Weeks after calling for the heads of five Government ministers over the long running sewage mess on the south coast, former Minister of Health Elizabeth Liz Thompson is raising concerns about the possible impact of the problem on potable water and the overall health of residents and visitors to the area.
In a Facebook post which included a video showing what appears to be raw sewage, Thompson demanded to know whether Government had sought any advice from the relevant agencies, including the Pan American Health Organization, in assessing the level of public health threat caused by the worrying leakage of raw sewage.
She also raised concerns about the likely impact of the situation on drinking water, pointing out that “if the sewage is visible above ground and is bubbling up through any space available, it must be worse underground where water pipes are located”.
“Can the ministers of health, water resource management and environment indicate what type, level and frequency of random testing of the water quality of residential and commercial properties in the affected area is being conducted to determine if there is any intrusion of bacteria or other compromise of the potable water system?
“If no tests are being conducted of properties or beach quality, with comparisons of available data from the period before this crisis, would the Government indicate why not and when it is proposed to start?” she stressed, while pleading with Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler to give the Barbados Water Authority (BWA) and the south coast sewerage plant adequate resources to effect repairs and ensure proper maintenance of the sewerage system.
It was earlier this month that Thompson had told Barbados TODAY that Sinckler, as well as Minister of Health John Boyce, Minister of the Environment Dr Denis Lowe, Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy and Minister of Agriculture and Water Resource Management Dr David Estwick should resign or be sacked over their handling of the crisis, which began over a year ago.
Her Facebook post is a continuation of the pressure on the Freundel Stuart administration to act decisively to bring an end to the issue, for which Estwick has said there was no quick fix.
Since her call popular restaurant Chicken Barn has closed its Worthing, Christ Church branch, after losing a one-year battle against raw sewage flooding its compound.
In addition, the Worthing post office has been closed for what the postmaster general was quoted in a Barbados Government Information Service announcement as calling “an ongoing environmental problem”. However, Boyce has since confirmed that the indefinite closure was due to the sewage problem.
Thompson today said Chicken Barn’s closure was evidence that the issue also put businesses at risk.
And she called on Minister of Commerce Donville Inniss to take action to “help impacted businesses on the south coast and protect people from losing their jobs and livelihoods”.
“We are in the high season for tourism, we are approaching Christmas, businesses in the area are losing money and the health of Barbadians is at risk,” she said in the post.
“Given its denials and delays, when does the Government propose to take action, and what does it intend to do?”
The political consultant and former Barbados Labour Party (BLP) legislator said the situation was nothing short of a crisis, using a description that the BWA had used earlier this month while describing the ongoing overflow of effluent and the pungent smell, even as it was giving the assurance that work was being done assiduously to correct the problem.
“I use the word ‘crisis’ because that is the word used by the person who the media identified as having responsibility for management of the system and because that is what we have on our hands,” Thompson said.
“Much is at risk, including jobs, health, tourism, businesses and our national reputation. How long did the Government know there was a problem and what have they been doing about it, other than denying its existence and sending two minsters to bathe in the dirty water?” she asked in reference to a public relations stunt last year by Sealy and Boyce, who were seen diving right into the waters at Worthings Beach, in full view of the media, in a move designed to reassure Barbadians and tourists alike that at no time was the beach threatened by sewage.
Thompson recalled that BLP Leader Mia Mottley had raised concernS last year about the lack of proper maintenance of the south coast sewerage plant.
However, she said, despite warnings from Mottley of the risks to tourism, public health and the environment, the Opposition Leader’s caution was ignored.