Clean-up ordered

Govt appoints committee to deal with sewage plant mess

Faced with having to address a number of serious technical problems plaguing the South Coast Sewage Treatment Plant in St Lawrence, Christ Church, the state-run Barbados Water Authority (BWA) has set up a new multi-disciplinary committee to help the country avert a possible health crisis, particularly on the south coast.

Government employees have started the clean-up.
Government employees have started the clean-up.

The committee has been given a timeline because “a number of issues thrown up [by Government consultant Patricia Inniss] are serious, and they can have serious consequences”, according to BWA chairman Dr Atlee Brathwaite.

“So yes, they have been given a timeline and they have been told how important their task is. I think they are working on it.”

Describing the issues at the plant as sensitive, Dr Brathwaite told Barbados TODAY this morning that based on the recommendations in the memorandum sent to him from biochemist and water quality expert Inniss, he now has to ensure that the BWA Board makes available the required resources and manpower skills to deal with these urgent problems.

The dysfunctional nature of the sewage plant was brought to light by Opposition Leader Mia Mottley, who quoted from Inniss’ report entitled, Funds Are Needed for Our Collapsing Sewerage System, when she addressed her Barbados Labour Party’s (BLP) annual conference late last month.

“If funds are not urgently sequestered to correct the multiplicity of problems plaguing both our sewage treatment plants and their surrounding networks, we face the real possibility of their soon collapse,” Mottley quoted the report as saying.

The report also revealed that the South Coast Sewage Treatment plant had been “virtually non-functioning” for over a year, as over 90 per cent of the sewage entering the plant was being diverted “from the influent pumps to the effluent pumps”.

The Opposition Leader also quoted the consultant’s reference to customer complaints to sewage plant workers.

“The last documented complaint I am aware of sent to the BWA on May 11th, 2015, from the Ministry of Health stated that sewage is contaminating the Graeme Hall Swamp,” she read.

Officials at the Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary declined to comment on the report, but when a Barbados TODAY team visited the nearby sleuth gate on the beach side opposite the swamp in Worthing, Christ Church, the channel of water which flows from the sanctuary and is controlled by that gate appeared to be one solid green carpet.

Stagnant water has been backing up and is now  covered with a mass of ‘live’ water plants and garbage.
Stagnant water has been backing up and is now covered with a mass of ‘live’ water plants and garbage.
Backed up contaminated water flowing from Graeme Hall Swamp.
Backed up contaminated water flowing from Graeme Hall Swamp.

The stagnant water which was covered with a mass of ‘live’ water plants and garbage seemed not to have been released into the sea for months or maybe years, because all the normally moveable joints of the gate are rusty and disintegrating.

Men from the Sewage Division and Ministry of Transport and Works were on hand clearing the area around the channel when the Barbados TODAY team arrived at the scene.

Only on Sunday, Minister of Health John Boyce admitted that something was wrong at the South Coast Sewage Treatment Plant, but he blamed the former BLP administration for the problems, accusing it of years of neglect.

And today, BWA chairman Dr Brathwaite said that the problems were the result of its physical condition, which he said were “generational”.

While steering away from commenting directly on whether any unresolved problems at the plant could adversely affect the island’s tourism product, especially on the south coast, the BWA head noted that any sewage system that was not functioning properly could be a threat to the health of Barbados as a whole.

He said it was the water company’s intention – and that of the Government – to do everything possible to avoid this from happening, including a review of existing plants and looking at sewage systems in other countries.

But in spite of the assurances, at least one major player in the tourism business is expressing fears that the “leaking” South Coast Sewage Plant could hurt the product along that belt.

“That is going to destroy our tourism. It is a sensitive matter but that leak is going to affect all the [hotel] properties along here [referring to the south coast],” said the head of one of the island’s attractions who asked not to be identified because of the nature of their business.

6 Responses to Clean-up ordered

  1. Tony Webster November 6, 2015 at 6:20 am

    Wow…some novel thinking at last: Whenever the “stuff” hits de fan…appoint a committee to ‘deal” with it. Then “the committee” can be blamed, and not the ministry actually responsible!

    Come to think of it…the folks on Bay Street cud also appoint a committee to design a racehorse…or to create an epidemic of green shoots suddenly sprouting all bout the place ( as in Economic Advisory Committee)

    Remind me: do we not already have a “multi-discplinerary Committee …dat meets every Thursduh?

  2. James Franks November 6, 2015 at 8:01 am

    Quit, quite disgusting and could lead to very serious health issues on the Island.

    Stop the talking, time for action.

  3. Big Brown November 6, 2015 at 8:20 am

    Thank you Mia for drawing this matter to the country’s attention. God only knows what would have happened if you didn’t since the problem was already a year in the making.

  4. jrsmith November 6, 2015 at 9:51 am

    This is so tin pot, This government was in power long enough to put this matter right. blame all the politicians from both party’s , the problem with the sewage was there for some time. don’t these people care as to the regards the health problems this can cause.. there are all worst than school boys, this unit belongs to island Barbados , Barbados LTD, not the (DLP) or (BLP) if they continuously want to play school kids ,that can easily be done having a game of dominoes at the local rum shop.

    I think it would be better off for Barbados , if we ship this lot of politicians out some where, far like to mars, and find the same replacement from that said planet. We might stand a better chance.

  5. Sue Donym November 6, 2015 at 10:57 am

    Forget the committee, we have a ‘sleuth gate’ on the spot. On the other hand, if we had a functioning sluice gate, I suspect that we could spend time examining the facility and working on solutions rather than working on plane reservations to look at sewage systems in other countries.

    Interesting though, that Minister Boyce knew of the 15 year neglect of the plant and was happy to further neglect it during his tenure, only managing to get some equipment on site after disclosures by the opposition.

    But if you decide to stick with the committee idea, I want to humbly suggest you include people in the disciplines of common sense, regard for public health and professional integrity.

  6. ian brathwaite November 6, 2015 at 2:05 pm

    It would seem to me that implementing “Back Flow Preventers” at these discharge locations would help to alleviate some of the matter from returning and becoming stagnant.


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