A sickening stench emanating from the fifth floor of the Baobab Tower Warrens office complex continues to keep Barbados Statistical Department employees off the job.
A Barbados TODAY team was hit with a pungent odour, akin to raw sewage, upon arriving at the fifth floor of the public building complex, as workers describe the experience as being up close and personal with the South Coast’s sewage troubles for “almost two years”.
Acting Director of the Barbados Statistical Services Aubrey Browne told Barbados TODAY that the workers again complained to him that the scent emerging from the office was affecting their health.
“They have said that the scent was affecting them so I told them that they could leave the office temporarily so that they are not affected. ‘Cause some of them said they were being affected by the scent and the dizziness so I told them that they could go and get some fresh air until the scent wears off and then we will see what happens in the interim and following up the issue with the relevant authorities,” Browne said.
Brown said he has been in contact with the property manager and they conducted a walk through this morning where they were briefed about the ongoing situation.
“They are kept abreast of the situation and they are working with the Health and Safety section of the Ministry of Labour to see how best they can resolve the issue,” Browne said, adding that the next step is check the ceiling – for which he would have to seek permission to close the office.
“We have to have some discussions with the relevant authorities, as we cannot go into the ceiling with staff in the office. So, I will have to seek permission from the Head of the Civil Service if we could close the office for a day or so, so we could check the ceiling and then to do an industrial clean-up afterward,” he said.
The recurring stench which returned with a vengeance today led two workers to seek medical attention on Monday with arrangements being made for the officers to seek help at the Eunice Gibson Polyclinic at Warrens, said Browne.
“The union was here yesterday and they were saying that they would make an arrangement with the polyclinic to look at any of the officers that needed to have medical attention so we are trying to put that arrangement in place to address that issue.”
But workers vented their fury to Barbados TODAY over the collapse of a colleague on the premises yesterday, suggesting their health concerns were being ignored.
“It has been very, very uncomfortable for us working at the Barbados Statistical Service for a period of time . . . . I am the type of person that is hardly ill but now all of my sinus tract has been made uncomfortable. I have itchy eyes, I have a burning in my lip, I have red eyes and all of that. It is something that is really beginning to be very annoying that I have to run from my place of work,” Annette Greaves told Barbados TODAY.
Keen to stress that she was no “shirker”, Greaves added that the ongoing environmental issue in the office has prevented her from being efficient at work.
“I am not a shirker. I come work for work and every time I come to my desk around 8:30 I have to run from this unbearable stench. It is becoming overbearing not just for me but also for others. Right now, I have a husky tone in my voice; I am not ill as I do not have a cold but you can hear in my voice it is like I have a cold and it has been going on for a period of time,” she said.
The disgruntled officer noted that the problem has persisted for “almost two years”, during which time she said she has spent over $400 for medication to combat her respiratory issues.
“A couple months ago as I was home from work for two weeks as I was very ill as I had an upper respiratory tract infection. So, I was very sick it was almost like I had a fresh cold but it was not a fresh cold because there is nothing there when I am blowing it is not a head cold. It is just that my sinus tract has been offset,” she said, adding that the workers have been complaining about this recurring stench daily to no avail.
“The director has gone out of his way to send certain letters . . . but it is time as I would say that health has no protocol . . . . So, you have to think for yourself and you have to think for your health and it is at this stage we decided that we would come together to see if we could get the process to speed up,” she said.
Other workers who wished to be unidentified said that they had suffered similar symptoms to Greaves, with burning throat and “an irritating funky smell” that is strongly reminiscent of raw sewage. One reported a pink ring at the back of her throat as well as burning in her mouth.
“I have continual rhinitis so it is getting worse and the doctor told me that just now I am not going to be able to smell anything so that is really impacting on my health.
“It feels like if someone throw [bleach] in my mouth and I would really like something done about the situation.”
A fellow worker also joined their sentiments stating that he would rather work on the South Coast Sewerage Project than work another day in the Barbados Statistical Department.
“For people to understand what we are facing they would have had to travel to the South Coast when the sewage was kicking and then they would have to multiply that a couple times to get a sense of what is going on. It would be easier for me to work on the South Coast than to continue in this place. I cannot deal with this and I am not getting enough money to go and pay a doctor,” he sternly stated.
Barbados TODAY attempted to speak to Property Manager Sharon Straker in the building’s basement but she declined to comment on efforts to rectify the ongoing issue.
Among the newest addresses for hundreds of public officers in a score of government departments and regional agencies, Baobab Towers is a ten-storey, 120,000 square-foot office building and a five-storey parking deck.
Located next to the First Caribbean International Bank’s head office at Warrens, Baobab was funded by the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) as part of Stuart administration’s economic stabilization programme.