Cave of disaster

dumping of molasses poses serious threat

Environmental authorities have so far refused to comment on what appears to a national disaster that has started to happen.

However, when a team from Barbados TODAY visited Coles Cave in St Thomas recently, they were first greeted by the awful stench of discarded molasses, which upon further investigation revealed a much bigger problem arising from the seepage of hundreds of tonnes of the tar-like substance into the cave, which up until recently has been a popular tourist attraction.

The molasses which is seeping through the roof of the cave.
The molasses which is seeping through the roof of the cave.
Fungus caused by the molasses in Coles Cave.
Fungus caused by the molasses in Coles Cave.
A stream of toxicity.
A stream of toxicity.

However, if anything, the cave is now proving a turn off for those who were previously attracted to the fact that “it has not been altered as much by man” as the nearby Harrison’s Cave — the island’s leading tourist attraction, located a mere 0.4 miles from the dumpsite Mount Wilton Plantation, where several containers of molasses have been dumped.

To make matters worse, the problem of dumping which has now affected Coles is not an illegal one.

Barbados TODAY understands that it has been done with the blessing of this island’s environmental protection authorities. Official sources further reveal that over the past 20 years, the waste material, which originated in the sugar terminal in the Bridgetown Port, has been “legally” discarded in containers from the terminal at the port.

However, those containers have become rusty with age, leading to the seepage of hundreds of tonnes of molasses into the cave.

Aware of the situation, authorities have been frantically trying to clean up the site, while lies on a watercourse and therefore poses a serious threat to the drinking water supply in the St Thomas area. On our second visit to the area in recent weeks, we observed several workmen with Bobcats attempting to clear the deluge.

When contacted today for comment on the situation, Minister of the Environment Dr Denis Lowe, who is overseas, directed us to his Permanent Secretary Edison Alleyne.

Director of the Environmental Protection Department Anthony Headley also directed us to Alleyne who could not be reached initially, but during a brief telephone conversation with Barbados TODAY this evening, he said he would need permission from the minister to speak to us.

But even when told that Lowe had directed us to him, Alleyne’s response was a terse: “Put it in writing”.

Nonetheless, based on our observations, the once crystal clear water at Coles Cave has now been transformed into a dingy brown oily sludge while the cave’s once magnificent rock formations are now stained with tar-coloured molasses and the air filled with the stench of poisonous hydrogen sulphide that can only lead to depletion the oxygen content in the water.

To make matters worse, bats live in some parts of the cave and where their guano has come into contact with the molasses a black and yellow fungus resembling seaweed has formed.

Already, several tour companies have stopped conducting excursions to Coles Cave due to the unsafe and toxic conditions there.

One tour guide, who was in the area at the time, complained bitterly to Barbados TODAY about the state of the rock formations, which now carry the indelible stain and stench of hardened molasses.

“We were taking some foreign exchange university students in the cave when we started to smell something stink, but we carried on thinking it was just some smell blowing through the gully.

However, when we got by the first small water in the cave, it looked and smelt like a septic system had burst into the cave and the tour got cancelled on the spot,” he reported.

An avid hiker, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, described the situation, as “an ecological disaster of epic proportions!

“This is a vein of our island and we have poisoned her. The consequences of this will unfold for years to come” he lamented, while one worker at a nearby farm in Walkes Spring, which has traditionally pumped water from the cave for watering agricultural crops, reported that after seeing molasses trucks heading up to the dump site at the Mount Wilton Plantation, “we see our water turn brown.

“It had us worried at first cause our leaves started to brown, then they catch back themselves. Now our holding container is filling up wid molasses and blocking our pipe. The boss gin have to pelt it away cause that can’t clean out just so,” he added.

The owner of the Mount Wilton farm also said he was saddened by the situation but surprised to learn that similar dumping was taking place on his land.

However, he told Barbados TODAY he had tried to no avail to stop the nasty dumping habit, while concluding that the damage had already been done.

Pointing to a large amount of molasses in a section of the gully, which was estimated to be more than a foot deep in some areas, another resident said he was hoping that it did not rain since it was on those occasions that the molasses was most easily transported into the cave.

And with the island’s premiere attraction located not far away, a warning was also sounded that Harrison’s Cave could sooner suffer the same contaminated fate as Coles, even though there is no such impact to report at this stage. (RG/MJ)

17 Responses to Cave of disaster

  1. Cherylann Bourne-Hayes
    Cherylann Bourne-Hayes March 31, 2016 at 3:58 am

    Seems like the island is imploding. One major problem after the other. Hmmmm

  2. jrsmith March 31, 2016 at 5:14 am

    Now this is how we are , lawless and selfish, the people /company who dump the molasses should be taken to court, Barbados has become an island ,where people just do what they like break any law, because the enforcement authorities don’t even care.. so long certain people is alright..

  3. Tony Webster March 31, 2016 at 6:17 am

    The Very , Right, and Honourable Minister of The Environment, could. and should, be asked for the fullest possible clarifications; details of what remedical actions are in train; the total cost to the Taxpayers; and what disciplinerary actions will follow. Ask him either IN, or OUT , of Parliament.

    I have visited Cole’s cave several times in past years, and I cannot believe how any Bajan couuld be so callous, particicularly so if official sanction was given to such madness.

    • Mac10 March 31, 2016 at 10:04 am

      Then fired along with the entire Environmental protection department. This should be criminal!

      Also does this explain why there are so many water outages in the St. Thomas are? Does the BWA know something we don’t???

  4. seagul March 31, 2016 at 6:23 am

    In all this confusion
    Could it be just an illusion
    Created from corruption
    Someone should be held accountable before our economic integrity is just………

  5. J. Payne March 31, 2016 at 7:08 am

    Barbados is getting worse and worse. ThNks for putting the spotlight on this issue Barbados Today!

  6. seagul March 31, 2016 at 8:52 am

    We can draw a pretty interesting conclusion from this.
    The judiciary leadership of this country is only interested
    in their fat pensions. So when the land is over run with rodents and litter, how can they be allowed to go on sucking our blood.

  7. Carson C Cadogan March 31, 2016 at 9:16 am

    The Minister of any Govt. Ministry signs off on decisions based on “Professional” advice from Civil Servants/Technocrats, as in this case The Environmental Protection Department.

    However when the Spaghetti hits the fan these same “Professional Civil Servants/Technocrats” run for cover pointing all inquiring persons to the Minister as though they had nothing to do with it.

    This happens across all Ministries the last glaring examples, The Bio-metric finger printing system and the BWA fiasco.

    • Sue Donym March 31, 2016 at 2:06 pm

      CCC must know that ministers are expected to at least review material and have some knowledge to deserve the title. In our system, ministers have powers that allow them to make many decisions without consultation AND gives them powers a lot like veto.

      So do we have the team for the times that you’re always touting or a bunch of mindless pen pushers?

  8. Andrew Rudder March 31, 2016 at 10:38 am

    What environmental illiteracy of a nation’s people? The disposal time, date and location of this mass of industrial waste should have been reported to the Sanitation Services Authority and the Ministry of Health. Officials in the Ministry of Environment should have had prior knowledge of the disposal of this industrial waste! Ethanol- alcohol and processed feeds for cattle and other farm animals could have been derived out of this bio-mass. Barbadians should have been more active in waste management and this shows internationally that we are in infancy stage of waste management. Purification and detoxification of the molasses could have been performed by the Ministry of agriculture. Origin of the molasses can be reviewed and site location advice from parties involved can be retrieved!

  9. Andrew Rudder March 31, 2016 at 10:47 am

    This story makes me feel as though I am an educated illiterate and on top of the world in this class of illiterates!

  10. Sue Donym March 31, 2016 at 1:33 pm

    We’re sadly so far behind even after all the publicly funded international conferences, seminars and information sharing events Not just with legislation, but with education, awareness and simply being considerate.
    Too many people seem to have the attitude of ‘not my property, not my problem’. In real life, that doesn’t work. I’m reminded of that old saying “we do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children” and we’re not providing for them very well

  11. jrsmith March 31, 2016 at 1:58 pm

    How can our forum from the people get our so call educated people and government ministers ,to seek the sense and logic displayed and aired by the people for the people of this electronic TODAY PAPER, Hail, hail to all..

  12. Sunshine Sunny Shine March 31, 2016 at 6:29 pm

    Barbados today please tell me what the heck is wrong with my post that you won’t allow it? There was much pertinent information in there concerning this environmental nightmare. Wow and thought your forum was different.

  13. islandgal March 31, 2016 at 7:13 pm

  14. islandgal March 31, 2016 at 8:13 pm

    So instead of selling it off cheaply or giving it away before it was spoilt they prefer to wait till it gets bad and dump it ??

  15. Darkman April 3, 2016 at 12:33 pm

    WELL !, WELL !, WELL!

    If you know that joke, you’ll also remember learning how this limestone island, filters some of the run off water from rainfall etc..

    And this filtered water ends up in the water table, to be chlorinated and pumped to our homes to be used for drinking, bathing washing etc.

    I guess by that molasses = rain water, so these professionals following this basic process we all learned at school, expect the limestone to filter the molasses leaving only water to enter our water table, and help fight the drought. WOW.


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