As the public outcry over the worsening south coast sewage mess intensifies, two frustrated business operators today said they were ready and willing to take legal action against the state-run Barbados Water Authority (BWA) for losses incurred over the past year.
This is in keeping with the free legal advice dished out to them this afternoon by Queen’s Counsel and Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) candidate for Christ Church South Ralph Thorne, who strongly advised the affected residents and businesses to seek legal redress, amid the out-of-control situation, which now poses a health hazard.
“I am ready to take legal action along with other businesses and residents,” said businessman Ray George, who has been forced to shut down his catering company at Worthing, Christ Church due to the sporadic overflows of effluent, which have flared up at various points over the past 12 months.
However, he made it clear that he was not about to mount a legal challenge on his own but said he was quite amenable to being part of a class action suit against Government.
“I can’t do it on my own,” he said, while complaining that quite apart from the impact on his commercial operations, life for him and his wife was simply unbearable as they were now virtual prisoners in their own home.
In fact, reporters were able to experience first-hand their misery as George’s wife sought to beckon photographers to her home, but this proved impossible due to the amount of sewage water that is currently settled in front of their residence.
With the situation as it is, George said he was forced to use a man-made hole to get in and out of his home.
He also told reporters that his wife had been experiencing frequent bouts of unexplained diarrhea and itching.
“For the last three weeks we have been going to the doctor and taking blood tests. It’s not good, it’s not good at all. . . . There is a virus in [her] system.
“We trying our best to see what we could do. [but over] the last two weeks we spent over $1,000 in blood tests and all kind of tests,” an emotional George told reporters.
Another upset resident, Carey Plant, said he and his wife feared the impact that the situation was having on the country’s vital tourism sector. However, businessman, Keith Turton, who owns apartments on the south coast, was more concerned about the impact the situation was having domestically and said he had no problem with being part of a class action suit against the BWA.
In fact, Turton was adamant that something had to done about the awful stench which he said was getting worse by the day.
“I am in Dover and I can smell it,” he told reporters immediately following a press conference called by Thorne and two other BLP Christ Church candidates outside the Worthing Post Office this afternoon to address the chronic sewage leaks.
Describing it as a “national disaster”, Christ Church West candidate Dr William Duguid, who is a dentist by profession, warned of serious health implications not only for those who live and work in the area, but those who traverse the Worthing and Hastings districts.
“This is a major health problem. Exposure to sewage gives you a significant risk of gastroenteritis, Hepatitis A, significant enterovirus problems, significant retrovirus problems, estracoli bacteria and a whole host of problems with diarrhea and all sorts of issues that can be a major health issue,” he said, adding that it was small wonder Barbados was experiencing serious gastroenteritis problems.
“When people are walking by, people are being splashed. You get the bacteria and the virus on your car and your car wheels and you carry that home. A child touches it and they get all sorts of problems, and this has been an issue that has been going on for 12 months,” Dr Duguid stressed.
While pointing out that the sewage concerns were first raised by Opposition Leader Mia Mottley back in 2015, Dr Duguid noted that there had been several pronouncements by Government officials since then that the problem had been fixed. Yet, he said, it continues.
“This is no longer crisis management. This is disaster management, and it is an absolute disaster for the residents and the businesses in this community,” he said.
Echoing the sentiment expressed by former BLP minister of health and the environment Elizabeth Thompson in a Barbados TODAY interview yesterday, the BLP’s Christ Church East candidate Wilfred Abrahams said current Minister of Health John Boyce, Minister of Water Resource Management Dr David Estwick and Minister of the Environment Dr Denis Lowe should all be sacked over the Government’s failure to bring the situation under control.
However, unlike Thompson, he did not recommend firing Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler or Minister of the Tourism Richard Sealy on account of the sordid mess.
Nonetheless, Abrahams said he had no confidence in the BWA’s diagnosis of the problem.
“This is not one we can delay until after elections. This is not one we can kick down the road. This is one that needs a fix and needs a fix now. This is a serious environmental disaster.
“And while we are waiting on that, somebody needs to come and advise how to deal with this . . . what precautions should people be taking. The chief medical officer needs to come to the public of Barbados and advise them. Has it contaminated the ground water? What are the possible areas of concern? What should people who have to use this area be doing?” said Abrahams, who is also an attorney at law.
Today, with the awful stench of sewage ever present, and strong signs of overflows still visible in patches along the streets, Thorne urged residents and businesses to contact their attorneys with a view to taking legal action against the BWA, which is responsible for the overall management of the sewage system.
“I would suggest that business houses, not only residents, business houses should contact their lawyers,” he said, adding that “it is clear that BWA is not intending to do anything and the first order of business resides with courtesy.
“I think they are obligated to have some courtesy and tell Barbadians what stage we are at and how long this problem is going to persist. They haven’t done that. . . . [and] I am inviting residents and businesses who are directly affected by this scourge, to speak to their lawyers as urgently as tomorrow and get a letter off to them [BWA],” he said.
He explained that in the same way the Ministry of Transport and Works is culpable when drivers’ vehicles are damaged by potholes, the BWA was also culpable with respect to the sewage leaks, which he said had caused people on the south coast to suffer economic and financial losses as well as loss of good health.
Just two days ago, Estwick had reported that the country was seeking outside help in a bid to resolve the situation.
At the time, he said he had already apprised Prime Minister Freundel Stuart of the seriousness of the situation. He also said he would seek the support of Cabinet for the construction of an ultramodern sewage plant to replace the current system, which he described as aged.
Health Minister John Boyce had also indicated to Barbados TODAY on Tuesday as he prepared to enter Parliament, that his ministry was working to identify the trouble spots in an effort to keep people away from them while Sealy said the BWA had advised that it was doing all it could to address the situation.