‘We are making significant strides in the island’s recovery,’ says Rolle

Grand Bahama Port Authority (GBPA) President, Ian Rolle

“We have made significant strides in the recovery efforts of our tourism sector and I am happy to report that,” said Grand Bahama Port Authority (GBPA) President, Ian Rolle, during a recent press conference, at GBPA’s Headquarters, focusing on recovery efforts throughout the island, six weeks following Hurricane Dorian.

Rolle, together with representatives from several of the island’s essential services, including Grand Bahama Power Company (GBPC) and Grand Bahama Utility Company (GBUC) shared status reports of their restoration progress, to date.

Listing the schedules of cruise lines returning to Grand Bahama and operating local resorts, Rolle detailed, Bahamas Paradise Cruise Lines returned to regularly scheduled sailing on September 27; Baleria Caribbean began regular operations, Carnival Cruise Line, began operations to the island on October 11 and Lighthouse Pointe was scheduled to open October 15.

“Pelican Bay Hotel is open, Viva Wyndam Fortuna will open on December 10, Old Bahama Bay will open November 1, Castaways Resorts is open and fully operational and Island Seas will open November 15,” Rolle added. 

“Ocean Reef Resorts are open and operational; Taino Beach Resort is open and fully operational; Royal Islander is open and fully operational; Freeport Resort and Club opens November 1; Port Lucaya opened on October 18; Bell Channel Inn is open and fully operational and Sunrise Resort and Suites are open and operational,” he said.  

According to Rolle, UNEXSO is also open and fully operational. 

“In fact, they have dolphins performing for our guests right at this moment,” he said. 

He furthered that Grand Bahama Nature Tours, Pirates Cove and Bahamas Adventures are all open for business. 

Rolle noted that Crystal Beach is open, Fragrance of The Bahamas, Caribbean Divers, Calabash Echo Adventures, Exotic Adventures, Grand Bahama Scuba, Lucaya Watersports, Paradise Watersports are all open. 

Tour operators, including H. Forbes Charter which had floodwater damage to its office building on Queens Highway, is also open for business. 

Additionally, Rolle thanked the Grand Bahama Taxi Union (GBTU) to agreeing to the ‘Ride for Five’ initiative. 

“What that means is that a lot of persons, especially in the Freeport area who have lost vehicles, which is a transportation issue, this ‘Ride for Five’ programme allows them to spend $5 for one-way trip anywhere between the harbour and the Taino Beach area,” he explained. 

“We continue to do whatever is necessary to better the lives of the Grand Bahama community,” said Rolle, who took the opportunity to thank his colleagues and company team members, who worked tirelessly to restore the island’s services post-Dorian. 

“There is a young Bahamian artist by the name of Jamaal Rolle, who donated an oversized artistic piece to the island of Grand Bahama, which can be seen on a prominent wall on Woodstock Street. The quote on the artistic masterpiece reads, ‘On Him we have set or hope, that He will deliver us again.’ 

“This statement has become the mantra of our group, as we believe that our Lord and Saviour has given this island favour in the hearts and minds of so many people and organizations from around the world that are very instrumental in assisting with our recovery efforts,” Rolle added. 

Those companies and organizations include – the Grand Bahama Power Company, Sanitation Services, The Grand Bahama Utility Company, FOCOL, the Freeport Harbour Company, FOWLCO, the Grand Bahama Shipyard and various churches on this island. Rotary, Paradox, Wendy’s, Marco’s, Pollo Tropical, KFC, Burger King, Gold Rock, Bahamas Industrial Technologies, Power Equipment, Waugh Construction, Kelly’s, Pelican Bay, Castaways, Ocean Reef Resort, Aliv, the Civil Aviation Authority and Bryan Glinton, Western Air and Bahamasair. The Salvation Army, The Red Cross, S&D Coach Tours, NEMA, Samaritan’s Purse, Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean, Carnival Cruise Line, Delta, Balearia, Mercy Corps, World Central Kitchen, IsraAid, International Medical Corps, Hands for Hunger, HeadKnowles, Global Medic, Team Rubicon, SBP, Adra, the Seminole Tribe of Florida, the Six Nations Tribe and USAid just to name a few.

“These were persons and companies which have gone above and beyond the call of duty to help in the restoration efforts, and to you all I am grateful,” said Rolle.

Grand Bahama Power Company (GBPC) Director of Customer Solutions and Stakeholder Relations, Philcher Grant said that the company’s first commitment was to their employees, “as many of them lost everything, all of their possessions, to the storm.”

She noted that after the employee assessment was made, completed and some immediate relief provided, the next step was inspecting the company’s assets and equipment.

Grant revealed that GBPC lost a great deal of equipment, including vehicles, computers, technology and network.

“However, as a team we came together and made a commitment to light the island, because we live here, we work here, this is our home,” said Grant. 

She stated that to date electricity has been restored to about 15,700 customers, pre-Dorian about 19,000 customers were energized.

Grant noted that their teams will continue to “light” Grand Bahama.

She thanked their overseas colleagues from TECO and Pike for assisting the local teams in getting electricity to their customers, almost immediately after the historic storm.

GBUC Manager, Geron Turnquest added, “Grand Bahama hs been hit by an unprecedented storm that created a 20-foot storm surge. Seawater covered over 90 percent of the land where our wellfields are located. Consequently, our groundwater reserves have been severely impacted and contaminated with salinity.” 

Turnquest explained that teams assessed groundwater resources and now GBUC has the data to make decisions and implement immediate actions that will help in the recovery of its potable water supply.

“Our first goal after the storm was to restore water supply 24/7 for uses other than drinking, including bathing, toilet flushing, etcetera. We accomplished that within a week of the storm. However, as you all know, the water contains concentrations of total dissolved solids (TDS) that exceed the World Health Organization standards and therefore, is not suitable for drinking at the present time,” he said.

Turnquest stated that based on the data they have gathered and hydraulic and water quality modeling tools they developed, they now have put together an immediate action plan that aims at reducing the mass loading salinity in the system by optimizing the use of wells that have the best water quality. 

“The recovery time for bringing the water back to standards highly depends on the amount of rainfall that we get in the next few weeks. We have observed that the levels of salinity are naturally dropping, but rainfall will accelerate significantly the aquifer restoration process. However, we are pursuing alternative solutions such as RO to also reduce the salinity,” he explained. 

At the time of the update, GBUC had restored 60 percent of its wellfields and is providing water to 90 percent of its customers with the exception of two of the three remote water plants out east. 

“In summary, as a utility we’re working day and night to find solutions and to optimize quality of the water that we are supplying to the population of Grand Bahama. Unfortunately, there is not a quick fix to the problem. Please pray for rain,” he said, adding that potable water stations are set up all over the island for residents, with the assistance of various organizations, including Mercy Corps.

Turnquest thanked the GBUC team for going above and beyond the call of duty to restore water to our customers, given the circumstances. 

Sanitation Services’ General Manager, Lou Carroll also shared a brief update on the removal of debris from throughout this island.

He noted that 24-hours after the storm, the landfill was open for business despite some damage.

“We’re going through some bumps and bruises, but not to the extent that some other companies have,” disclosed Carroll, adding that the company is currently operating at 90-95 percent capacity.

As for debris collection and removal, Carroll revealed (at the time of the briefing), “to date we have collected 1,100 tons, about 2,500 loads in the City of Freeport with both Sanitation vehicles and other partners.”

Carroll shared that they also participated in bringing in relief goods from various associations and commended his team for their hard work.

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