The Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) said it was running out of patience with the Barbados Water Authority (BWA) over the ongoing sewage problem along the island’s south coast, and it is demanding that the utility rectifies the problem swiftly.
In fact, BHTA Chairman Roseanne Myers today said it was not enough for the BWA to apologize as it did over the weekend to Barbadians in general, and in particular, to Chicken Barn, which said it was forced to close its Worthing, Christ Church restaurant because of the ongoing mess.
What is needed, Myers told the association’s quarterly meeting at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre this afternoon, was immediate action to flush out the problem once and for all.
“A year after standing here and talking about problems with long waits at the airport and problems with the sewage system on the south coast I was so disappointed, as many of us are, with the situation that we find ourselves in,” the frank speaking Myers said.
The sewage mess dates back well over a year and has moved from an occasional nuisance in a few areas to a downright health hazard along the south coast.
The BWA has announced on several occasions that the problem has been fixed, only for it to re-emerge even worse than before.
Last December, Chief Executive Officer of the Barbados Tourism Investment Inc (BTI) Stuart Layne announced that some $2 million had been allocated to purchase and install several pieces of equipment to address the challenges at the south coast sewage plant.
Back then Layne, who had appeared at a news conference with then BWA Acting General Manager Dr John Mwansa, had promised that the equipment had already been ordered and would “take eight to ten weeks – eight weeks for importation and two weeks for installation”.
At that time Mwansa had also said the new equipment that had been ordered included effluent pumps to replace obsolete ones.
He had also said the BWA had embarked on an intensified flushing system, and would be flushing the system at night, while divers would clean the existing diffusers until new ones that had been scheduled to arrive here in January of this year, were installed.
However, nothing has been heard about any of these plans since, and it is not immediately clear if any of the equipment had arrived.
And a year later, General Manager Keithroy Halliday has been forced to apologize “not only in respect to Chicken Barn, the residents and businesses in the affected areas, but to Barbados on a whole,” as the issue continues to haunt residents and visitors.
And while Myers today said she had accepted the apology, she demanded better management of the problem, suggesting that the state-owned corporation needed to operate with a greater level of transparency.
She also called for a clear short, medium and long-term strategy to include the involvement of stakeholders in the process.
“We are out there spending money and time and energy and we are promoting these wonderful brochure pictures, wonderful HD [high definition] video and then the reality hits us on the ground. We as Barbadians we can do better and we have to do better.
“The Barbados Water Authority has said they are sorry, and I think that is important, but you can be sorry and don’t be sorry only. We have to hear what the long-term plans are, and we have to hear what the short and medium term plans are,” she said.
Pointing out that the viability of some BHTA members was under threat as a result of the situation, the tourism official urged the BWA to demonstrate that it was serious about finding a lasting solution.
“You should never pass the street and see a manhole bubbling without seeing somebody out there looking as though they are washing down, sanitizing and cautioning people. That is how you manage the problem on the ground . . . So we accept the apology but what it now require is much more,” Myers said.
“We are at a stage now that we are accepting that we need help, but one does not wait until the boat starts to sink and the life raft also has in a leak to determine that we need help, and I think that is where our issue is,” she added.
Meanwhile, Rudy Grant, the BHTA’s chief executive officer, described the development as “disturbing”, adding that it highlighted a number of health and financial risks “which could be devastating to us”.
“It is evident that a new sewage treatment plant is required or a substantial refurbishment of the existing plant is needed. This type of solution is not short-term and therefore a more immediate short-term remedy is required. The BHTA has indicated its willingness to work with the BWA to eliminate such hazardous challenges,” Grant said.