Hanbury: ‘Could Potentially Damage Economy’

April 12, 2014

A recent Washington Post article on Bermuda’s beach sewage problem “could potentially damage the island’s economy as we ramp-up for the upcoming tourist season,” Bermuda Tourism Authority CEO Bill Hanbury said.

Mr. Hanbury added, “The details of this story will not remain confined to just the readers of the Washington Post. A story of this nature could have a life of its own and be replicated across global media channels.

“Undoubtedly, this could cause damage to Bermuda’s economy and impact each and every resident of our cherished island. This story could impact both our leisure travelers and our business visitors.”

On March 31st the U.S. Consulate in Bermuda issued a “Security Message” entitled “Contaminated Beaches” citing the “ongoing dumping of raw sewage off Bermuda’s south coast.”

The advisory from the U.S. Consulate added that “In 2013, as many as five of the beaches were described as ‘unfit for recreational use’ on different occasions based on water samples.”

Following the advisory, the Ministry of Health & Environment said they wish to “strongly reassure residents and visitors that our beaches are safe for swimming and recreational use,” and also said they carry out extensive water sampling twice weekly.

Mr. Hanbury said, “The BTA respectful urges the Department of Health to actually increase the monitoring currently committed to and further ensure the public that our ocean water quality is safe.”

bermuda beach water generic 2312

The Washington Post’s Report

The Washington Post recently ran an article entitled, “Is Bermuda’s beach sewage problem par for the course, or a rarity?”

They quote Ken Siegfried as saying he visited Bermuda last summer, and on his third day came down with a major ear infection which required immediate medical attention. “I’m wondering if this infection was caused by the raw sewage and the danger it can bring with it,” Mr. Siegfried told the Washington Post.

The report continued on to say, “When Susan Stirling caught wind of the warning, she found herself recalling her time in Bermuda. ‘When I went swimming, I recall black, greasy objects in the water.

“On those days, my Bermudan friends just blamed the mess on stuff coming out of the caves polluted by the U.S. bases,’ says Stirling, who was a marketing director for a Bermudan business association for more than a decade before falling ill with a ‘rapidly growing’ cancer and returning to her native Toronto.

“Her cancer is now in remission, but she wonders whether the dumping contributed to her illness.”

The Post added, “Bermuda is one of the most beautiful islands in the Atlantic, if not the world. With its dramatic cliffs, turquoise waters and trademark pastel cottages, it’s a destination everyone should visit at least once.

“And while these claims of coastal contamination appear to be relatively isolated for now, they do raise a broader question for travelers planning a summer vacation: How much do you know about the water you’re swimming in? And what is a destination obliged to tell you?”

BTA CEO Bill Hanbury’s Comments

Bermuda Tourism Authority CEO Bill Hanbury said, “The recent publication of a Washington Post article has raised additional concerns regarding Bermuda’s ocean water quality. As the BTA has stated previously, we remain extremely concerned about any information that calls into question the quality of our world-class marine environment.

“The Washington Post article could potentially damage the island’s economy as we ramp-up for the upcoming tourist season. The details of this story will not remain confined to just the readers of the Washington Post.

“A story of this nature could have a life of its own and be replicated across global media channels. Undoubtedly, this could cause damage to Bermuda’s economy and impact each and every resident of our cherished island. This story could impact both our leisure travelers and our business visitors.

“From a short-term perspective, the Bermuda Department of Health has made a firm commitment to closely monitor our beaches on an on-going basis. Currently, the Department of Health routinely takes water samples at major bathing beaches. The results of these samples continue to meet US standards for acceptable water quality.

“There have been no incidences, to date, when water sampling information has caused the closure of a beach. The BTA respectful urges the Department of Health to actually increase the monitoring currently committed to and further ensure the public that our ocean water quality is safe.

“From a long-term perspective, the BTA is in discussions with Government and is urging our leaders to resolve this environmental challenge. The BTA fully understands that the long-term solutions will require financial resources, plus collaboration across political parties and multiple Government departments. Regardless of the cost, our ocean’s water quality must be a national priority.

“This problem will not be immediately resolved and the BTA will not be able to control what a “global audience” will say about our environmental challenges. The only answer that our global audience will accept is that we are initiating the effort to completely resolve this issue,” concluded Mr. Hanbury.

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  1. Family Man says:

    No work permits for the Washington Post! If they don’t say nice things about us, they’re not welcome here. /

    • jt says:

      Awful reporting by washington post using two people who “wonder” if there illnesses sere caused by this. There are a multitude of possible causes. Perhaps every person in bda who gets sick Nd swims on south shore should “wonder”? Tabloid like report.

      • Steve Biko says:

        Probably just a build up of WAX !!!!!!!!!
        Just hating because they cant see the bottom of their water and its full of s–t !!!!!!!!!!

  2. John says:

    CEO Bill you starting to sound like Dr. Edmond Heatley. Stop making excuses. You know very well what the beaches look like in other parts of the World. They can’t even compare to the South Shore Beaches. I remember my friends taking me to a beach in the USA, when I was swimming I thought to myself the water was so murky the beaches back home only look like this after a hurricane comes close. I couldn’t even see underwater.

    So if you fail to deliver the visitor numbers this will be the excuse already gift wrapped for you??

    • Have you ever heard of silt? says:

      The fact that the water is murky doesn’t necessarily mean it’s polluted.

      And the fact that water is clear doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not polluted.

  3. Justin says:

    I say we go take water samples from South Beach and test it for bacteria. My guess is that we are bound to find something and then we can do our duty by letting the world know!

    • Onion says:

      They do test regularly, FYI.

      • How often? says:

        I think it’s only a couple of times a week – reality is it should be daily (and probably multiple times a day at that).

  4. Bill Hanbury is absolutely right:
    “The only answer that our global audience will accept is that we are initiating the effort to completely resolve this issue,” concluded Mr. Hanbury.

    So, here is what I sent to the OBA !

    To THE OBA GOVERNMENT

    After I posted the Tourism Authority Social Media PR yesterday this comment was posted to my FB page:
    “THE STUDIED LACK OF CONCERN BY OFFICIALDOM IS INEXCUSBALE”

    Indeed the comments on news blogs are real cause for concern especially from past visitors to Bermuda.

    So far there has been NADA from the OBA saying that the dumping of sewage is going to stop. Unless the public is told that anything put or pumped into the ocean is 100% treated, then this is an unacceptable solution for Bermuda. A band aid on sewage is not acceptable.

    In having lunch with an economist, and two prominent local lawyers yesterday, we all agreed that a bond issue to finance a proper sewage treatment facility would probably be supported by the public.
    However this gets funded it is key that proper sewage treatment facilities that fully treat and sanitize sewage and waste is essential. Partial treatment and dumping is not acceptable.

    The OBA Government simply must step up to properly handle this issue as the dumping has gone on for way too many years under all past governments.

  5. PANGAEA says:

    What would Mc Givor do !

    Have our children get a bunch bottles and corks,place a dated message in the bottle and toss the bottle in the sea in Paget one bottle a day for a month and see if any return which I strongly doubt, the message could go this way.

    !2 April 2014 12.00 noon.

    ” I am 7 years old my name is ——– I go to school at ——- and I live in beautiful Bermuda, I am doing a study on ocean currents, so ! if you find this bottle on the other side of the Planet please send me a postcard and I hope that one day you will return the bottle and message and when you come to visit with us and we can go swimming together and have a picnic on one of our beautiful pink sandy beaches. CU.

  6. Triangle Drifter says:

    It really does not matter how beaches elsewhere look or how polluted they might be. Just because water is murkey elsewhere does not mean that it is polluted. Some people here have never heard of river silt.

    What matters is the PERCEPTION of how polluted, real or not, Bermuda’s beaches & water are. What matters is what are those responsible for these sewage outfalls actually DOING about them to clean them up & treat the sewage before it is dumped.

    Bill Hanbury is telling it as it is. Bermuda can leave its head stuck in the sand at its peril.

    People, especially Americans, do not like uncertainty in their vacations. When they pay big bucks for sun, sand & clean water, that is exactly what they will demand. Failure to deliver means that they go someplace that can.

  7. I will say, that Bermuda is one of the best places for pristine beaches in the world. We all know that 99.9% of the time the water is absolutely fine.

    The ISSUE is the sewage and how we dispose of it. It just needs to be dealt with properly and 100% sanitized. The rest of the planet sadly use the oceans as a toilet bowl – Bermuda must do better. It really is a matter of doing the right thing here.

  8. PANGAEA says:

    Mr.Hanbury

    This is all about money and in some circles its called ” Bang for the Buck’.

    “The deeper you dig the more gold you will find “.

    I am sure you know as I do that Bermuda had been unfairly branded as an expensive island but no more that other comparable destinations.

    Bermuda as you no doubt are aware has the infrastructure to cater to the most discerning visitor, we have been doing it for years.

    You Sir, can not do it alone you need 100% support from the good people of this country, reach out to us!

    It is in our nature to want a get away for at least two week a year for a relaxing and fun vacation, I was a working class person and for my money I want two inexpensive vacations a year because I am required to give my best and in return I expect and demand nothing short of the best.

    Mr. Hanbury you are a smart man and I am confident that you will explore every avenue as revealed in the Sage Report.

    As I see it , our major problem is over taxation, Bermuda has more taxes than I would care to list here, you can do that, we have taxed ourselves out of the market.

    It is called trickle down taxation .

    Yes sir ! we pass it on down the line as we have no choice, example, how much did you pay for gas.

    Until Bermuda revises and reduces our tax burden nothing is going to change, you are bashing your head against the wall,because …….. We have a “Government we can not afford”.

    • Sickofantz says:

      Unfairly branded too expensive. You must be rolling in it. It IS too expensive.

  9. PANGAEA says:

    Don’t most hotels have swimming pools with all the luxuries.

    • Swimming pools? says:

      If all you want is a swimming pool, why come to Bermuda?

  10. bro in law says:

    Susan i do not appriciate u saying your cáncer was do to the wáter because going to the beach was not something you did often as many other bermudians live from the ocean and are there daily….further more the beaches in Acapulco where your own or owned a home are by far more polluted that anything we have or had in bermuda .

  11. Chris Famous says:

    Kinda of a shocker that the guy who used to run the tourism for Washington DC could not stop the Washington Post from putting this out.

    • Mike Hind says:

      Wouldn’t that be “stifling the press”? Isn’t that bad?

    • nuffin but the truth says:

      stifling the press is what your defunct plp friends did!

      • Steve Biko says:

        Stifling the press , like I’m not answering that, this press conference is over, your not allowed to come in, were not sending you invitations, Sherrie J and Gary are off limits and the Daily is biased !!!!!!
        Banana Republic Jokers !

        • Mike Hind says:

          I love how you’ve forgotten the past 14 years.

          Yet another example that you guys’ core message is “it’s ok when we do it.”

          • Steve Biko says:

            Ah the Daily had P.L.P under a microscope and the Leaders were constantly having press meetings so don’t try to deviate from the comment, or you endorse these matters at hand.
            Figured so.

    • Triangle Drifter says:

      If there is one sure way to get the press to get out & dig up the story it is to try to stop them from doing it. One does not have to be terribly smart to figure that one up.

      Maybe you are not aware of the Middleton issue this past week or so. A prime example.

    • Sandy Bottom says:

      Kind of a shocker that you think someone could stop the Washington Post from running a story.

    • ???????????? says:

      Chris, so you think that the Post is going to pass every article by him before it goes to print?

  12. Dastardly deed …indeed….our guest has voice and chose to voice this….perhaps we should address this issue…..as vonsequence though there are same issues all over US….Seringes and hospital wast wash up on east coast beaches to this day…west coast has tar periodically…vast amounts that derive fromoil derricks offshore….at one time swimmers all kept acetone to clean off with after visiting beaches on west coast…..oh …and by the by….don’t have amnesia in north Carolina youwill be interred innah fema camp.

    • Al says:

      Back in the 80s we had tar here in Bermuda too… Lots of lestoiol to clean up after every trip.

      • Toodle-oo says:

        By the 80′s it was almost gone. You should have seen it in the 60′s and early 70′s !
        Everyone went to the beach with Lestoil in those days just as they took their Coppertone .. lol

        • Lestoil says:

          And all the hotels had “tar bars” that were stocked with Lestoil and paper towels so guests could clean the tar off their feet before they tracked it into their rooms.

      • Sandy Bottom says:

        I remember using Lestoil in the 90′s after every beach trip.

        I also remember when prisoners used to have to go out early in the morning and clean up our beaches. That stopped, I think because it was thought to be ‘inhumane’ to make the poor delicate prisoners get up early and work.

    • PANGAEA says:

      @ Mumbo Jumbo

      I am sure that you have good intent.

      However,I would not recommend administering any form of petro chemicals on the skin and especially Acetone , when I have had occasion to Acetone I always wear latex rubber gloves,because I am scared of developing a third eye.

      Vehicle Mechanics wear latex rubber gloves when they work on an engines including change out all the fluids.
      When in doubt always wear gloves even with ordinary household cleansers are to be used with caution. Read all the cautionary labels. Thank you.

      • Terry says:

        Your bubble bursted years ago Pangaea.
        Bet you don’t even wipe your a** for fear of contaminates you already ate.
        I need a rum.

  13. J24 says:

    and the beaches along the US Atlantic coast are so clean. More disgusting than anywhere I have been. Just where does NYC dump its waste????????off of large barges. I suggest they look at their own backyard first. Al La Love Canal and on and on.

    • Your point? says:

      Americans know about pollution and garbage in their water. And they’re used to seeing beaches closed because of high bacteria counts.

      But that doesn’t mean that Bermuda should be given a free pass.

  14. Scotty says:

    Duh!We need a foreign expert specially imported to tell Bermuda what we already know. This Hungry Bay untreated sewage dumping problem is nothing new. You can do better than this Mr Hanwell. What about a solution? Maybe in your capacity as the “righter of tourism wrongs” you could sit down with the Minister, Trevor Moniz, and devise long term solutions. Publish the results and do comparisons with other jurisdictions of the pathogenic microorganisms in the South Shore waters.

    • Mike Hind says:

      So… wait…

      It’s the CEO of the Tourism Authority’s job to “devise long term solutions” to a sewage problem?

      I’m pretty sure it’s not.

    • Sandy Bottom says:

      Since no one has raised this in the past we apparently do need a foreign expert to draw our attention to fact that this is a problem for tourism.

  15. hold on says:

    We have known about the discharge problem for years. Instead of blaming the media, why don’t we do something about it? We have been under the shadow of Rebecca Middleton’s murder and miscarriage of justice for years. Instead, of banning the media, why don’t we do something about it? Kim Jong-Fahy and Vladimir Pettingill need to get their acts together.

  16. Cardine Alice says:

    Most Bermuda beaches are littered as well. Loads of glass and human waste. I have goven up on beach combing and make my children wear shoes to protect them. Quite unacceptable. The usual excuse given if that it’s some gyratory current bringing twit from elsewhere. Rubbish. We need to clean up our act. Even Cayman treats it’s sewage.

    Now wondering about daughter’s ear infections and my eye infections since moving here.

    Every sad.

    • WHAT!!! says:

      Maybe your body is missing home and giving you signs to move back, don’t diss my beautiful Island woman. Lets talk about where you came from!!

      • Sandy Bottom says:

        She’s right. The beaches are filthy. Particularly after the filthy campers over Cup Match leave their trash everywhere.

    • JUNK YARD DOG says:

      #Alice.

      May be you need to remove the frogs from your house water tank then have your tank cleaned and completely drained next and then sanitized with Clorox.

      If you think that it is ok! to complain about the beaches may be you should check your house water tank.

      The house in front of mine has not had its tank cleaned in 45 + years it must be knee deep in sludge by now.

  17. Uh oh……poo poo doo doos…

  18. logistics says:

    Could the government engage the schools, water sport operators and boat tour operators to gather more frequent samples. Maybe even engage schools to do the monitoring as an island wide science project. Each school could be assigned a beach/bay and take the samples and perform the cultures for that location. As well as providing the kids with a “real life” science project, it would educate them regarding environmental issues and encourage them to be more concious on all levels regarding pollution and littering and the knock on effects.

    Regarding the local water sports/ tour operators, this effects them directly so they should be eager to help as needed.

    We as a country need to be seen as proactive on this issue.

    Notwithstanding the nonsense of reporting 2 individuals who are apparently jumping on a bandwagon, with ridiculous conjecture (seriously “wondering” if swimming on south shore gave her cancer ? What rubbish!), the WP article was less focused on bermuda and more on the issue of water pollution in general. A visible and concientious monitoring of our waters would counteract most of the adverse publicity. Government should also look into the European model of Blue Flag beaches.

  19. JUNK YARD DOG says:

    The best things in life are free until the Government finds out and taxes them.

    What percentage of our visitors vacation budget is paid out in taxes which go towards our social programs.

    That was a neat idea, increase taxi fares so people would take preference and ride the bus or walk, rather than hire a taxi. Mr Taxi owner be careful what you wish for.

    I hired a taxi in Antigua that had no front wind screen and the he let me drive it.

    5 people can ride in a car to St Georges for about $9.00
    5 people can ride the bus to St Georges for $9.00 each
    how many people can ride the bus to St Georges for $117.00 ?

  20. X man says:

    Now you can see what happens when Film Crews,Roving News Papers Reporters,Magazine Writers are capable of — and anybody else who could Bermuda on the spot. – why now!

    Don’t be suprized if you find and Artical in major US Newspaper
    about the Premier suing the Oposition Leader over comments made.

    It shows that we have to pick up our game!

  21. Looking in says:

    Thankyou US Consul.

    • Your point? says:

      The US Consul has a job to do. And it’s not to hide the island’s blemishes.

  22. Todd says:

    The US Consulate could have handled it better. Frankly, I think it was tasteless on his part. How much of a health threat is it really? Is it more of a threat to US visitors renting mopeds and driving on the left hand side of the road? Is he now going to issue a ‘Security Warning’ to his fellow Americans warning them not to rent mopeds in Bermuda?

    Nonetheless, we cannot afford to consume all of our energy in frustration toward the US Consulate despite his silly attempt at ‘protecting’ his people. We have to address the issue of dumping raw sewage into our oceans just as we have to address the issue of dumping cars, appliances and other bulky waste material into Castle Harbour in plain site of every arriving passenger at our Airport. I’m sure the folks who run our airport cannot be happy with Government’s decision on keeping this reckless practice alive. Nor can we as a people be happy with dumping untreated human and kitchen waste into something so beautiful and pristine as our ocean. It’s crazy. It’s environmentally irresponsible and we need to fix it.

  23. Terry says:

    Years ago the US Consulate played a major role. Research it.
    Today?
    Just another overseas appointment that gets paid well over $200,000 plus benefits.

    Bull hocky et al.

  24. Terry says:

    And the irony is the Consulate and Hanbury are what.
    Bermudians?

    I’ll take a dark and stormie please.

  25. Really says:

    I have travelled to the U.S. and at no point did I have the desire to swim in the ocean east coast or west coast. Their waters over there are far worse than on our shores. Has anyone tested their water quality? Wonder what the results would be. Sewage or not, Bermuda still has the cleanest, clearest water, and I will continue to swim here. :-)

  26. Former Union Member says:

    I would wish the US Consul would consider the American citizens who have lived in Bermuda for decades and call it our home before making statements prematurely. Apparently he is only concerned with US visitors.

    Bermuda needs to get this situation addressed.