The South Coast Sewage Plant: A Costly and Endless Repair
Figure 1. A front view of the South Coast Sewage Plant. Picture retrieved from Barbados Water Authority.
Since the complete failure of the South Coast Sewage Plant (SCSP), the Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary (GHNS) has been used as a facultative lagoon dumping area. The Sanctuary is to be protected as the precious green space it is.
In 1981, the Barbados Water Authority (BWA) replaced the department of Waterworks. The BWA operates two wastewater treatment plants in Barbados: the Bridgetown Sewage Plant and SCSP.
Both treatment plants were commissioned in 1982 and 2003, respectively. Sewage treatment and disposal services are provided to approximately 1,420 customers in Bridgetown and approximately 3,000 others on the South Coast.
Only 10% of sewage generated by Bajans ends up in the public system and of this, less than half receives some degree of treatment. The SCSP, the neighbouring property to the east of GHNS, services more than twice the amount of people in Bridgetown. It is a primary plant and does not perform secondary and tertiary treatment.
Below is a timeline of loans that have been requested by the Government of Barbados to different multilateral financial agencies such as the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the Development Bank of Latin America (CAF), the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and the European Investment Bank (EIB) for the management and sustainability of its water resources.
- 1993 – The IDB approved a loan of more than USD $50M for the construction of the SCSP which would consist of the collection, treatment and final disposal of sewerage from residential, commercial, tourist, industrial and public sources along the South Coast.
- 2009 - The IDB approved a loan of USD $50M seeking to improve the Barbados’ management and sustainability of its water resources. One of the aims was to reuse treated water for tackling the problem of wastewater discharge, which affected both public health and the condition of beaches and coral reefs.
- 2017 – The CAF approved a loan of USD $10M which was intended to be used for the Potable Water Infrastructure Rehabilitation Project, aimed at supporting sector planning and improving the quality, trustworthiness, and efficiency of the potable water systems and to formulate a strategy for the sanitation and potable water sector. This loan was co-financed by the European Investment Bank (EIB) for an additional USD $10M.
- 2018 - Dr. David Estwick, former Minister of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and Water Resource Management, said that the government approached the CDB, IDB, and CAF for a fund of USD $12.9M to address the SCSP issues. According to the Minister, the CAF approved “a $4 million advance”, while the IDB was in discussion with the BWA to finalise its funding arrangements.
- 2019 – The CDB approved a loan of USD $29.8M to finance the construction of a new marine outfall for the SCSP. The total cost of the project is estimated at USD $42.3M which includes the Government of Barbados’ counterpart contribution of USD$12.5M.
Since 1993, Barbados has received loan approvals totalling approximately USD $153.8M from different funding sources for the management and sustainability of its water resources such as the collection, treatment and final disposal of sewage as well as improving the efficiency of the potable water systems.
However, the problems and failures of water and drainage at the SCSP plus the malfunctioning of the sluice gate, which is vital for the existence of a healthy mangrove forest, remain as they had been since the beginning of the major SCSP failure which led to the dumping of raw sewage into GHNS in 2005.
Where are these millions and millions of dollars going? Where is this money being spent?