A fresh attempt is being made to solve the worsening sewage crisis, with the Barbados Water Authority (BWA) admitting that interim measures to control the problem have failed.
Following a meeting today among top officials of the BWA, the Ministry of Health and the Environmental Protection Department, BWA General Manager Keithroy Halliday announced that 300-foot injection wells must now be dug as a matter of urgency as time was running out.
“The injection wells were part of what we had projected for the medium term and are now being brought forward as of necessity as much as the interim measures are no longer sufficient to contain the effluent as we would want, to keep the overflows to an absolute minimum,” Halliday told Barbados TODAY this afternoon.
“What is happening is that there is a worsening of the situation and because of what we see as additional water intrusion which adds to the existing challenge,” he stressed, adding that this had resulted in more back up than expected.
Faced with this dire situation, the water executive said the immediate rescue plan would now involve digging several deep emergency injection wells, which must however be done under special conditions prescribed by the Ministry of Health.
“The first test well that we are doing will allow us to look at things like permeability, stability . . . and based on that data . . . hydrological and geological data will then determine whether that location is appropriate and how we will then go about developing the well,” Halliday said, while revealing that digging of the test well would start within days just off the existing South Coast Sewerage Plant in the Graeme Hall area.
He said that the wells would allow the authorities to control or divert the effluent that is produced during the day in an effort to keep it off the streets.
“In diverting the effluent at peak times during the day, what we are doing is to minimize the circulating effect, which means there is less pressure on the inflow lines or less competition with the inflow coming in, and therefore that will allow us to maintain the levels a lot more reasonably.” he told Barbados TODAY, while assuring that “the deep injection wells go down to a point where there is absolutely no contamination of the aquifers or potable water.
“The injection wells go right down to the sea levels,” he explained.
The chief executive said the wells, which would be temporary, were also aimed at buying time to connect the permanent bypass.
Halliday also said Barbadians need not worry about any contamination of the potable water during the testing of the injection well because it would be constructed in a zone five area, where none of the drinking water source wells is located.
Acting Chief Medical Officer Dr Kenneth George confirmed that the Ministry of Health had agreed to the digging of the wells, starting with a test well, under conditions that would ensure the safety of the drinking water.
Dr George also revealed that Barbadian and United States officials would begin join testing of the drinking water at the homes of US embassy staff tomorrow, following a contentious medical alert issued by the Americans last month, advising that tests conducted at those residences, mainly in the sewage affected areas of the south coast, had shown elevated bacterial levels.
Meanwhile, the authorities are being asked to increase the frequency of the sanitizing of the areas on south coast that are affected by the ongoing sewage overflows.
Adrian Donavan, the spokesman for the residents, said once a day was far from adequate.
“There should be more sanitizing of the area before breakfast, before lunch, and dinner. It is now presently down in the morning. The sanitizing campaign should be increased,” Donavan told Barbados TODAY.
The community activist also repeated his recommendation for the temporary closure of businesses in proximity of the flowing sewage, as well as daily inspection of the residential properties.
Due to the potential health risks posed by the effluent on the road, Donavan also suggested the erection of signs to identify the “danger spots”.
“It is about time the authorities erect and strategically place signage along the affected areas informing both motorists and pedestrians of what they will face or what to expect,” he said, warning that decisive action was needed because this matter was being dealt with in a “callous manner” with no sense of urgency.
The community activist also said that residents in St Lawrence Gap were becoming “itchy” because a week ago, the western entrance had to be closed as a sewer “was acting up”.
“There are other properties along that stretch where there are signs of leakage. So we have come to a situation whereby friendship, business acquaintances and social partners should be put aside and let us deal with the issue at hand. The suffering has been going on for too long. Some businesses are still closed from December and are only hoping and praying that this be rectified,” Donavan stressed.