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Sewage Blockage May have Been Cause of BHS Health Problems

The new expectations are centered on the discovery this week of problems related to a sewage blockage that appears to have been at play for an extended period, as explained by Minister Carty, who said that on his visit to the BHS Tuesday morning, he was told that a team of plumbers from the Public Works Department discovered a serious problem with the plumbing at one of the teachers’ bathrooms. “I am satisfied that we have therefore discovered an area of very legitimate concern to teachers and students at the BHS.  The plumbing team is working on this problem assiduously to ensure its satisfactory resolution by later this week.” The problems of the sewage however are not conclusive evidence as to the real source of the one year problem, but Carty said they are not ruling it out; as they cannot exclude any possibility at this time.

He said that as a consequence of the discovery, all bathrooms at the school are being thoroughly checked, and work on them will be prioritized.

Accordingly, students and parents are advised that there will be no school for 1st to 4th formers for the rest of the week ending Friday 11th January. “I also wish to assure the public that the school will do all within its power to make up for the lost academic time once classes re-commence. I am confident that very shortly, the students and teachers at the BHS will have a much cleaner and a more comfortable environment in which to learn and work. I therefore solicit your understanding and cooperation at this time as we seek to move beyond this difficult period for the students, their parents and teachers at the BHS, stated Mr. Carty.

It has been over one year since teachers and students have been complaining about a variety of symptoms of illnesses which they had suspected were resulting from a possible dysfunction of the labs, the drainage system, the spillage of chemicals, or the existence of radioactive materials within the labs or the school, said the Minister of Education, Mr. Nigel Carty, in a media release on Tuesday, 8th January, 2013. He indicated however that an earlier investigation had ruled out a number of these suspicions.

But when the new term commenced on Monday 7th January, only the Fifth Form students of the institution were back in their classes, but not at the official campus of the school. Instead they are temporarily been accommodated at a building nearby on Victoria Road, that once housed the Girls School. This was given priority to help ensure that they were not too severely affected in their preparations for the very important CXC examinations expected later in the first half of 2013, (May).

Carty used his address to recount some of the details that led to the problem and also gave some insight into what corrective measures were being attempted. Following the visit here in November of a team of experts out of Trinidad, Carty said by the following month, in December, government instituted repair and renovation work to address some of the issues.

“Over the Christmas vacation period and before the receipt of the report from CARIRI, a significant amount of work was done at the BHS. The sewage tanks were cleaned; sewage ducts were checked; the Science Labs were cleared of all materials including books, equipment and chemicals; fumigation and other termite treatment were done in the following areas: the Home Economic Centre and adjoining rooms on the Western Campus, the staff room on the Western campus, the Visual Arts Lab near the staff room, the Technical Drawing Centre, Wood Work shop and the Metal Work Shop. All of these areas received termite treatment, “outlined the minister.

He added, “Damaged materials were removed from some of the above areas as needed. New cupboards and shelves, new sinks and new appliances were installed in some of these areas. Some additional repairs are still being undertaken at this time. New tools and equipment for Agriculture, Electrical Installation, Wood Work and Metal Work have been placed on order and should arrive shortly. Some of these materials will be shared with other secondary schools.”

Ministry Officials met with the Principal and Deputy Principal on Friday, 4th January, 2013, to examine and discuss the report. The recommendations to address the outstanding issues are several but can be categorized as follows:

 (i) Professionally clean the areas of concern before re-occupancy,

(ii) Ensure proper cleaning and maintenance of all spaces on an ongoing basis. That is, maintain good house-keeping practices

(iii) Improve operational standards in the labs taking account of air quality and good lab practices

The recommendations of the report will be shared with all concerned so that the entire stakeholder community can, not only monitor the progress of their implementation, but assist in their implementation as well, where possible.



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