Sat | Mar 17, 2018

Effluent overflow forces P.A. Benjamin closure

Published:Tuesday | December 20, 2016 | 12:00 AMJodi-Ann Gilpin
Errol Powell, chairman of P.A. Benjamin Company on East Street, downtown Kingston.
A section of the roadway outside P.A. Benjamin Company where raw sewage has been seeping from the ground.

Errol Powell, chairman of P.A. Benjamin Company, is seeking to reassure the public that his company's flagship products, such as vanilla and other spices, will not be adversely affected by yesterday's immediate halt of production. Activities at the company were brought to a standstill after a foul stench emerged from a sewer, which resulted from the overflow of effluent close by.

Powell indicated the issue emerged as a result of work that was being undertaken by the National Water Commission (NWC).

He described the situation as most unfortunate, noting that most of the company's products are usually in heavy demand at this time of the year.

He insisted, however, that the quality of the commodity, in addition to the health of the company's staff, will always take priority.

"We don't know if the work (North Street) is connected. We know that the work started last week Monday and we first saw evidence of raw sewage coming down East Street on Wednesday. We reported it to the Water Commission. I don't know if anything was done, but Thursday morning it cleared up," he said.

"Friday afternoon, a hole was opened in the road right at the intersection of Charles Street and East Street and sewage just kept flowing up. We reported it, and the Water Commission promised that they would do something about it over the weekend. Nothing happened, and what we saw when we came to office this morning, was worse than it was on Friday. We thought that, in the interest of the health of our employees and the quality of the products we manufacture, we should close," he continued.


Export shipment cancelled


He noted that this had adverse effects on their production as two deliveries, in addition to an export shipment, had to be cancelled.

"It couldn't have happened at a worse time, because one of Benjamin's flagship products is vanilla, and everyone uses it at this time. There were two deliveries we had to make today which we had to cancel. There was an export shipment that should have left today; that, too, had to be cancelled," he said.

"I would hope that customers would be able to get their product. The more important message I want to send to them is our quality consciousness. We were not prepared to compromise the quality of our product by attempting to manufacture and deliver today. The quality of our product is paramount, and that is what has kept us going for 137 years," he declared.

Charles Buchanan, communications manager at the NWC, in responding to the issue, said following discussions he has had with his team, the overflow has been addressed. He was quick to point out also that it had nothing to do with works currently taking place at sections of North Street, East Street and Rum Lane.

"Our indication is that there was some kind of blockage in the sewers resulting in some sewage [coming] on to the roadway along a section of East Street. Our teams have gone there, they have done extensive work, and other interventions to have enabled the cessation of that overflow," Buchanan told The Gleaner.

"They are doing some further interventions and excavations to identify any other underlying problem that may have resulted in the overflow."