Environmental authorities have embarked on a $400,000 emergency fix at the Bridgetown Sewage Treatment Plant, which is said to be on the brink of collapse.
Speaking on the sidelines of an official tour of the Lakes Folly facility by Minister of the Environment Wilfred Abrahams today, Safety Specialist at the Bridgetown plant Ryan Als told Barbados TODAY the short term plan calls for the setting up of two decontamination zones – one at Lakes Folly and the other at the River Road Pumping Station.
This to facilitate the cleaning next weekend of wet wells, which are the main waste water collection points within the plants, and the transfer of sludge to the Mangrove Pond Landfill in St Thomas.
He explained that both areas are to be cordoned off during the exercise following which workers would have to pass through the decontamination zones before they are allowed to leave the facility.
“We will have the Fire Service emergency medical station there . . . a decontamination zone as well as personnel to ensure that the public is safe and they stay away from the area. That will be the set up for both wet well operations and we plan to have that done in a 12-hour period to minimize the impact or the nuisance to the public,” the safety specialist said, adding that once the cleaning and repairs are done, authorities would be embarking on a longer-term preventive maintenance process.
He also explained that during the two-day cleaning operation, dried material would be transported to the landfill.
“It was a two-week process, but the Minister had said he wanted it done in a shorter time period. So we have to work around- the-clock to ensure we make that deadline,” Als said.
Earlier, Abrahams warned that the situation there was like a bomb waiting to explode.
He explained that the sewage-processing unit was currently operating at less than a quarter of its capacity having been pushed to the edge of a shutdown because of the additional load which had been diverted from the south coast sewage system.
To make matters worse at the Bridgetown plant, two other processing units which would have helped ease the problem have been out of operation for the past two years.
Abrahams said emergency restoration work, which started today, now had to be completed in two weeks to avoid a possible collapse of the functioning processing unit which he said would lead to a worse crisis than what currently exists on the south coast.
“This tank is operating at less than half of its own capacity and failing. A lot of the processes that are supposed to be happening are not happening. The clearest water here is murky and that water is supposed to be as clear as drinking water. So we have a serious problem. It cannot be understated how serious the problem is,” the minister told reporters, adding that all hands must be on deck, 24 hours a day.
He also promised that whatever resources were needed to resolve the problem would be allocated “because Barbados cannot afford to have this tank to go down and consequently this plant to go down”.
During today’s tour, Manager of the Barbados Water Authority’s (BWA) Waste Water Division Patricia Inniss told reporters the repair work should not result in any undue offensive odour to residents in Bridgetown and its environs.
Inniss also said the BWA was in the process of informing residents by letter that the restoration work had started.
“We don’t envisage any odour or a number of other problems, but because we need, especially with the waste water and the many problems we have been having, to communicate to them, that a process which has not occurred for years is occurring today.
“God willing, in another month, we would have both processing units at the Bridgetown plant completed,” she added.