The Ministry of Health’s environmental health division is working closely with the Barbados Water Authority (BWA) to ensure that the quality of drinking water and sea water along the south coast remains safe for human consumption amid ongoing sewage leaks in the area.
Deputy Chief Environmental Health Officer Ronald Chapman gave this assurance yesterday while acknowledging that “there were concerns about ‘back siphonage’, which is when sewage gets into the water system if the water pressure is too low.
“Now to ensure that wasn’t happening, we contacted the Barbados Water Authority and implemented three specific measures. First, the BWA sent a team to the entire area to ensure there were no leaks or bursts along the mains or the pipes connecting homes and businesses to the system. Then, we asked them to increase the amount of chlorine in the water, so that if something happened the higher level of chlorine would kill any bacteria or viruses that got into the water, and we carry out systematic testing of the water twice a week.”
Chapman said that so far “our chlorine residual levels have been well above the required standards for bacteria and viruses, which means that our water is safe for drinking and for bathing”.
He added that despite pressure in some circles to close down all the food businesses along the south coast, “any decision we make has to be based on pure science.
“If it is a situation where your staff and employees have to walk through sewage, or sewage is flowing into the building, then we would have no choice but to close the business. However, we believe the current situation is one we can work around,” he added.
On another note, the Senior Environmental Health Officer for the southern division, John Watts, said that the Ministry had resumed its fogging programme in the Graeme Hall area owing to a growing Culex mosquito population.
In response to complaints that the fogging seemed ineffective, Watts said: “We have asked all of our officers to get off the truck and walk onto the properties with the fogging machine to carry out the process on a more individual level, especially when it comes to larger properties like hotels. In fact, some hotels have invested in their own fogging equipment and at least one establishment does it twice a day.”
Their comments came during a workshop on Food Safety held at the Pan American Health Organization’s Dayrell’s Road headquarters aimed at owners of restaurants, supermarkets and hotels along the south coast. It was a refresher course that, in the words of Dr Leslie Rollock, senior medical officer of health for the northern division, “will help you ensure you have the necessary procedures in place so that if any problems occur, you will know you have done your part to mitigate them”.