Water, sewage privatisation OK’d

Premier McKeeva Bush told lawmakers
last week that a centralised sewerage system is vital to Cayman for
environmental, health and economic reasons.

Responding to criticisms from
Opposition members to proposed legislation to privatisation of the Water
Authority, Mr. Bush said a lack of a national sewerage system already posed
health and environmental threats to Cayman.

He described the lack of a
centralised sewerage system as a “major environmental problem waiting to
explode”, but said there is insufficient information about the harm already
done to public health due to the injection of wastewaster into Cayman’s wells.

The premier also cited reports in
other Caribbean islands and Florida that showed the overflow of wastewater and
grey water into near shore waters was leading to detrimental growth of algae on
coral reefs.

“The coral reef in Cayman is a huge
tourist attraction and also protects the Island. Is this alone not a viable
justification for changing the status quo in wastewater?” he asked.

He told legislators that the new
sewage system would create 1,000 new jobs, directly and indirectly, and “inject
US$200 million” into the economy over the next four years.

Mr. Bush also cited statistics
regarding private sewage treatment systems, which were revealed through a
Freedom of Information request from the Caymanian Compass last year, that
showed that two-thirds of 186 retail and residential sites sampled by the Water
Authority between April 2008 and February 2009 did not meet the legally
required standards.

Members of the Opposition, most of
whom voted against the crucial second readings of three bills presented by
Deputy Governor Juliana O’Connor-Connolly, have raised concerns about
additional costs of sewage treatment and collection fees for the public and
have questioned the government’s motives for privatising the water and sewerage

Ms O’Connor-Connolly, answering
queries raised during a debate on the bills that will pave the way to
privatising the Water Authority, said the cost of connection of existing properties
to a new centralised sewerage system would be met by the company licensed to
hook up the system and new developments would pay connection fee charges once
the wastewater system is available.

Under the new system, sewage would
be treated “to a high level” before entering deep wells that will be 200 feet
or more deep, she said.

She told lawmakers that a technical
committee was currently looking at responses to the government’s request for
proposals, issued late last year, to operate and maintain the Water Authority’s
12.5 miles of sewerage system.

Two of the bills, the Water
Production and Supply Bill and Wastewater Collection and Treatment Bill, passed
the second reading on Monday, while nine members of the Legislative Assembly,
including Opposition Sister Islands member Moses Kirkconnell, voted for the
second reading of the Water Authority (Amendment) Bill on Wednesday. The bills
will be considered at a committee stage to include any amendments before going
to a final vote.