A senior water management official made the stunning admission today that the south coast and Bridgetown sewage systems are on the brink of a disastrous collapse.
The official, who spoke to Barbados TODAY on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the subject, all but confirmed assertions by Opposition Leader Mia Mottley of faulty diffusers that had not been maintained in over seven years and that Government had ignored an offer from the Industrial Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) to finance rehabilitation of both systems, and to build one for the west coast.
According to the source, the entire sewage outfall at the Bridgetown treatment plant is about to fall apart.
“Of great concern is that only one of the two digesters is working and this has been so for years. The one is working overtime and if it fails the entire plant fails. The entire sewage outfall to sea is about to collapse,” the official said, adding that it was so bad, only two of the 14 sewage outfall diffusers were visible while the others were buried under materials and sand.
“The plant to produce chlorine to kill bacteria is not working, the effluent pumps and electrical systems are on their last legs [and] the unchlorinated effluent with high bacterial contamination that should be going out to sea via the outfall is now being put in the nearby Trevor’s Way located adjacent to the Bridgetown Port.”
The Bridgetown plant located at Lakes Folly was old and in serious need of repair, it processes more than five times the sewage it was designed to handle and several major components of the plant are not functioning, the official told Barbados TODAY this morning.
“A plan of action to do a situation analysis and to determine further action is being undertaken [for the Bridgetown Sewage Treatment Plant],” the source revealed, even while stressing he was unaware of any equipment being ordered for this plant.
On the south coast plant, which was at the heart of a recent sewage mess due to stench emanating from effluent overflow, the source said all of the components of the plant had failed and untreated sewage was now being pumped around the south coast plant and out to sea.
He confirmed that Cabinet had approved the west coast sewerage project, as well as the Chinese contractor to execute the project.
“The Industrial Commercial Bank of China advanced a term sheet to fund the project in 2014. The Government did not act. The Ministry of Agriculture again advanced the project to Cabinet which was again approved in 2015 and this time agreed to phase the project with phase 1 being the rebuild of the south coast sewage plant and Bridgetown sewage plant. Again no action,” the upset management source said.
“How can you be building hotels on the south coast and in Bridgetown when the entire Bridgetown and south coast sewage plants are outdated and dilapidated? These plants need urgent attention. These plants have to be taken to tertiary capacity.”
Mottley had told a BLP meeting at Top Rock, Christ Church last month that Government had failed to acknowledge a proposal made two-and-a-half years earlier by the Chinese bank for $200 million, 85 per cent of the cost for building of a west coast sewerage plant, a Bridgetown upgrade, and a south coast sewage treatment upgrade for the plant here.
She said then the proposal was valid for 12 months up to August 2015, but, “the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China has never received a response from the Ministry of Finance in relation to that term sheet for the sewage treatment plants of Barbados”.
Today, the management source said ICBC had approved $300 million for the sewerage projects, emphasizing the lack of action by Government.
When contacted for a comment Minister of Water Resource Management Dr David Estwick told Barbados TODAY: “I would simply say that I will speak to management on the matter as a matter of urgency and do whatever the ministry can do rectify the present issues. I am concerned, but out of fairness I must engage the management of the new waste water division recently established.”
Meanwhile, for businesses and residents on the south coast, life has seemingly returned to normal.
However, one business owner is keeping his fingers crossed in the hope that things remain the way they are right now.
“We haven’t had a reoccurrence and that’s a good thing. My hotel will be full this weekend. There’s bad weather in the UK right now so a lot of tourists are coming down,” said the business owner who requested anonymity.
“We haven’t had much bad weather since then so maybe that’s why it died down. We will see what happens eventually, but in time I hope that everything is sorted out. But so far, at least some positive has come of the situation,” he added.