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Homes of former sugar workers in battle against filth

Published:Monday | June 22, 2020 | 12:00 AMShanna Monteith/Gleaner Writer
Raymond Miller stands atop one of three biodigesters at Golden Grove Meadows, St Thomas. He and scores of residents have expressed grave concerns about health and safety because of a sewage backup at the housing scheme.
Raymond Miller discusses the state of the pump house in proximity to the biodigesters at Golden Grove Meadows in St Thomas. Residents are raising a stink over recurring sewage overflow problems.
Persons retched as the stench spread from a manhole in Golden Grove Meadows, St Thomas. Residents have lamented the conditions as deplorable.

The atmosphere at the Golden Grove Meadows in St Thomas reeked of despair as dejected residents voiced anger at the stench that has overtaken their homes.

Several former sugar workers and their families were relocated from the dilapidated Golden Grove barracks to more salubrious conditions in Stokes Hall in 2016, but calamity struck shortly afterwards.

Residents like businessman and farmer Raymond Miller say their biggest concern is the overflowing effluent that sometimes pours on to the streets and into their yards.

“All manholes are all blocked up, and the filth rises and overflows sometimes. The odour that comes out in the village a night-time is something you can’t even inhale,” Miller told The Gleaner.

In his effort to explain the gravity of the crisis, the resident summoned the help of fellow community members to pry open a manhole, exposing floating faeces on the brink of overflow.

Another resident, Kevon Dunn, said that he has to religiously use a rod to unblock the manhole in his yard to prevent the catastrophic spillover.

“I just rod it today, and it still full up. From me come here, mi nuh stop rod it. You use it today, and tomorrow, it block up again,” said Dunn.

“Mi have it very bad, especially now in the drought. Some of the times, it full and all run over in the yard.”

The residents believe that the large biodigesters, one of which was uncovered, installed to store and degrade waste, were dysfunctional.

Further investigations, residents said, revealed that the reed bed was overrun with vegetation and appeared to have an obstruction, causing a build-up of effluent. Access to the chlorination chamber is also reported to be blocked.

The housing scheme accommodates approximately 150 families.

“I feel scared for my daughter, my son, my niece, my nephew, my cousin, and everybody here …, the whole Golden Grove Meadows family. The houses are nice, and we are trying our best to keep their value up, but due to what’s happening now …, we just feel neglected. Who response for this project?” Miller asked, adding that members of the St Thomas Health Department have visited on numerous occasions but have not given them conclusive word on a solution.

Minister of Health Dr Christopher Tufton has raised concern about the escalating health crisis at Golden Grove Meadows.

Tufton said that he would be seeking advice from the Ministry of Agriculture, which initially managed the housing project, as to how to proceed. The minister said that the matter was to be taken to Cabinet to chart a coordinated response.

“It’s been a bad situation for some time now [and] risking the health of citizens in the housing development. The problems stem from the faulty design and/or construction, which has led to consistent downtime of the sewerage system from the houses were handed over,” Tufton told The Gleaner on Sunday.

“… Public health has done several inspections and has been in dialogue with the responsible Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, and there is a commitment to correct the situation.”

Attempts to contact Dermon Spence, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, were unsuccessful as calls to his mobile phone went unanswered.

Donovan Stanberry, the immediate former permanent secretary at Agriculture, declined comment.