Community activist Adrian Donovan is calling on the Ministry of Health to immediately order the temporary closure of fast food outlets, restaurants and guest accommodations directly affected by the worsening sewage crisis on the south coast.
Donovan acknowledged it would be a painful move, but said it was necessary because the sight of faeces bubbling at the doorstep of restaurants was akin to “selling food from a portable toilet”.
Minister of Health John Boyce recently assured that food handlers were being constantly updated on the best techniques, while there have been suggestions that Government was exploring the options of footpaths for establishments in the affected areas.
During a press conference at the Ministry of Health on Culloden Road, St Michael last Thursday, Boyce said there had been no health related issues as a result of the sewage spill, which has been ongoing for over a year.
However, Donovan, who lives on the south coast, questioned whether it was healthy to allow the public to eat at establishments in the area, including in Hastings, Christ Church where up to this afternoon effluence could be seen flowing freely onto the street.
“These places need to cease operations immediately. The Ministry of Health needs to put up notices and serve directive on some of these properties. Some of these fast food restaurants should be closed; some of these tourist accommodations should be shut up and there needs to be some caution tape advising tourist where to walk. Businesses are going to have to feel some discomfort,” said Donovan, who spoke to Barbados TODAY this afternoon while visiting two guesthouses in Peronne Village, whose yards were littered with raw sewage.
The Trinidadian occupant of one of the apartments said he had no choice but to return home as the stench of sewage, along with mosquito infestation, was too much to bear.
Pointing to the example of Chicken Barn, which recently shut down its Worthing, Christ Church branch because of the mess, Donovan appealed to other handlers operating in close proximity to the compromised sewer caps to do the same for the sake of public health.
“This has gone past a national crisis, it is a catastrophe, it is a time bomb waiting to explode,” he exclaimed.
One of the outlets impacted by the sewage flow is Tapas Restaurant in Hastings.
Owner Alfredo Giovini maintained that food preparation at his establishment remained at the highest standard, even though he acknowledged that the optics were not good.
“It creates a perception of a health risk, but I cannot speak on this because I am not an expert. I can’t tell what risk will arise in the future but I can tell you that once you pass there you can smell it and you can see it. The question remains about what perceptions those smells will provoke in human beings,” Giovini told Barbados TODAY.
Despite Donovan’s call, he said there were no immediate plans to close his facility, although he did not rule it out in the not-too-distant future if Government fails to get a handle on the situation.
“We are definitely not 100 per cent, and it remains a serious problem that everybody sees. So we are taking it day by day and see what happens and we are working with the hope that the problem would ease on the street. If Government solves the problem we would be fine and everyone will stop talking about it, but if it takes another three months then that’s another story,” Giovini said.
In his latest update on attempts by the Barbados Water Authority (BWA) to address the problem, General Manager Keithroy Halliday said crews from the Wastewater Division were being overwhelmed with material that did not belong in the sewerage system.
Halliday did not identify the material, but told journalists at a news conference yesterday that it appeared to come from large hotels or guest houses.
He described the situation as “a national crisis”, and appealed to Barbadians to help the BWA get a grip on the problem by watching what they dump into the sewer.
“If it is that we are going to deal with this, and it is a national crisis, we need everyone to come on board and understand the only way we are going to get past this is for everyone to stop putting the type of material in the sewerage system that is creating havoc with our pump. This is expensive, this is frustrating, this is fatiguing all of our staff. We need your help,” he said.