Prime Minister Freundel Stuart is making it clear that Barbados is not entitled to any exemptions from issues such as the sewage spill on the island’s south coast.
Therefore, Stuart suggested to party supporters at a meeting of the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) St George South branch at Ellerton Primary School last night, the uproar over the crisis was misplaced.
There has been growing anxiety over the possible impact of the ongoing spill, particularly in the wake of travel advisories issued by Canada, the United Kingdom and United States, warning their citizens visiting Barbados to “take normal security precautions” while here.
The US further advised Americans to “avoid water activities in the affected areas” on the south coast between St Lawrence Gap and Hastings, and to “beware of sewage on the street”, and it issued a health alert last Thursday, warning that the tap water in the affected area was not fit for consumption.
However, Stuart told party faithful while many of the visitors to Barbados were no strangers to sewage problems in their own countries, Government critics here were trying to imply that Barbados ought not to experience similar issues.
“They give the impression that the visitors that come here are hearing about sewage treatment problems for the fist time, that they never heard about it any time in their lives before they came to Barbados. These things are routine and the Government of Barbados have been working around the clock to deal with that challenge.
“So we have a problem, a problem not unlike what was going on in Toronto, Canada not too long ago, a problem not unlike what is going in Fort Lauderdale, [Florida], a problem not unlike what is going on London, but you have some elements here in Barbados who like to give the impression that Barbados enjoys some special dispensation and that things could happen in any other part of the world but they shouldn’t happen here,” the Prime Minister said.
Seeking to dispel claims that it was his administration’s failure to maintain the plant which inevitably led to the worsening mess on the south coast, Stuart said that experts in the field had advised that no amount of precautions could prevent failures in the system from time to time.
“Sewage treatment plants will fail. They will fail from time to time and they will have problems from time to time. So there aren’t any precautions that you can take to create any perfect situation with any sewage treatment plant. [The experts said] ‘I did them in Canada and Jamaica and all over the place’ and the reality is that they will fail because human beings are working them,” Stuart said.
The ‘we are not alone’ theme was also echoed by DLP candidate for St Joseph Denis Holder, who took issue with Washington over the recent advisory.
Holder told the DLP meeting the US should first look in the mirror before attempting to speak on the issues affecting Barbados.
“You would think that these countries don’t have problems when it comes to sewage. Fort Lauderdale had sewage flowing about in their streets and their government had to take $200 million to address it. New York City had their issue with sewage, and they would have you think that little Barbados that is doing so well and is experiencing a problem in an isolated area, is having the problem all over. It is only on the south coast, a segment of the south coast . . . but they have taken it and blown it out of proportion,” Holder said.
Meantime, as the Barbados Water Authority (BWA) struggles to cope with the ongoing sewage overflows on the south coast, it has now decided to dig fresh injection wells in yet another attempt to stop the effluent from rising to the surface.
General Manager Keithroy Halliday said tonight the sinking of the wells should give the BWA time to repair effluent lines, construct a permanent bypass, or put in a permanent inflow line, which is the most likely option.
He said the recent connection of the south coast and Bridgetown systems was holding up well, but because of the age of the Bridgetown Sewerage Treatment Plant, it was being closely monitored to ensure that the additional supply of effluent did not cause any problems.
In the wake of last week’s alert by the United States embassy advising that the tap water was unfit for consumption, the BWA boss also reiterated that the quality of this island’s drinking water was safe, pointing out that the World Health Organization (WHO) has had no issues with the water quality.
He explained that 50 water samples were taken each week, far more than the eight mandated by the WHO, and the Environmental Protection Department had independently conducted 100 over several weeks.