A great injustice was recently done to Barbados. And while the country has been defended in some quarters, the tone of responses from others has been most instructive. Barbadians who can put aside their political allegiances, ought to examine impartially what was written in a British newspaper earlier this month, connect the dots, and ask two simple questions: Why? And, why now?
Writing in England’s Telegraph newspaper, journalist Julia Bradshaw gave a rather unflattering picture of Barbados. She made the sewage problem in a minute area of the parish of Christ Church – the south coast – a macrocosm of the Barbadian experience. Indeed, to quote her: “Barbados stinks. It really does.” Miss Bradshaw was rightly castigated in many quarters. Some, not surprisingly, gloated at her utterances. Many ignored the fact that Barbados has 11 parishes and that the south coast sewage problem was not a microcosm of this island. Barbados does not stink. It really does not.
But of greater interest is not what Miss Bradshaw said, it is what she did not say. We will be the first to state that the problems on the south coast need to be solved as a matter of urgency and we have no doubt that they will be solved. But the problems there were not created by the Democratic Labour Party, or the Barbados Labour Party, the United Progressive Party or Solutions Barbados. They are as a result of indiscriminate usage and an over-burdening of the system. In other words, Barbadians, through their disposal practices and the volume of those disposals, are responsible for the sewage problems on the south coast.
But we digress.
In 2014 residents of Reading, England, were faced with a deluge of sewage that flowed under their homes and into their gardens. It caused a major uproar in areas such as Berkshire and Lower Earley. However, a search of British newspapers has turned up no complaints or expressions of concern by Miss Bradshaw. There has been no outrage expressed by this writer over reports that annually there are
300,000 sewer blockages in England that create anxieties for millions of householders.
According to data provided by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), raw sewage floods into rivers at thousands of sites across England and Wales harming wildlife and putting human health at risk. Reports are that half of the overflow sites pump sewage into rivers at least once a month and 14 per cent of them at least once a week. However, a search of British newspapers turned up no complaints or expression of concern from Miss Bradshaw.
Official data from British authorities indicate that a total of 1,902 pollution incidents were reported by the nine water and sewerage companies operating in England alone. The Independent newspaper indicated there has also been an increase in serious pollution incidents in England, all of which were associated with sewage. Ben Stafford, head of campaigns at WWF stated that the problem of sewage pollution stemmed from multiple failings, including lack of proper planning and investment in the sewerage system, shortcomings in monitoring, risk assessments, operational practice and staff culture, and insufficient regulation. Our search of British newspapers has turned up no complaints or expression of concern from Miss Bradshaw of this drastic situation.
Some time ago, Thames Water was fined a record £20m after pumping 1.9 billion litres of untreated sewage into the River Thames. The company admitted water pollution and other offences at sewage facilities in Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire. Fish and birds died following the spills in 2013 and 2014. This was a major incident, which, according to our searches, drew no strident criticisms from Miss Bradshaw.
Outside of England, the United States of America has been faced with massive sewage problems in Miami and elsewhere. Indeed, harmful algal blooms cost Toledo, Ohio, its drinking water over a year ago. There have been fish kills off Long Island, and, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the United States, nitrogen and other contaminants have been found in untreated sewage flows out of America’s treatment plants during the 23,000 to 75,000 sanitary-sewer overflows that occur every year.
The EPA has indicated that the largest category of America’s wastewater infrastructure needs to be addressed. Its report stated that sewage problems affected America in 32 of its 50 states. Authorities have been working with municipal water systems to address the problems for decades but these issues still remain a reality because people and businesses have not disappeared from the face of the earth. The richest nation on the earth indicated that the length of time it has taken to solve the problem is connected to massive costs in changing public works. Once again, we found no instance where this dire situation was tackled by Miss Bradshaw.
But, three months before a general election, Miss Bradshaw, who has not seen it fit to comment on the myriad environmental problems plaguing her own country and other nations, sees it timely to paint all 166 square miles of Barbados as a place that “stinks”. Her comments smell. She resides at the British side of the dots, but if one could join those dots, it would be interesting to discover where and with whom they end in beautiful Barbados.