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Acceptable washroom facilities key to sustainability


Published: Aug 27, 2013

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As we stretch towards our goal of being a more sustainable nation through increasing the efficiency with which we consume and produce energy, and by preserving our marine and land resources and the like, we must not fall prey to the simplest of mistakes.

These are mistakes such as those reflected in reports last week that revealed the apparent absence of washroom facilities on Potter’s Cay Dock to service the workers and patrons of the string of popular restaurants in this area.

Certainly we understand that sustainability is not just about changing out a few light bulbs or generating power using a renewable source.

I believe the US Environmental Protection Agency defines it well: everything that we need for our survival and well-being depends, either directly or indirectly, on our natural environment.

Sustainability creates and maintains the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony, that permit fulfilling the social, economic and other requirements of present and future generations.

Therefore this matter of where the human waste is being disposed of is indeed a public health concern, and it could also be an environmental issue if the nearby waterway is being used as a disposal point.

This matter of inadequate washroom facilities was also highlighted in the recent study on shanty towns conducted by the Ministry of the Environment, and I commend the leadership for sharing the report with the general public as I believe we need to be fully aware of the conditions under which some of the most vulnerable in our community live.

If we think for one minute the condition of these persons is of no consequence to us we are sadly mistaken, because most of those outside toilets are cut right at the level of the water table and this explains why the water supply to these residents tended to be contaminated with fecal matter.

This is a problem for so many reasons. In New Providence it is of particular concern because our population density means many of us are sharing a water lens with these shanty towns.

Indeed, a significant amount of homes have private wells that bring contaminated water inside for bathing, brushing teeth, and washing dishes for example. This problem is also exacerbated by the prevalence of septic tanks.

Additionally, those persons in our community who drink contaminated water interact with all of us, leaving the entire community vulnerable to the spread of diseases.

For this reason, these and any other examples of instances of inadequate washroom facilities must concern us all - whether it be with our roadside food vendors or our infamously overcrowded prison.

As usual I call on each of us to inform our leaders on both sides of the political divide that these matters are of concern to us.

Of course if you are guilty of being a slum lord and have people renting from you who have no indoor plumbing this is your call to action as well.


• We would like to hear how this article has helped you. Send questions or comments to sbrown@graphitebahamas.com. Sonia Brown is the principal of Graphite Engineering Ltd and is a registered professional engineer.



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