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Solid waste blocking downtown sewers - NWC blames improper disposal for effluent being released into Barnes Gully

Published:Wednesday | December 20, 2017 | 12:00 AMPaul Clarke
Sewage flowing into Barnes Gully on North Street in Kingston, yesterday.

The improper disposal of plastic bottles, among other solid waste, is affecting the already overburdened downtown Kingston sewer mains, the National Water Commission's (NWC) Corporate Public Relations Manager, Charles Buchanan, has said.

Buchanan was responding to queries about a broken sewage main that has been releasing effluent through the Barnes Gully in the vicinity of St George's College on North Street as result of which the National Environmental Protection Agency (NEPA) has seen fit to warn the public.

"NEPA is asking persons to refrain from using the gully as a thoroughfare or harvesting solids that may seem useful to them as a broken main is releasing effluent through the gully," a release from the agency stated.

Buchanan told The Gleaner that early information points to sections of the network that have a collection of used plastic bottles blocking the normal flow, resulting in the spillage into the gully.

"That is making the situation worse, and while I cannot, at this point, categorically state this is the reason, we suspect that it is part of the reason for this overflow in the Barnes Gully," he said.

He indicated that the NWC's waste-water team advised him of the problem earlier this week and said that manholes they uncovered on North Street revealed the state of the blockages.

"I am now to speak to the waste-water people about the impact, but based on what has already been disseminated, it is important that we further educate the public about the dangers of dumping solids into the sewer network.

"Sewage lines are built to carry 99 per cent liquids. They were not constructed to carry solids and non-biodegradables," he said.

Parts of the downtown Kingston sewage network infrastructure date back to the late 1800's and the beginning of the 1900's.

Buchanan stated that the way some of the mains are constructed exacerbates the problem, which is made worse by its continued misuse by persons who dump solid waste into them.

It will cost the NWC more than US$200 million to completely rehabilitate the downtown Kingston sewage network.

A mix of routine flushing and rodding to clean segments of the lines is expected to help alleviate the problem over the short term, according to Buchanan.

He said that getting sewage flow right, especially in Kingston, without any inadvertent issues is a priority of the NWC, but he cautioned the public and commercial players to play their part in limiting the amount of solids and storm water that are directly allowed to enter the system.