Minister of Energy and Water Resources Wilfred Abrahams has described as “irresponsible” the release of a video which appeared to show a breakdown of the newly installed injection wells on the south coast.
The video, which has gone viral on social media, showed the contents of the 300-foot injection wells spewing several feet into the air during the passage of a tropical wave yesterday.
Abrahams told a news conference today at his office at Country Road, St Michael, BWA staff were behind the video.
And while he said he had no interest in seeking retribution against those responsible, nor did he want to hide problems with the sewage system from the public, the minister insisted those who released the video could have eased fears about the long running sewage problems by providing a proper explanation.
“It is unfortunate that it happened in the way it did. It is not a priority of ours to punish the individuals. The focus right now is getting the problem fixed,” Abrahams said. “We are going to speak to the members of staff and urge them to be responsible. We have no issue with the fact that it went out, it is that without the accompanying explanation, people read a lot more into it,” he added.
In fact, General Manager of the Barbados Water Authority (BWA) Keithroy Halliday explained that far from failing, the wells, dug as a short-term solution to the troublesome sewage stink, were working perfectly.
Halliday told this morning’s news conference the issue highlighted in the video was as a result of human error.
He said it stemmed from a failure to switch on manual diversions after yesterday’s storm surges caused the wells to quickly reach their capacity.
“Since yesterday a video of waste water overflow has been circulating over the Internet. The overflow occurred as a result of the wells reaching their natural capacity and the storm water coming to the plant was exaggerating the situation,” he said, while adding that the situation was brought under control by diverting the diluted waste water to a channel now adjoining the Graeme Hall Swamp.
Halliday suggested that the development was somewhat of a blessing in disguise as it taught the BWA a few lessons during its ongoing preparation for the hurricane season.
He said up to this point the water company was preparing for heavy rainfall, but yesterday’s surge exposed weaknesses in the response time of workers.
“Some of it was anticipated in the sense that we added the additional wells for redundancy. The challenge yesterday is that we had such a deluge and we were not able to respond as quickly as we would have liked to. So we have now been making adjustments over the past few days. So, for example, we have realized that if we don’t have enough pumps running, or, on the other extreme, too many pumps in operation, we are going to have a problem. Yesterday really served to point that out to us,” Halliday said.
The BWA general manager also revealed that since the wells became operational last Thursday all of the overflows that have plagued the south coast for more than two years have ceased.
As matter of fact, he said, the spills have dried to such sufficient levels that the BWA would be able to go into the system as early as tomorrow to begin work on a permanent fix.
“Last week Thursday we had six injection wells which were completed in operation and since that time there has been no overflow onto the streets. You would recall that priority number one is getting the sewage off the streets and we have done that. Priority number two is now a fuller assessment and repair of the breach lines . . . .The force main is now completely empty and accessible, which means that excavation on these lines will begin tomorrow,” said Halliday, who revealed that work on the lines should be completed in approximately six weeks.
“This excavation will target two main points, the first being at the Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary and the next is expected to begin one week later at the area in front of the old Scotia Bank [at Worthing]. We estimate that with a good push, continuing to work 24 hours per day, that the BWA would have the work completed in the coming weeks,” he stressed.