August 10, 2012
Health officials to address septic system problem

Minister of Health Clayton Burgin should receive by today, proposals for dealing with a sewage problem which has been affecting some of his West St George constituents for a decade,{{more}} a Public Health Department official told SEARCHLIGHT on Wednesday.

SEARCHLIGHT published on Tuesday, two families’ complaints about the communal septic system at the Glen Housing Scheme, built in the 1970s.

Alana Riffin showed this publication what appeared to be faeces, which a part of the system was depositing in a gutter near her house.

A state-employed plumber — seemingly trying to help out his neighbours whose houses were being flooded with sewage in July — rigged the system to deposit the human waste into the gutter, because he could not clear the last of several blocked manholes, Riffin said.

Dr Roger Duncan, Medical Officer of Health, told SEARCHLIGHT on Wednesday his department was seeking engineering advice, because it doesn’t have all the expertise.

“I expect we should be given options in terms of solving this issue to present to … the honourable Minister of Health,” he said.

Asked why it has taken his department so long to address the problem, Duncan said: “I can’t comment on that…”

He, however, said his department considers the situation as “a public health issue and it is our problem.

“The solution probably doesn’t lie with us — in terms of expertise — but it is our problem and it is for us to address,” he said.

The Housing and Land Development Corporation and other Public Health Department officials on Monday each told SEARCHLIGHT that resolving the problem was not their responsibility and each said the other should do so.

“… That is what we [are] actually doing now,” Duncan, however, said on Wednesday. “We are addressing it on two fronts.”

The department is looking to fix the septic system and develop policies on how communal systems will operate in the future, Duncan said.

He said his department has examined another communal septic system at Stoney Ground and “there has not been any complaints that we know of.

“But, of course, we are going to have to develop policy towards that also,” he said.

Meanwhile, Riffin told SEARCHLIGHT on Wednesday a man with a sewage disposal truck examined the septic tank on Tuesday and said the problem was with the plumbing.

Officials who visited the area on Wednesday told Riffin’s mother that each household would have to construct individual septic tanks in their yards.

But Riffin noted that the houses were constructed by the government and sold to citizens.

She said septic systems are costly to construct and added that a neighbour recently paid $600 to have a hole dug for a septic system.

“Nobody has that in their budget and some of the people are not even working. … At least give a part of the money. … Either they do the plumbing or they pay to dig the hole or something,” she said in proposing government assistance for such a move.

Up to Wednesday evening, the broken septic system was still being emptied in the gutter close to the Riffins’ house.

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