As authorities continue to battle the challenge of sewage spills on the south coast, environmental health officers are blanketing the affected area to ensure that public health is protected.
Officers attached to the Environmental Health Department of the Ministry of Health are canvassing from Top Rock to Hastings, Christ Church, on a daily basis addressing issues related to vector control and sanitation.
Deputy Chief Environmental Health Officer Ronald Chapman has urged residents and business owners to work hand-in-hand with his department.
“What we in the ministry want is to work closely with persons. We are not here to penalize anyone. We are here to ensure that you can do business in an environment that is safe and we are mainly here to ensure that when you do business that the public’s safety is paramount.”
He advised food establishments in the area to be especially vigilant where pests were concerned, particularly roaches, flies and rodents.
“Given the situation that we are in, it is possible for an employee or a patron to come into your premises after having stepped into sewage water, so then your floors are dirty. An insect or other pest will then run through that and on to your preparation surfaces.”
Therefore, he said, it was very important that a good pest management programme was in place, whether it was a do-it-yourself programme or a professional pest management company.
The Deputy Chief Environmental Officer identified three main steps which needed to be followed to get rid of rodents – “build them out, starve them out and kill them out”.
He explained that “to build them out” basically meant that buildings should be constructed or retrofitted in such a way as to prevent access; and “to starve them out” required that their access to food be restricted by ensuring that areas were properly cleaned and there were no bits of food left lying around. “Kill them out” referred to the setting of glue boards, snap traps or poisons, whichever was more applicable to the particular environment.
He also stressed the importance of cleaning and sanitizing workspaces in the morning before work began and at night when the business day ended.
“Cleaning for us in environmental health, basically means the removal of physical dirt, that is, dirt you can actually see. Sanitization has to do with the destruction of bacteria or germs to a level where they will not be able to cause disease.”
Chapman emphasized that sanitizers needed to be of the correct concentration and left in contact with the surface areas for a minimum of two minutes in order to be effective.
He recommended sanitizing with non-scented chlorine bleach because “it is effective, relatively cheap and accessible”.
The concentration which should be used for structural and contact surfaces such as doorknobs, telephones and counter tops, as well as plates and cutlery, is one tablespoon of chlorine bleach to one gallon of water, the health professional advised.
“However, if you have sewage water running on your front steps or around your building and your employees or patrons are stepping into it and entering your premises, then we would want you to sanitize using what we call a one in ten chlorine bleach solution.”
This, he explained, represents one part chlorine bleach to nine parts water.
“So, if you are using a cup of chlorine bleach, you would use nine cups of water. If you’re using a thimble full of chlorine bleach, you would use nine thimbles full of water. This method will work well on your floors, around the building and any area that has come into contact with sewage.”
Chapman disclosed that when using chlorine bleach solution, there was no need to rinse afterwards. Surfaces and equipment should be left to air dry, he instructed.
He also addressed issues related to the proliferation of culex mosquitoes in the affected area. This problem, he said, originated on the periphery of the Graeme Hall Swamp, where some of the sewage water had settled and, as a result, changed the nature of the swamp water in that particular area.
“That water has now become dirty and as a result allows for culex mosquitoes to grow.”
This mosquito, he explained, was not a vector in Barbados since none of the diseases associated with it existed here.
“However, it is a pest and it causes a bit of discomfort, especially at night when you are out in the open.”
He advised that persons protect themselves by wearing long-sleeved clothing and covering exposed skin with a repellant containing DEET. For small children, he recommended that citronella oil be used instead of repellant.
“A couple of drops of citronella oil can be mixed with normal hand lotion and applied to the child’s skin. This will give 45 minutes to one hour of protection, after which you have to reapply,” Chapman stated.
The department continues to address the mosquito proliferation by treating the areas of stagnant water where the mosquito is breeding, as well as conducting fogging exercises to reduce the adult population.