If ever there is a sewerage spill in two years from now and onwards, the main concern of Barbadians will be that a valuable resource is going to waste rather than the emanating foul odour and defilement of the landscape.
Such is the optimistic view of Energy and Water Resources Minister Wilfred Abrahams who has been speaking of how a planned upgrade to the Bridgetown Sewerage Plant along with an upgrade or reconstruction of the South Coast Sewerage Plant will change the views of Barbadians on effluent.
Abrahams said the re-modelling coming to the south coast facility in another 24 months will see it moving from a secondary sewerage treatment plant to a tertiary processing centre that will take the waste which had been spilling onto streets and into yards bedevilling residents, businesses and travellers along Highway Seven for almost three years, ending in 2018.
Discussing this planned improvement of the system that treats the waste generated along a significant part of the island’s tourism belt with Barbados Labour Party St Michael South branch members over the weekend, Abrahams mused what would have been the case if the upgrades or plant rebuild had happened years ago.
“All of those fats and oils and grease, if we had a way to deal with that, we could convert those into energy,” he said pointing to similar conversions done in other countries.
“What comes out of the tanks, if we had a facility to deal with that, [it would be] perfect manure,” he continued.
“We were only concerned with what was coming up on the south coast because of the state that it was in. Imagine if that was treated at the tertiary level, we wouldn’t be worried about that. We would be concerned that we’re wasting a valuable resource. Because … everything in St Michael South all the way up through Christ Church, all those agricultural lands can be irrigated by what is produced by the South Coast, if it was treated to tertiary level.”
Lamenting the current waste for want of modernized equipment, he asked, “Why are we wasting so many millions of gallons in a water scarce country. Even if you can’t wrap your mind around it for human consumption, there are so many things we could do with that water.”
He said that when the south coast plant is redone, no treated water will be pushed out to sea, “We’re using the water in Barbados. It has a value.”
Abrahams said water, at the end of processing in the Bridgetown plant, is already up to the level for agricultural irrigation but there is no distribution network to benefit farmland.
“We have a pipe that goes out to sea but we don’t have a pipe that goes inland to take it to fields. We’re going to upgrade that from secondary to tertiary treatment so that the water is of quality that you can use domestically.”
A confident Abrahams asserted, “Within the next two years we’re going to have no issues with what to do with our waste water. We may end up having a situation where we do not have enough waste water for all the people that want to use it.”
Abrahams’ optimistic projections for sewerage processing in the near-future Barbados contrast immensely with what he reported Barbados Water Authority and Ministry of Health officials had to grapple with in restoring the south coast environment to what he contends is even better that it was before the years of spillage.
“Fats, oils and greases were a big part of the problem,” he said and added, “When we got into flushing the sewerage system, and when we got into clearing the pipes, they had blockages, not one blockage, not two but tons and tons of blockages down the line up the pipe. Every two days we were pulling out enough solid fat, enough congealed fat to probably fill this room,” he said in the school auditorium.
He rejected criticism that his current complaints about pipes being clogged by inconsiderate householders and business operators is nothing new and that it was the same challenge faced by the previous administration.
“The difference is that didn’t get there in eight months. That got there because they [previous administration] did not maintain the sewerage network at all for ten years.”
He charged that past administrators had identified only grease obstructions but, “We went past that. They didn’t have just grease blockages. They had breaches in the sanitary line, the inflow line, and they had multiple breaches in the outflow line.”
Abrahams said he was now pointing out the nuisances of the fats, oils and grease “from the comfort of having cleaned-up their mess and got the sewage again flowing to say now that we have it working, stop doing what you did in the first place”. (GA)