The most recent efforts to fix the three-and-a-half year-long south coast sewage crisis has received a major blow, forcing Government to decide to build a new waste plant within the next 18 months, Minister of Energy and Water Resources Wilfred Abrahams has revealed.
“I need Barbadians to understand that this is matter that the Government is taking very seriously,” Abrahams told reporters during a press conference at his Country Road office this morning.
“Yesterday the Cabinet unanimously decided that no matter what challenges we are facing as a country, the money needs to be found to upgrade the plant at the South Coast to a tertiary level plant or if the plant cannot be upgraded then we must construct a new plant and this is to be done in the next 18 months.
“The money has to be found, it is a priority for our Government,” said Abrahams, who did not reveal the cost of the undertaking nor source of financing.
The building of a tertiary plant is to remove all concern about effluent outflow, as clean water which could be used for irrigation, would be the final product, he said.
The minister explained that earlier this week the BWA completed its repairs of a breach to the force main but upon pressurizing the lines, indications pointed to more points of the line being compromised, raising questions about the integrity of the lines to Needham’s Point – site of the outflow.
“The normal amount of pressure that is supposed to go through the pipes is about 60 pounds per square inch (PSI). We were able to get the pressure up to about 40 PSI on the second try before we reengaged the force main to the entire line on Monday. When we did that, we realized that the flows were not at a 100 per cent. So somewhere along the line between the plant and the surge chamber, sewage was leaking.”
Abrahams stressed that there was no way for the Barbados Water Authority (BWA) to have known beforehand if there were other breaches without a pressure test like the one conducted on Monday.
“We do not know if it is leaking from the patch that we just put on or if there is another breach. So, we did dye testing and determined that sewage was flowing back into the plant, which was the problem in the first place,” he told the media.
With $3.7 million spent on failed injection wells by the last Democratic Labour (DLP) administration in addition to large sums in largely unsuccessful mitigation efforts since the problem first reared its head in 2015, Government is now sourcing funding to speed up a permanent solution, the Minister divulged.
Ministers have also agreed that work begin immediately on an outfall pipe 1000 feet off Graeme Hall, to take the pressure off the Graeme Hall swamp, which currently regulates the flow of sewage into the now closed Worthing beach.
“The decision was also taken that the outflow off Graeme Hall has to be started immediately. That decision was taken yesterday and I understand that the excavators are going to be down there tonight to start to dig and we are going to work around the clock,” he said, while explaining no single contractor would be employed “because of the volume of work and the short time frame” involved.
“We are using as many contractors as necessary to do the different parts of it. Whatever needs to be done has to be done and we are prepared to do it.”
By happy coincidence, he suggested, an international environmental firm commissioned to assess the feasibility of the new outfall, had submitted its report on Monday, two weeks ahead of schedule, giving the project the green light.
Abrahams said that his ministry will continue to try to fix the lines for the Needham’s Point outfall so that system could be used as a backup in the event of any failures in the new system.