Saturday, April 20, 2024

Water quality top priority

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A top priority of the Ministry of the Health is to ensure that potable water is kept at a high standard for those who live and do business along the South Coast of Barbados.

One of the major precautions involves testing water along the Hastings to St Lawrence, Christ Church stretch twice per week as raw sewage has been spilling onto householders’ and business properties, as well as the streets, in recent times.

It was in mid-October last year that effluent bubbled to the surface, bringing sewage and toilet paper to the streets between Hastings and Worthing. Since then, two businesses were forced to close their doors and officials are currently investigating 35 cases of a suspected outbreak of gastroenteritis.

Additionally, Canada, the United States and United Kingdom issued health advisories to their citizens travelling to Barbados.

“When we recognised there was the sewage on the streets, we decided to put a number of measures in place. The first thing we did was to ensure there were no bursts in the pipes, so we contacted the Barbados Water Authority and had them conduct a number of tests along the South Coast to ensure that none of the potable water pipes were burst,” said Acting Deputy Chief Environmental Health Officer Ronald Chapman.

He was speaking at a training seminar on food safety and other public health issues at the Pan American Health Organisation’s  headquarters in Dayrells Road, Christ Church, yesterday.

Chapman added that the BWA was asked to increase the amount of chlorine in the water.

“What we were looking for is residual chlorine anywhere between 0.2 to about 0.8. The ideal level will be 0.5, but anywhere in between there is good enough to take care of any bacteria or any bad organisms in the water.”

He also noted that the chlorine levels were always good, but with the added issues, the ministry did not want to take any chances and was simply ensuring the levels remained at those recommended by the World Health Organisation.

Chapman denied rumours that the murky water seen flowing into Worthing Beach was sewage.

“The sluice gate is that gate which allows the water from the Graeme Hall Swamp to run into the sea. That sluice gate is opened from time to time. Unfortunately, we have not been opening the sluice gate as often as we should because persons tend to complain that the brown water tends to come out into the sea and then nobody can bathe in it,” he said.

He added that the sluice gate needed to be open to balance the levels of water in the swamp.

Chapman assured participants that the ministry was not in the habit of closing anyone’s business since it believed many issues could be navigated.

“We close [businesses] if we find there are conditions, obviously, that are at a stage where they will impact on you providing food that is fit and wholesome for human consumption. We assess every situation based on what is going on at the time and there is no one paintbrush we use.”

He also revealed that the ministry had stepped up its fogging programme to control an increase in mosquitoes.

“Over the past few days we have seen an increase in the mosquito population. This is because the sewage ran into the swamp. The ecology of the swamp changes and different types of mosquitoes like that type of water, specifically what we call the culex mosquito . . . .

“The Ministry of Health has been addressing the issue by treating the water and fogging the areas to ensure that we bring down those mosquito numbers,” Chapman said. 

Participants were also informed of good food safety practices, the proper way to clean and sanitise their business places and the correct way to bait and catch rats that might pose a problem to such entities. (RA)

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