February 17, 2020
The post Dorian cleanup of a densely populated, unplanned area with poor sanitation and sub-standard dwellings was a complex, environmentally hazardous, recovery project which some felt a home-grown company lacked the expertise and resources to see it through.
With Caribbean Pavement Solutions’ (CPS) cleanup of a 40.9-acre plot of land substantially completed, for the first time in decades Bahamian authorities have an unobstructed view of the property which once housed The Mud, a community of 600 residences, 45 commercial shops, 100 septic tanks and six outside toilets, according to a Department of Environmental Health Services (DEHS) 2013 Report on Shanty Towns.
Although “legions” of foreign contractors approached Works Minister Desmond Bannister about the gargantuan task of cleaning up Abaco’s shanty towns in the wake of the monster Category 5 storm, he never doubted the ability of Bahamians contractors to get the job done.
“From the time they were mobilized to come here, to be able to get here, to be able to do what they have done, it’s just outstanding and I want to commend them for it,” he said in deference to CPS, a subsidiary of Bahamas Striping Group of Companies (BSGC) specializing in heavy-duty cleanup, maintenance and pavement preservation.
During a Friday, February 14, tour of the site located in the heart of Marsh Harbour, a stone’s throw away from the Leonard M. Thompson International Airport, Mr Bannister noted that recovery takes time.
“While we live in a microwave society where we want everything overnight, there’s still a way to do things. There’s still a way to do it with decency and to provide dignity to people who have lost their lives,” he said.
It took CPS four months to clear, sort and discard tons of waste – white, e-waste, green waste and construction debris.
Eagle-eyed workers had to remain alert for human remains. They discovered 12 hurricane scattered bodies at the site and provided those lost souls with dignity in death by turning them over to authorities for identification.
Another challenging aspect CPS faced was navigating the swampy terrain from which the community took its name. Aside from the mud, the site featured sinkholes and poorly constructed cesspits, not built to code, which could wreck costly heavy-duty machinery if traversed.
At its peak the project employed around 100 men (mostly Abaconians) working from sun-up to sun-down, confirmed CPS operations manager, Kendrick Darville.
In an enormous undertaking CPS transformed Friendship Tabernacle in Central Pines into a man camp to house and feed its workers. It outfitted the church with a new generator, additional air conditioning units, airbeds, washers, dryers, outdoor showers and installed recreational amenities.
From food and toiletries to trucks and tractors, everything had to be flown or shipped into the island.
“This is the type of thing where we have to toot the horns of our young people, our young ingenuous Bahamians who got this amazing type of work done,” said Mr Bannister who was accompanied on the tour by his ministry’s director Melanie Roach and permanent secretary, Cora Colebrooke.
With the island’s economic activity coming to a standstill in Dorian’s wake, the shanty town clean up executed by CPS and other contractors provided an invaluable source of employment for Abaco men, helping them to stay on top of mounting bills and slowly rebuild not only their homes but also their lives.
Fast forward to 2020, and there only a handful of ancillary tasks remaining for CPS to wrap up. Among them, cleaning up the outskirts of the Mud where several badly damaged, uninhabitable homes – not in the original scope of work – are still left standing.
The company must also truck in fill to level uneven land, marred in places with sinkholes.
“Naturally, the land’s topography needs to be raised. If you look at the high points versus the low points, there is at least about two and a half feet to three feet variance and that has to be addressed,” said CPS managing director, Dr Allen Albury.
“What will happen is that during the rainy season this will create a basin and that basin will become full. The high water table can create a challenge in terms of mosquitos and other airborne challenges.”
Those works will be completed in short order, said CPS president, Atario Mitchell, an Abaco native who is happy to see the island’s clean up progressing.
“The main thing for me is to get Abaco back to where it was. This is my home and I think that Abaco definitely has the potential to be more than what it was,” said Mr Mitchell.
“It’s just up to the powers that be to really sit down and try to design Abaco to its full potential and then persons like myself and other individuals [can] come back and invest in Abaco and let’s make Abaco better.”
An unobstructed view of a 40.9-acre-stretch of land once occupied by one of The Bahamas’ largest shanty town community, The Mud, located in the heart of Marsh Harbour, Abaco.
On Friday, February 14, Works Minister Desmond Bannister led a small team including Director of Works Melanie Roach and Public Works Permanent Secretary Cora Colebrooke to Marsh Harbour, Abaco where Atario Mitchell, President of Caribbean Pavement Solutions gave a guided tour of his company’s clean up efforts which are substantially completed. Photos courtesy of Caribbean Pavement Solutions.