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Serious health and safety violations at Liquidation Centre

by Emmanuel Joseph
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Liquidation Centre was a vermin-infested former warehouse store that no fewer than four Government agencies have condemned as a fire hazard and a serious threat to human health, Attorney General Dale Marshall said tonight.

And Barbados TODAY has seen a report confirming the findings on the former warehouse store of the Mirchandani Group of Companies on Bay Street where government agents were forced to don protective gear as they investigated the building that the Government compulsorily acquired to make way for a hotel project.

The Fire Service also found multiple fire hazards and recommended the public not be allowed inside for any reason while the Water Authority discovered several illegal connections to the water mains there.

The Liquidation Centre warehouse has been described as a fire hazard and a serious threat to human health.

   Marshall declared that an “untenable” situation was uncovered during inspections yesterday by the Environmental Health Department, the Labour Department, the Barbados Fire Service and the Barbados Water Authority as Government prepared to clear out the Liquidation Centre it recently acquired from the Mirchandanis.

Marshall also disclosed that when the Ministry of Housing and Lands visited the old warehouse “a few days ago”, officials discovered that the building was overrun by vermin.

The Attorney General said the Ministry of Health has submitted its report on the condition of the building.

Marshall said: “The Ministry of Health found that the condition of the building… and I am quoting now from the report: ‘[it] presented a serious health threat to anyone entering the building.’

“And that report stipulated a number of measures that needed to be taken in order to make the premises safe.”

The Attorney General did not go into any details on the ministry’s findings, but according to the report, obtained by Barbados TODAY, heavy mould and musty odour forced environmental health officials to use personal protective equipment including masks as they entered the building.

Inadequate ventilation, heavy residues of dust on all of the items in the building, adult mosquitoes and evidence of rodent infestation are among other findings.

The environmental health officials also reported that the conditions are conducive to harbouring disease and vectors such as rodents and mosquitoes.

The inspectors also told the Government they found evidence of improper storage practices which would prevent adequate cleaning and maintenance of the Liquidation Centre due to congestion.

The Attorney General also drew attention to the investigation by the Fire Service which reported that the building is not fit for purpose and constitutes a grave danger to the life safety and health of its occupants and to the general public.

In an 11-point list of findings, the Fire Service also revealed a double door approximately 72 inches x 80 inches being used as entrance and exit; a stand-alone smoke alarm in need of new battery and no exit signs over the door or directional arrows showing the way out.

The fire safety inspection also found that there no properly functioning firefighting equipment, that the entire property lacked clear access from one area to the other or to the outside as the isles were filled with impediments and the presence of a “very” high fire load was compounded with poor storage practices and insufficient separation space.

The Fire Service said: “All stored items were stacked too close to the roof and to the lighting fixtures; there were lights that flickered the
entire duration of the inspection, raising concerns about electrical issues [and] there were areas within the building used as part of the workspace that presented fall and slip hazards from at height.”

The fire department concluded by recommending that the Liquidation Centre in its current state be restricted from conducting any activity that involved members of the public.

“The building at Bay Street is therefore not fit for human occupation for any purpose. This confirms for us the need to clear that site out and to get on with the business of redeveloping the Bay Street area,” the Attorney General contended.

He said the Government is equally concerned about the findings of the Barbados Water Authority whose personnel visited the premises yesterday.

Marshall revealed that the BWA found that while the metered service was disconnected two years ago, “there were four further illegal water connections to this premises at Bay Street”.

He declared: “Now Barbados has to stand for something…and this state of operations at the Mrs Ram building at the Mirchandani building is untenable.

“It is unfortunate that Barbadians have had to work and do business in that condition and it is important that it be brought to a halt.”

The Attorney General reiterated that the Government had taken possession of the building but it was not fit for human occupation for any reason.

He said: “The people who inspected the building had to wear special protective gear in order to do so, and plans are now put in place for the people who are going to be engaged to do the removal and clearing out of the building to wear similar special protective gear.”

Marshall said Government hopes that agreement could soon be reached in compensating the Mirchandani Group for its property.

But he is contending that this process must not stall Government’s efforts to facilitate the construction of the Hyatt Ziva project which he said will provide jobs for Barbadians and help develop the country.

The Attorney General said the Mirchandanis – who had unsuccessfully tried to get the High Court to stop Government from taking over the Liquidation Centre – filed a challenge in the Court of Appeal this week.

He noted that the matter came up for consideration today, but instead of having a hearing, the court entertained a case management conference.

Marshall explained that the case management was intended to plan for how the actual appeal would work.

“The judge, in his wisdom suggested to the parties that we should go back and talk. And that is always a good thing. But the fact is that we have been talking and engaged in repeated negotiations with the Mirchandani family now for over 15 months,” he stressed, adding that there still has not been any settlement.

The acquisition of  Liquidation Centre by Government is intended to provide additional space for a revised Hyatt hotel which is expected to result in another 30,000 square feet of land.
emmanueljoseph@barbadostoday.bb

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