Statement On U.S. Embassy’s Water Advisory

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Statement by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Maxine McClean and Minister of Health, John Boyce – Barbados’ response to the United States Embassy’s Water Advisory

Barbados’ potable water is safe and meets the standards of the World Health Organisation (WHO) drinking water guidelines.

Today, along with the Minister of Health, the General Manager of the Barbados Water Authority (BWA), Tourism officials and representatives of other government agencies, I met with the US Ambassador Her Excellency, Ms. Linda Taglialatela and Embassy Officials to discuss a health alert issued yesterday on the US Department of State website:  Travel.State.Gov.

According to the US Alert “recent tests at several U.S. Embassy residences revealed bacteria at elevated levels in the tap water”.  However, it was not until today at the Meeting that the BWA and Ministry of Health officials were made aware of the properties at which these samples were taken. Let me emphasise that we were informed by the Embassy officials that the laboratory tests were negative for salmonella, coliform, and E. Coli which would be of primary public health concern.

The Barbados Water Authority (BWA) assiduously follows WHO protocols for testing the island’s drinking water supply, with the BWA sending 50 samples weekly from the island’s distribution systems to the Best – dos  Santos Public Health Laboratory. These samples are analysed for pathogenic bacteria, while testing is also carried out on site for free residual chlorine.

This sampling which is five times more than that required by the WHO is supplemented by independent regulatory surveillance carried out across the island by the Environmental Health Department of the Ministry of Health.

Samples from the island’s well sources are sent to the Government Analytical Laboratory for bacteriological and chemical analysis. Regulatory review of well source samples by the EPD has indicated that all tests to date have been safe.

I took the opportunity to ask the USA to permit the collection of water samples on the properties that were tested. In case of future tests, we have asked that there be simultaneous collection of samples. To these requests, the Embassy has agreed to a collaborative process with the Ministry of Health and the BWA.

We are assured by the relevant competent authorities that the drinking water supply in Barbados remains safe. The agencies will continue to monitor the water supply system to ensure compliance with WHO guidelines in the interest of public health.

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