The PLP Government has once again betrayed the trust and failed the people of the Marathon Constituency, and the people of the Bahamas. Prime Minister Christie and his Cabinet Ministers have botched the handling of one of the worst health crisis in recent times. There has been a total lack of concern, lack of responsibility, lack of information, and lack of coordination. Why did the Government conceal the contents of the Rubis Report for over a year? Why has the Minister of Health been silent and the Prime Minister absent during this health crisis? While Cabinet Ministers duck and dodge, and play the blame game, the Prime Minister who claims to be a champion for the environment outside the country has remained silent when disaster hits his own people.
Public Health Crisis in Marathon
The facts are undeniable that the PLP Government was aware that the Rubis Robinson Road Fuel Release Report revealed that the Rubis oil spill exposed hundreds of residents and thousands of business owners, employees and customers to more than one hundred chemicals that make up the substance we call gasoline, the most toxic of these are the chemicals benzene, xylene and toluene. It is also undeniable that the PLP Government was aware that the soil, well water used by some residents for bathing and washing, and the air they breathed were contaminated by the human carcinogen benzene, that causes cancer, specifically leukemia, damages a woman’s reproductive organs, damages the immune system increasing the chance for infections, and damages the lungs, brain and kidney. Benzene can pass from a mother’s blood to her unborn child and effect even children even before they are born. The reported exposure created a Public Health Crisis in marathon. When did the Ministry of Health become aware of the crisis and why were none of the protocols activated. The Minister of Health has yet to address the public and residents on this health crisis.
Public Health Concerns of Residents
The report revealed that residents expressed frustration back in 2013 in the PLP Governments failure to communicate with them. Residents’ exposure by inhalation, ingestion or contact to these toxic chemicals was at levels that are still unknown and unmonitored. The opportunity for monitoring and risk reduction to persons was deliberately denied. The Ministry of Health has been nonexistent in this health crisis and chose not to monitor or medically assess all exposed persons from the date of identification of this environmental disaster, there is now no way to retroactively determine any individual’s net or total exposure. They have provided no information, no testing, no warnings, no advice, and no treatment for residents. The real crime committed was to allow individuals to remain in a contaminated zone with ongoing toxic exposure, with no proper education, no real option for patient specific risk assessment, or options for elimination of exposure to the most vulnerable (children, elderly and pregnant women.) Two years after the actual spill and more than one year after the PLP government knew the cancer causing toxin benzene was in their soil, water and air, the Ministry has yet to screen or test residents. Their reckless, callous and cruel disregard for human life is simply inexcusable. On behalf of the residents of Marathon I call upon the PLP Government to immediately begin the screening and testing of residents, and implement proper warnings and health information for residents to properly inform and protect themselves.
Lack of Ministerial Responsibility and Coordination.
Leadership is crucial in a crisis. The PLP’s response to this health crisis has revealed a complete lack of coordination between Ministers and Ministries. It appears that they failed to communicate and are now blaming each other for their dereliction of duty. Once again the country has been let down by Christie’s weak leadership, only this time it may have costs the lives of Bahamians. The PLP Cabinet’s behavior has been utterly shameful, and each response has been a slap in the face to residents and the public. On behalf of the Marathon Residents I call upon the Minister of Environment, the Minister of Health Minister of Education and the Attorney General to apologize to each resident and resign forthwith! The Prime Minister must immediately appoint a task force from a cross section of Government Ministries to do what should have been done over a year ago.
The Free National Movement demands the PLP Government immediately:
1. Create a multi-ministry task force to coordinate a proper response by the Government.
2. Immediately commence the communication program recommended in the Rubis Report to educate residents on health risks.
3. Fulfill each and every recommendation by the Rubis Report and regularly report to the Parliament, the residents of Marathon and the public on the progress.
4. Immediately begin public health screening and testing of residents.
5. Provide legal aid and free legal assistance to residents who wish to commence legal action.
6. Immediately review present legislation and make necessary amendments to ensure that similar spills are prevented.
7. Create and release to the public government policy and protocols for similar oil spills.
8. Commence the examination of all service stations, oil – chemical storage facilities in the Bahamas, inclusive of BEC at Clifton , and its immediate environ to determine if water, soil, or, air has been contaminated by dangerous chemicals.
9. Immediately appoint an independent Commission to publicly examine the issues surrounding the gasoline spill, and all subsequent actions taken or not taken by Rubis and the Government of the Bahamas.
10. The Government in conjunction with WHO ( PAHO ) should as a part of their provisions for health care for residents, ensure that the anxiety and fear being experience is addressed immediately.
The people of Marathon deserve better! The people of the Bahamas deserve better! The Free National Movement will not rest until we restore trust and good governance to our Bahamas!