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HWP operations resume; concern over environmental impact of fire

HWP Group chairman Don Mackenzie said the preservation of the company remains top priority as operations resumed three days after Monday's devastating fire.“Naturally there are still unanswered questions that will take time for us to resolve, but we're working hard on that too.

Automotive and cycle sales, mechanical service, parts and cycle service are all up and running again, although sales divisions are functioning on paper due to the destruction of the computer system.

Question marks continue to hang over the cost of damage, with the One Bermuda Alliance expressing concerns over environmental side effects.

Mr Mackenzie said in a statement: “This is a catastrophic event for HWP. The shareholders of HWP are completely focused on two priorities. Firstly, the preservation of HWP and therefore continuity of employment for our employees.

“The second priority is to serve our customers and to set customer expectations through effective and transparent communications. The patience and support of our customers, suppliers and the broader community are critical at this time. This is a difficult time for our company and we need to be pragmatic, positive and realistic.”

CEO Jonathan Brewin stated: “While we have massive challenges facing us, the HWP team has pulled together as a family and has worked selflessly to get us this far in such a short space of time.

“I would also like to thank everyone in the community who has offered their assistance and best wishes at this time.

“I am delighted to report that our sales divisions are fully functioning albeit on paper rather than our computer system. We respectfully ask for all those customers with orders or bookings to get in touch on our customer service hotline 295-5000.”

The fire is said to have hit the parts department most severely as it relies heavily on the computerised inventory to help locate items.

Customers wanting parts should visit the parts department on St John's Road so they can be helped in person.

Shadow Health Minister Kathy Michelmore questioned the safety of the water at nearby homes.

Senator Michelmore said in a statement: “The OBA recognises the HWP fire was a sudden, shocking occurrence and that the Health Department has issued public advisories about necessary action to protect home water supplies from soot and smoke contamination.

“Our main concern with the situation centres on the possibility that many residents downwind of the mid-afternoon fire did not block their roof downpipes as directed before the heavy rain on Monday night and Tuesday.

“These residents should be informed by the Department of Health and the Health Minister if water testing facilities are available, in light of the fact that the Government lab is not fully functioning. The public need to be informed as soon as possible about the quality of their tank water.”

Sen Michelmore questioned whether smoke-born contaminants could pose a threat to public safety.

“These tests can check for VOCs, polycyclic hydrocarbons, PCBs, dioxins, heavy metals and asbestos: whatever substances the Fire Department believes were physically present on the site and may have been transmitted by fire,” she continued.

“If the Government Lab is unable to provide analysis, we recommend the Health Department sample water from some of those homes directly in the path of the smoke plume. These water samples should be sent by courier, for a quick turnaround, to a US water testing facility.

“The information learned would enable officials to advise local residents and businesses as to whether they actually need to pump their tanks, especially after all that rain yesterday.

“Without testing, it is unlikely people will know whether they are at risk or not. People need to be assured about the safety of the water they use in their homes.”

Useful websites: www.hwp.bm, www.facebook.com/HWPGroup, www.oba.bm

Island Construction still works diligently to clean up the remains of the old HWP Group Body and Paint building. (Photo by Akil Simmons)

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Published August 11, 2011 at 2:00 am (Updated August 11, 2011 at 9:42 am)

HWP operations resume; concern over environmental impact of fire

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