The Barbados Water Authority today announced it is undertaking a $2 million repair of the South Coast sewerage system, following a leakage in recent weeks.
The problem resulted in effluence flowing onto the streets of the South Coast, affecting both residents and businesses of the popular tourist area.
General Manager of the BWA, Dr John Mwanza told a news conference at the Hilton Barbados Resort this morning that during the first week of November one of the effluent pumps failed, resulting in overflow in the collection system. The damaged pump was repaired, however there was another failure a week later, causing a similar overflow.
“Now what we have noticed over the years of operation of the plant is that when you get heavy rainfall the flow to the plant increases, which will mean that you’re getting some of that rainwater getting into the sewer system. Our treatment plant was not designed to handle sewage and storm water. It basically was only designed to handle sewage water.
“So when you get that added amount of storm water on top of that, the capacity of our effluent pumps can be exceeded, and the incident that we had on November 29th where we got six inches of rain within a two-hour period resulted in the water levels within Graeme Hall swamp rising to a point where some of the neighbouring properties were also being submerged and we had the increased flow into the sewer system,” he explained.
Mwanza said the BWA is adopting a multi-prong approach to the problem, including ordering new equipment which is expected to arrive within eight weeks.
“We have also embarked on an intensified flushing system for our sewer network. We’ll be flushing the system at night to try and get some of the grease out of the system. And for our sewer outfall we actually have divers working on the diffusers to clean the existing diffusers and then once we get the new diffusers which should be coming in January, the dysfunctional diffusers will be replaced by new ones…
“And the water authority has been working on that plant and maintaining that plant, but some of the equipment has reached an age where no maintenance is enough. For example the effluent pumps are now obsolete and we have to get new pumps. The pumps that we get, we want to get a variety where you could fit them back into position without having to cut any of the pipe work. And that is why you could not just go into a shop and find a replacement so easily. If we were getting back the same pumps as what is there, it would have been easy to get the replacement pumps quickly. But we now have to get pumps made to fit the purpose and that is why the delivery time for those pumps to replace the effluent pumps is about eight weeks,” he stated.
Mwanza added that the BWA is collaborating with the Ministry of Health and the Drainage Division to “ensure that we can manage the water levels in the [Graeme Hall] swamp to a point where they will not impact negatively the operations of the plant”.
He also admitted that the BWA has fallen short in its communications to the public since the problem surfaced.
“And so we are setting up a Facebook account and we will try and use social media to come to some of the issues we have not been able to address as eloquently as we could. But the truth of the matter is that we have been working,” he said.
Meanwhile Chief Executive Officer of the Barbados Tourism Investment, Stuart Layne, stressed that the work is being undertaken for Barbadians as well as visitors, and that the funds are available for the project.
“The parts have already been ordered and we are pleased to announce that there is no issue with funding. We actually have the cash to do this and we’re ready to pay the bills as they come in, so there’ll be no problems with this particular situation in a go-forward basis,” Layne said.
Earlier this week Government Senator Harry Husbands told the Senate that it would cost government $1 billion to fix the country’s sewerage system.