Six months after the controversy over bad smells reportedly caused by surrounding acacia trees, new complaints have arisen about a sewer-like smell affecting staff and students at the Combermere Secondary School in Waterford.
According to reports reaching Barbados TODAY and confirmed by president of the Barbados Secondary Teachers Union (BSTU), Mary Redman, teachers and students had been battling with the foul odour intermittently since the first week of school.
In addition, the report indicated some staff members and students had been experiencing headaches, rashes and hoarseness.
“I was made aware of the situation sometime last week and it is something which we are monitoring very seriously. I have been trying to get in touch with the Chief Education Officer [Karen Best] since last week to speak with her about this and other serious matters, but to no avail,” Redman said, even while acknowledging that Best had only just returned to office after being out of state.
When a team from Barbados TODAY visited the school premises today, there was a stench emanating from the playing field closest to the Waterford main road, and one staff member said the recurring smell had so far resulted in one classroom at the far end of the deputy principal’s office being moved.
However, the staff member, who did not wish to be identified, pointed out that the odour was currently not as bad as it was a week ago.
In the meantime, the BSTU president said she had received complaints as recently as Friday, but had been unable to visit the school then to experience it at
“I told the teachers to inform me the next time the smell occurred so that I could go an experience it myself. I got a call, which indicated that the smell had come back and that some students had fallen ill. However, I was unable to get down there that day,” she added, stating that based on what she had been told, the ordour was differed from the one attributed to the acacia trees.
However Redman expressed disappointment that the trees were not removed, while suggesting that by a process of elimination, authorities would have been one step closer to narrowing down the source of the recurring foul smells.
“I still believe that an epidemiological [study] still needs to be done. Up to now I have not seen the comprehensive report conducted on behalf of the Ministry of Education. However, if as they say the trees were the problem, just cut down the trees and by process of elimination we would know. The trees are not rare and as far as I am aware there are plenty of them around the island,” Redman insisted.
Earlier this year anthropologist Dr Lennox Honychurch expressed doubt that trees in question were the cause of the stench. He suggested that even though the acacia trees were known to exude a scent that could be considered “unpleasant for people” in the process of pollination, it was unlikely that they were the source of Combermere’s problems.
Anglican cleric Reverend Charles Morris, who heads the school’s History Department and has been teaching at Combermere for the past 34 years, had also previously stated that each time the odour problem was reported, a different reason were given.
“They said it was the wells, they said it was sewerage, they said it was grease traps and now they are saying it’s because of trees . . . there are too many inconsistencies,” Morris had complained.
Barbados TODAY made several attempts to contact the school’s principal Vere Parris and Minister of Education Ronald Jones. However, up to the time of publication, neither could not be reached for comment.