PHILIPSBURG--Government can only do so much when it comes to sewage water running onto public roads, Minister of VROMI Egbert Doran said on Wednesday during the Council of Minister’s press briefing. “There is also accountability on the part of citizens committing these atrocities,” said Doran.
Minister Doran said that he knows of homes that have pipes heading towards the road, with sewage water coming out of them. “In Dutch Quarter this is happening as well,” he said. “Our Inspection Department is going around on a daily basis. One of the main places that had our attention for the last two months was the South Reward area, there you could see water on a constant aggressive flow. When we did our research, with GEBE, and police was involved as well, we found that there were some GEBE leaks indeed, but that did not stop completely. So now we are going into all of these things.”
The Minister said he intends to “shut down certain businesses, homes and apartment complexes” in the near future. “This is the next step that we have to lean towards. Because there are instances that people get a building permit to build a three or four-bedroom dwelling, then they create four, five apartments, no proper sewage pit, and this is what leads up to these problems.”
Minister Doran said that it is unfortunate that while people try to safeguard their health, “others choose to not comply with the situation”. He expressed hope that the media will help convey the message that VROMI will issue strict measures to stop to the illegal practice.
Regarding the poor quality of well water on the island, Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs mentioned that “finding the source of the water is usually the problem”, seeing that St. Maarten has hills and water may be flowing from higher up a hill down into people’s yards. “I have had experience with that where I am living, in Dutch Quarter, where there are a lot of wells as well. Of course we would want to make sure that the well water is safe to be used. People are using wells all the time. But we know, historically and culturally, that no one consumes well water without a process of boiling it and doing some other things.”
When Government puts out disaster announcements, information is given as to what people should do with water that is collected to make it safe to drink, the Prime Minister said. Jacobs acknowledged that samples from wells should be taken to determine the quality of the water.
Wells on St. Maarten are the responsibility of the Ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labor VSA. To date no requests for well water testing have been submitted to the Government-owned Environmental Lab of St. Maarten Laboratory Services (SLS) in Simpson Bay. Minister Jacobs said a request will go out to Minister of VSA Omar Ottley to have these tests done. Minister Ottley was not present at the press briefing on Wednesday.