The Bahamas government says it has been made aware of the recent discovery of Escherichia coli (E. coli) in parts of the well water system affecting farms in North Andros and that the public water system, overseen by Water and Sewerage Corporation (WSC), “is not, in any way, affected by E. coli contamination and remains safe for human use and consumption”.
E. coli is a bacterium commonly found in the gut of warm-blooded organisms. Most strains of E. coli are not harmful but are part of the healthful bacterial flora in the human gut. However, some types can cause illness in humans, including diarrhoea, abdominal pain, fever, and sometimes vomiting.
In a statement, the government said that the issue of E. coli in private well water in North Andros was brought to the attention of the Ministry of Agriculture and Marine Resources (MAMR) in December last year by The Bahamas Agricultural Health & Food Safety Authority (BAHFSA).
The statement said that Agriculture Minister Michael Pintard “acted immediately” and directed BAHFSA to investigate the extent of the problem and the nature of the threat to the farming community and the wider public.
The statement said earlier this month, officials from the Bahamas Agriculture and Marine Science Institute (BAMSI), WSC and the Department of Environmental Health Services (DEHS) collected 25 water samples in North Andros, at and around the point where the initial presence of E. coli tested positive.
“The public water system overseen by Water and Sewerage Corporation (WSC) is not, in any way, affected by E. coli contamination and remains safe for human use and consumption. The Corporation continues its regular evaluation and inspection of its water wells in North, Central and South Andros where none of the wells have been compromised,” the statement said.
“The results of the sample testing revealed that 72 per cent of the 25 samples analysed had E. coli present. We are awaiting the results of additional testing, however, further tests are needed to confirm the initial findings and to confirm the strain(s) involved. Initial tests for faecal streptococcus were inconclusive thus, are being retested. Other potential water-borne pathogens will also be investigated.”