Minister of Health John Boyce is distancing himself from statements by fellow senior Democratic Labour Party (DLP) legislators, Minister of Industry and Commerce Donville Inniss and Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Education Senator Harry Husbands, on the ongoing sewage crisis.
Inniss last week told students at West Terrace Primary School someone must be held accountable for the effluent bursting through manholes and affecting residents and businesses on the south coast, while Husbands said in the Senate, also last week, that it would cost Government $1 billion to fix the entire system.
However, Boyce suggested last night his colleagues did not know what they were talking about.
“You don’t hear me too often with them kinda mouthings, do you? I like to know what I am speaking to most of the time. You have to ask these gentlemen these questions,” he said in response to requests from the media for a comment on the statements.
Boyce last night addressed a DLP branch meeting at Lester Vaughn Secondary School, where he conceded the sewerage treatment plant from which the problem originates should have been serviced years ago.
However, when pressed by the media to comment on the issue of responsibility raised by Inniss, the Minister of Health said: “I think you should ask the Minister of Commerce that. I have certainly tried to outline the agencies associated with the operation to the plant, environment and health, and how they are working together.”
He was no less emphatic in deflecting queries about the $1 billion cost revealed by Husbands in the Senate.
“I saw that too, but I didn’t respond to that. You would have to ask Senator Husbands.
“Maybe in the concept of putting sewage plants right around the island, maybe that is where Harry would have been going, over the long term.
“That is the kindest I can be to that comment,” Boyce said.
Acting General Manager of the Barbados Water Authority John Mwansa told a news conference on Saturday it would cost $2 million to repair the plant.
In the meantime, Boyce is maintaining that Barbados’ beaches are safe.
He has also reported that a special team is currently ensuring that sewage spills on the south coast are either reduced or stopped entirely.
“I am happy that the scientific readings, reported by the technical team indicate that there is no challenge to our health by the waters on Worthing Beach, or in any beach in Barbados,” the minister said.
Assuring that checks on the quality of sea water will continue, Boyce said, “we will make sure that the public health laboratory in Barbados, and anywhere else that we need to send these samples, will constantly be in a position to check these samples to make sure that all is well.
“So don’t let nobody create no fear, and no panic,” he stressed, pointing out that there were many areas along the island’s coast where water was allowed to run off into the sea.
“Worthing is not the only place in Barbados where water runs off from the land into the sea, the extent may vary in different areas,” he said.
The Worthing area recently featured in the news as a trouble spot because of run-off from the nearby Graeme Hall swamp, which officials said was water but residents claimed was effluent spilled from the malfunctioning nearby sewage treatment plant that had discoloured the sea.
The minister however expressed happiness that a technical team was proceeding with plans to fix the malfunctioning plant.
“We are pleased about the fact that the repairs at the sewerage plant are underway; that the management of the existing system will ensure that the spillage is kept to a minimum, or completely eliminated; that the Barbados Water Authority, the Ministry of Health, and the Environmental Protection Department work hand in hand to ensure that in the event of any similar situation . . . there will be corrective action.”
He added, “there will be sterilization going on, and there will be clean-ups wherever necessary”.