Mon | May 25, 2020

Audit finds faults in Sav Hospital sewerage plant

Published:Wednesday | February 19, 2020 | 12:40 AMMark Titus/Gleaner Writer
Towels and sheets are among the inorganic material purportedly dumped down the drain by staff at Savanna-la-Mar Hospital in Westmoreland.
Towels and sheets are among the inorganic material purportedly dumped down the drain by staff at Savanna-la-Mar Hospital in Westmoreland.

Independent auditors have called for immediate corrective action to fix a raft of issues identified during an investigation into the dysfunctional wastewater treatment plant at the Savanna-la-Mar Hospital, The Gleaner understands.

Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton ordered an audit after expressing concerns about millions of dollars in overruns, amid complaints from stakeholders at the Westmoreland health facility that the plant had not worked consistently for more than four months since it was commissioned in 2017.

When contacted, Errol Greene, regional director of the Western Regional Health Authority (WRHA), refused to speak on the subject, saying that he had not seen the report.

However, a reliable source informed The Gleaner that auditors identified several issues with the distribution box that could eventually clog the system, including the absence of a screen or grinder to properly separate particles greater than two inches. The screen to prevent non-biodegradable solids from passing through the biodigester was also deemed inadequate.

There are also concerns that the biodigester septic tank is failing to separate solids from liquids, while there are high levels of grey water during heavy rainfall.

According to the source, the auditors also found signs that the structure of the inspection chamber might be deteriorating, while questions were raised as to the quality of material used to build the covers as they were oxidising.

Corrective work will have to be done on a chamber after tests revealed a lack of chlorine even when filled with chlorine tablets. Myriad problems were also found with the design of the reed bed.

COUNTERCLAIMS

The Scientific Research Council (SRC), which managed the sewage-improvement venture at the six selected health facilities, rubbished the claims of mismanagement on its part when the issues first came to public attention. Instead, the SRC blamed hospital staff for wrecking the multimillion-dollar infrastructure by dumping towels, sheets, and other material down the drain.

“The system would operate as designed if the poor disposal practices by the hospital are curtailed, as inorganics will take years to degrade, and the biodigesters are designed to treat organic waste such as faeces, blood, urine and other body fluids,” said a spokesperson in a statement from the board and management.

The SRC identified large sheets, towels, bandages or gauze, and wash rags among the inorganics being deposited into the system.

Dr Cliff Riley, CEO of the SRC, had already left for the day when The Gleaner called his office yesterday for comment.

The health ministry has also called for audits on the other five locations that benefited from the SRC-managed venture, which carried an estimated price tag of $389.24 million.

mark.titus@gleanerjm.com