Chairman of the BWA, Dr. Atlee Brathwaite; Minister of the Environment, Dr. Denis Lowe’ and General Manager of the BWA, Denis Yearwood, listen attentively at Sunday’s public consultation.

Efforts to protect the island’s groundwater could see a major reduction in designated Zone 1 lands from nine per cent to some 1.5 per cent, and a downscaling of water protection zones from five to three.??

A new Draft Groundwater Protection Act is also on the cards to replace existing legislation, which dates back to the early 1960’s.

These were among the major recommendations made by consultants?? from R J?? Burnside International, a Canadian firm charged with the remit of undertaking a?? ???Comprehensive Review and?? Overhaul of the Groundwater Protection Zoning Policy?? and System in Barbados.’

Speaking at the first of three Public Consultations aimed at fostering public participation in the process over the weekend Minister of the Environment, Dr. Denis Lowe, said while Barbados’ water supply was still safe for drinking, there were signs on the horizon of chemical and bacteriological contamination in some areas. He warned that this demanded urgent attention.

The Environment Minister cited issues of increasing nitrate concentration levels in the groundwater at the Belle, Hampton and Ashton Hall pumping stations, as cause for concern. Dr. Lowe also mentioned an emerging practice of erecting dwellings close to public water supply wells without planning permission, and stressed that these situations posed a "serious threat to our water supply."

"The incessant practice of dumping garbage around the Belle and other Zone 1 areas is repulsive and deserving of serious condemnation. I am of the firm view that the perpetrators of such selfish and unconscionable acts ought to hold their heads in shame. The Government will not hesitate to prosecute anyone caught dumping illegally in zone 1 areas," he underscored.

Minister Lowe maintained that the current zoning policy had served the island well and had helped to protect the groundwater against bacteriological contamination. However, he noted, that its ability to minimise the increase of chemical contaminants was being brought seriously into question.

To this end, he indicated that in addition to reviewing the current zoning policy, Government was also seeking to undertake the building of a Reverse Osmosis Plant to treat the water at the Belle and Waterford Pumping Stations. Dr. Lowe added that there would also be the sewering of residential districts in the Zone areas; the installation and management of package sewage treatment plants in new developments and the reform of current agricultural practices pertaining to nitrate application.

In giving details about the recommendations, Hydrologist with R J Burnside, Dwight Smikle, said they had proposed three protection zones as opposed to the existing five. ??He explained Zone 1 would be a pathogen exclusion zone; Zone 2 a pathogen management zone and Zone 3 a chemical management zone. Additionally, there would be a slight reduction in Zone 2 classified areas from approximately 55. 9 per cent to 51.9 and Zone 3 from 60.9 to 40.8 per cent.

He added that suggestions were also made to institute minimum standards for waste disposal?? across the island,?? including the abandonment of suck wells for primary waste water disposal. The alternative would be the installation of suitable sewage treatment plants by individuals and developers alike.

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