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EDITORIAL: Where’s the quality, BWA management?


EDITORIAL: Where’s the quality, BWA management?

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SEVERAL WEEKS AGO a number of South Coast business operators called our newsroom to complain about foul-smelling “brownish water” seeping from Barbados Water Authority (BWA) sewers along Highway 7, making life difficult for them, their customers, residents and motorists.

When our team visited the area everything the businesspeople complained of was clearly visible, and the stench was horrendous. Our reporters and photographers are not health or environmental experts so they can’t speak scientifically to any dangers that may be posed by the escaping liquid.

However, we cannot discount the story of the resident who spoke of having to deal with rashes that broke out on her skin after she was splashed with the liquid by a passing vehicle; nor can we ignore the fear expressed by a resident that this week’s fish kill in the Graeme Hall Swamp was linked to this sewage run-off flowing directly into the conservation area.

We are not naive; we know that even in jurisdictions where the availability of funds is not a problem, systems will fail from time to time, and when they do it will create inconveniences for citizens.

What we find most objectionable is that the management of the BWA continuously behaves as though it is a law unto itself and citizens must accept whatever level of service they choose to give.

Absolutely not! The BWA is providing public services with public funds and its managers have a duty to treat all its customers as persons deserving of respect. In investigating this “seepage” from the underground system to the road surface we came across operators of several businesses who said they were told by BWA officials over a period of months that the problem resulted from a broken pump.

How many months does it take to fix a pump? If the pumps are so critical to the efficient operation of the sewerage system, why are there no built-in redundancies? Why are there no spare parts on hand to quickly rectify any breakdown?

Worse than the failure to fix the problem is the almost endemic attitude of key members of the BWA’s management that any enquiries from the press are at best a nuisance and at worst an offence.

Perhaps they just do not appreciate that reporters don’t invent stories of dry taps for months, or of sewage flowing on the street for weeks. Reporters merely seek answers on behalf of citizens, who in most cases when they enquire on their own are treated even more badly than the reporters.

If the management of the BWA had even a modicum of care for affected citizens, resident Amarel Burke would not have to complain that for 20 years she has had to put up with the inconvenience of her backyard being flooded by “sewage water” each time there is a failure of the pumping system.

If there was compassion at the BWA, the retired teacher would not have had to report feeling a sense of betrayal after giving the Government permission to lay sewer pipes across her property – even now not even getting the courtesy of a returned call when she reports the flooding. Instead, she has to sleep, eat and breathe through the foul odour, while avoiding her own backyard.

While all this is taking place, the BWA’s management through silence expresses disgust with the media, whose only crime is asking why it is occurring and when it will be corrected. This happens when there is no service in the concept of public service, when there is no humanity in the concept of being human, when there is no empathy in the bosom of people who manage a corporation whose motto is Quality Water; Quality People.

But when the political directorate, including Minister of Health and MP for the area John Boyce, shows no interest in such matters, why should the public expect better?