Worthing Beach has once again been declared safe for bathers, as the awful stench which has been prevalent for several weeks now has also virtually disappeared.
And so confident were Minister of Health John Boyce and Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy of the water quality that they dived right in for a dip this morning in full view of the media, in a move designed to reassure Barbadians and tourists that the situation was nothing like what was being portrayed on social media.
Government created a storm when it announced over the weekend that it was closing Worthing Beach due to the poor quality of the water, with a number of potential visitors taking to the travel website TripAdvisor threatening to cancel their holiday travel plans to Barbados.
Residents and business owners on the south coast had been complaining for several weeks about raw sewage on the roads and sidewalks, and later, the beach.
One businessman with an apartment on Worthing Beach told Barbados TODAY on Friday that the awful stench and sight of faeces had been posing a threat to the businesses in the area, which is popular with tourists.
“The apartment that I am associated with is fully booked until April next year. It is located right below by the way of the flow of the current, where all of this crap going on. So whenever my tourist come out on the beach, they’re looking out and seeing water that is murky water, which is sewage coming out. That is not what they are paying hundreds of US dollars a night to come and enjoy,” he said.
The authorities have had a tough time convincing people that raw sewage had not seeped into the water, and as he announced this morning that the Environmental Protection Department had given the all clear for the beach to be re-opened to the public, Sealy lashed those he claimed were providing “negative publicity” to the situation because of “mischief” or ignorance.
“At no time was the beach threatened [by sewage],” Sealy proclaimed.
“Negative publicity is just that, negative. It is worse when it is negativity borne out of an absence of knowledge or understanding of the issue, or worse than that, mischief. Unfortunately, I think both are factored on this issue.
“This beach is where I am a couple mornings a week and this has been going on for many years. It is just unfortunate that people thought that they could capitalize on a natural part of this particular beach,” the minister said.
Sealy said what people had been noticing was the natural flow of brackish water from the Graeme Hall wet lands into the sea, and he accused the Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) of spreading public fear over the issue.
Opposition Leader Mia Mottley Monday led a team of BLP parliamentarians to the beach, from where she called on Prime Minister Freundel Stuart to take charge and clean up the mess.
“I felt I needed to do what had to be done in the face of opposition aspirants bringing people from miles away to try to whip people up into a frenzy for something that is natural,” Sealy stressed.
The Member of Parliament for St Michael South Central expressed hope that with the right public relations effort, such as this morning’s exercise, any damage to the country’s reputation would be quickly undone.
Meantime, Boyce admitted that his ministry had not done enough on social media to counter the negative stories, as he underscored the importance of Government using social media to correct misinformation.
“Because of the power of social media – and our task is of course to respond and to respond with the facts – we have to get on social media and put the correct story out there,” Boyce said.