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.
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.
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.