Faced with severe public criticism over chronic water outages and unreliable supplies, particularly to consumers in northern and eastern parishes, the state-run Barbados Water Authority (BWA) is now in for a major management shakeup.
Minister of Water Resource Management Dr David Estwick Thursday afternoon confirmed the management restructuring with the top posts being advertised, including that of General Manager, a position in which Dr John Mwansa is currently acting.
While Dr Estwick did not provide details, an official source told Barbados TODAY a non-national who was educated in Barbados but working in Trinidad and Tobago was expected to replace Mwansa, who has been acting as general manager for the past four years.
The source said it was now left to Mwansa to decide if he wanted to remain with the water company in his substantive post of manager of engineering. Both Charles Marville and Stephen Lindo have been acting in this position during Mwansa’s tenure in the top post.
The official pointed out however, that the irony of the shake-up was that the posts of manager of engineering, manager of projects, manager of internal audit and financial comptroller would all be scrapped and replaced by directors.
The official could not say what would be Mwansa’s fate, but noted that both Marville and Lindo may have to return to their substantive jobs as senior engineers.
“It also means that these would be reporting to persons [who are now] their junior, considering they may be replaced by such persons,” the source told Barbados TODAY.
In an apparent response to the recent public outcry over the seepage of raw sewage onto the streets and business properties on the south coast and the temporary closure of Worthing Beach in Christ Church over fears of contamination, the proposed restructuring will also introduce the post of manager of waste water, which is expected to go to Patricia Inniss.
“That will be the responsibility,” the official said when asked if Inniss would be in charge of sewage matters.
“I guess they are separating water and waste water,” he added.
Inniss, a biochemist and water quality expert, was hired by the BWA as far back as 2015 to be a key part of a multi-disciplinary committee to help the country avert a possible health crisis, particularly on the south coast.
In recent months, the water company has had to address a number of serious technical problems plaguing the South Coast Sewerage Treatment Plant in St Lawrence, Christ Church.
BWA Chairman Dr Atlee Brathwaite had told Barbados TODAY recently that Inniss had raised several issues which were likely to have “serious consequences”.
Describing the problems at the plant as sensitive, Dr Brathwaite said then that based on the recommendations in a memorandum sent to him by Inniss, he had to ensure that the BWA Board made available the required resources and manpower skills to deal with these urgent problems.
The dysfunctional nature of the sewage plant was brought to light by Opposition Leader Mia Mottley, who had read from Inniss’ report entitled Funds Are Needed for Our Collapsing Sewerage System when she addressed her Barbados Labour Party’s annual conference late October 2015.
“If funds are not urgently sequestered to correct the multiplicity of problems plaguing both our sewage treatment plants and their surrounding networks, we face the real possibility of their soon collapse,” Mottley had quoted the report as saying.
The report also revealed that the South Coast Sewerage Treatment Plant had been “virtually non-functioning” for over a year, as over 90 per cent of the sewage entering the plant was being diverted “from the influent pumps to the effluent pumps”.
The Opposition Leader also quoted the consultant’s reference to customer complaints to sewage plant workers.
“The last documented complaint I am aware of sent to the BWA on May 11th, 2015, from the Ministry of Health stated that sewage is contaminating the Graeme Hall swamp,” she read.
Officials at the Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary had declined to comment on the report, but when Barbados TODAY visited the nearby sluice gate on the beach side opposite the swamp in Worthing, Christ Church, the channel of water which flowed from the sanctuary and controlled by that gate appeared to be one solid green carpet.