The new short-term fix for the troublesome south coast sewage crisis announced today by Prime Minister Mia Mottley appears very much to be the old short-term fix introduced by the ousted Democratic Labour Party (DLP) Government.
Mottley today led several members of her Cabinet and other officials on a tour of the south coast, during which she said her administration would persist with the injection wells which the Barbados Water Authority (BWA) has begun to dig, the very medicine prescribed by the then Minister of Water Resource Management Dr David Estwick.
She said given that the BWA had already spent millions of dollars on the four wells, and based on advice from the technicians, it made sense to continue the programme aimed at bringing relief to residents, businesses and visitors in the affected areas.
However, the Prime Minister made it clear the digging of the injection wells would be just one of a list of options, as she was not prepared to pin this country’s hopes for immediate relief on a single solution.
“[The wells remain] one of the plans, that’s just one option. We are also doing the outfalls as well and we hope that the combined impact of all would make the difference,” Mottley told journalists accompanying her on the tour.
“We have already spent $3.5 million on each of these wells . . . but the permanent solution is the new plant, and whether the new plant takes modular pieces of equipment that could be used now to ease the pressure while we build the full plant is also an option to us because we do not want to spend money twice,” she said.
The Prime Minister’s approach to the crisis seems a mirror image of the position espoused by Estwick, who last November said the construction of a new plant was the only way to resolve the ongoing sewage problem because the current system could no longer adequately service the entire south coast.
Estwick had also said in February of this year that Cabinet had approached the Latin American Development Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank and the Caribbean Development Bank for assistance to implement solutions identified following consultation with regional and international experts.
He said then the best options available were “the injection wells and the two bypass systems and the injection well with pre-treatment”.
However, it appeared Mottley was not sold on a limited number of options, and today she instructed the BWA, the Coastal Zone Management Unit and engineering consultants to prepare a Cabinet paper on the best options, declaring that the situation had reached the level of a “national emergency” and therefore no effort should be spared.
“They would go back to the Water Authority now and they are going to prepare for us a Cabinet paper to give us some options in terms of ensuring that we keep the sewage off of the streets, repair the lines and look to long-term solutions,” the Prime Minister said, going on to stress the need for several plans to tackle the sewage stink “because the consequences for the country is too dire”.
Stating that she was not prepared to render a final decision on possible solutions to the spills, which have forced the closure of several businesses on the south coast and made Barbados the subject of four travel advisories, Mottley said her Cabinet had to ensure the process was expedited and done efficiently.
“I am hearing from the Water Authority that we have to get two outfalls built. One would be an eight-inch main from the Graeme Hall Swamp, which is now all sewage, the second would be a 16-inch main from the plant itself. Both mains would go beyond the outer reefs and both would have input from the Coastal Zone Management Unit. We would make sure that the equipment necessary for building of those pipes are treated to as an emergency,” Mottley said, adding that a sub-committee chaired by Minister of Energy and Water Resources Wilfred Abrahams had been established and would meet “two to three times per week to make sure that everything stays on time and on target”.
“The Minister of Foreign Affairs has been told to approach the Canadian government with respect to technical assistance that we would pay for. They would also provide a second review,” she added.