.
Ms Lightbourne said that Mercy Corps provides water to 13 distribution sites, including churches, clinics, and to organisations such as the Salvation Army, where people can go to refill water containers and jugs with clean water.
"For awhile we were distributing to schools, but one of our partners, Water Mission, now caters exclusively to schools," she said.
Although Mercy Corps produces on average about 7,500 gallons of water per day, the group distributes 6,500 gallons because 1,000 gallons must remain in the tank. Some of the distribution sites are the YMCA, Pearce Plaza and Davies House clinics, St Paul's Methodist Church, Life Community Church, the Church of Ascension, and other churches.
Ms Lightbourne explained that the water produced is filled in water bladders, which are then transported to distributed sites.
She noted that after salt and other contaminants are removed from the water, it is pumped into 1,300-gallon bladders that are loaded onto trucks. She said the water is chlorinated as an extra protective layer before it is distributed to the public.
She noted that the five-gallon refill containers or the jerrycans that Mercy Corps had distributed back in October should be used by individuals. Bleach bottles and gas containers are not recommended, she said.
According to Ms Lightbourne, Mercy Corps transports huge water bladders to the YMCA two to three times a day.
She noted that water monitors are on site there and at the Salvation Army to sanitise the spigot every hour as needed.
"We just got some funding; we were supposed to be here until January or February, but we are looking forward to being here until possibly June or July of next year," she added.
In addition to producing clean water, the organisation is committed to supporting the economic recovery of Grand Bahama.
Mercy Corps is pumping money and resources back in Grand Bahama through an economic recovery programme.
"Water is a human right and while we focus on water distribution, we recognise that the economy has been suffering ever since previous hurricanes. Even though water is free, we know it affects the commercial water depots here, and so we want to try to reach out to them and give them an opportunity to apply for the some of the grants because they may be lacking equipment, or even specific resources they need in order to get their businesses started."
Ms Lightbourne said the group is also offering a programme called Micro Mentor, which helps people with financial literacy, the importance of developing a business saving account, making sure that you have proper insurance to protect your assets, and making sure that when people rebuild they do so stronger and more resilient.