Two months ago, Opposition Leader Mia Mottley raised the alarm over the South Coast Sewerage system, saying the situation was nothing short of a crisis which posed a serious threat to the health of workers and residents in that area.
Now, Government Minister Dr David Estwick is warning of an equally dangerous situation along this island’s west coast, which he says, if left untreated, could also erode the vital tourism industry, as well as endanger the livelihood of scores of fisherfolk.
As is the case in the south, the problem on the west coast is one of untreated domestic, commercial and industrial waste reaching the sea.
And Estwick is worried that it could jeopardize the beaches and coral reefs, which have made the area “golden” for tourists and locals alike.
He is therefore preparing to take the matter before Cabinet tomorrow with a view to getting the Ministry of Finance to give the urgent go-ahead to the Barbados Water Authority (BWA) to secure a loan of $600 million from the People’s Republic of China and the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Limited for the West Coast Sewage Project.
“I am hoping that at the next Cabinet meeting I can provide the information required and we should be able to start the West Coast Sewage Project sometime within the first six months of next year, as long as we have covered the regulatory requirements for Town Planning, EPD [Environmental Protection Department] and so on,” Dr Estwick told Barbados TODAY.
Emphasizing the critical importance of getting the project started, he referred to a recent study conducted on behalf of the Coastal Zone Management Unit (CZMU) by marine biologist Angelique Brathwaite.
He said the study shows that “the situation regarding the island’s coral reefs is now dire and all sectors need to come together to save them”.
As a result, Estwick said Prime Minister Freundel Stuart has already included the West Coast Sewage Project as a top priority for Chinese funding.
“The damage to the reef systems is coming about because of man-made insults like agriculrtural run-offs, pesticides, fertilizer etcetera, as well as agricultural waste . . . and then you are also talking about human waste,” said Estwick, who also explained that apart from those hotels which had a sewage treatment facility, “you are talking about pits and septic tanks for pits and all that sewage essentially going into the ocean causing severe damage to the coral systems”.
The primary objective of the proposed sewage project is therefore to reduce public health risks from domestic, commercial and waste water pollution, through the provision of a modern sewerage system, and to improve environmental conditions for residents and visitors.
It also aims to protect the coastal and marine ecosystems, particularly the reef system and its role in containing beach erosion.
Estwick disclosed that phase one of the project – costing $300 million – would see the decommissioning of the existing treatment plant and the construction of a sewerage treatment facility at Lakes Folly, Bridgetown, as well as collection systems from Porters, St James to the new Lakes Folly facility and upgrade of the Greater Bridgetown Collection System.
Phase two, which Dr Estwick said would cost another $300 million, would establish a tertiary treatment facility at Porters and collection systems from Shermans, St Peter to the tertiary plant at Porters, St James.
An upgrade of the South Coast Sewerage plant from a primary to a tertiary system is also in the works, which would allow it to treat waste.
The Minister said a bypass or link road will also be constructed to allow west coast residents access to their homes during the contruction phase.