Local Biotechnologist Comments on American Advisory | Should Barbadians be Concerned About ELEVATED Levels of Bacteria in the Water? | Should Food Establishments on the South Coast be Closed by Government?

David Estwick – Minister of Water

Dr. Robert D. Lucas

Dun-Low lane


Barbados, BB11157



28th, January2018

The Editor

Barbados Underground

Bridgetown, Barbados

West Indies

Dear Sir/Madam,

A press conference was held on the 26th. January that sought to clear the air over the discrepancies in microbial findings and interpretation of the potable water quality on the south coast of Barbados. The Americans found that there were elevated counts of microorganisms (this was not refuted by the local authorities) and advised their citizens to boil the water before drinking it. The Barbados’ government position is that Salmonella, coliforms and E.coli (fecal indicator (FI) organisms) were not detected and therefore the potable water on the south coast complied with the World Health Organization’s (WHO) guidelines. The press conference was aired live on the Voice of Barbados (VOB), and it was admitted by the Barbados Water Authority (BWA) that it had increased the level of chlorine added to the potable water supply on the south coast of Barbados. It was disclosed by the Minister of Health, that he became particularly concerned when it was revealed by the Americans that the advisory affected the area where he lives among other areas (it appeared that he was only interested in saving his own hide).

The following is written in the public interest. Let me start by saying that the Americans are correct in the position that they have adopted and that the local authorities are skating on thin ice, as I will now show…

There are other fecal indicator organisms also recognized by WHO. These are fecal streptococci, Clostridium perfringens among others. What are of importance from a microbial aspect of the above disclosures are the elevated numbers of organisms detected and the increasing levels of chlorine being used. When added to water, chlorine forms chlorous acid, which is able to penetrate bacterial cell walls, and disrupts protein synthesis resulting in death. It also attacks organic matter and indeed this is one of the drawbacks when using chlorine based-disinfectants. In other words, the greater the organic matter load of water, the greater the amount of chlorine which has to be used to attain a specific disinfectant level Fecal matter is highly organic in nature and therefore it is correct for the local authorities to up the levels of chlorine used. The problem, however is that the exact amount of fecal matter seeping into the potable water cannot be ascertain plus the microorganisms continue to grow and multiply and therefore estimates have to be made. This is starkly revealed by the elevated counts obtained by the Americans. From the disclosure the following events have occurred. Note we are dealing with hard science not law, economics or political science.

1. There was a high level of organic matter present in the water (could be fecal in nature or derived from food processing operations) and most of the chlorine disinfectant was used up in reacting with it.

2. Microorganisms were present at what is known in microbiology at levels too numerous to count (TMC); and since microorganisms are organic in nature, the disinfectant was not present at concentrations adequate to destroy all of them.

3. A combination of one and two occurred.

There is a risk associated with the use of chlorine as a disinfectant at high concentrations. At 200 parts per million (ppm) there is no carcinogenic risk associated with its use. At 1000 ppm chlorine is carcinogenic. BWA must in the public interest state what levels of chlorine have been used in an effort to achieve safe potable water.

Increasing levels of disinfectants increase the selective pressure on microorganisms and can result in pathogenic genes being passed from pathogenic organisms to non-pathogenic ones creating unwanted problems.

In any event, elevated levels of microorganisms indicate that something is wrong and the absence of the presence of fecal indicators does not preclude their presence at some time prior to the testing. The local authorities should therefore advise citizens in the affected areas to boil their drinking water, given that at the same press conference, the BWA admitted that the situation was getting worse.

The local authorities have been keeping a lot of noise about the gastroenteritis outbreak not being associated with the sewerage problem. They have not demonstrated the following:

Koch’s Postulates

Four criteria that were established by Robert Koch to identify the causative agent of a particular disease, these include:

  1. the microorganism or other pathogen must be present in all cases of the disease
  1. the pathogen can be isolated from the diseased host and grown in pure culture
  1. the pathogen from the pure culture must cause the disease when inoculated into a healthy, susceptible laboratory animal
  1. the pathogen must be reisolated from the new host and shown to be the same as the originally inoculated pathogen

Have the authorities grown the suspected causative viral agent in cell culture or have they used a DNA probe to substantiate their claim? Proof must be presented.

From food safety aspects, establishment dealing in food in the area affected should not have a say in whether or not to open or close their shops. Under the hazard analysis critical control (HACCP) system, which is considered the Holy Grail designation for food establishment, there are certain prerequisites, which must be met. These are sanitary standard operating procedures (SSOP’s) and current good manufacturing practices (cGMP). Absence of filth and obnoxious smells fall under these prerequisite conditions. Since currently, in the affected area these conditions are not being met, all such establishment should be closed by law. I train members of the Environmental Health Department at the Barbados Community College (BCC). The last time one of my students closed down a food establishment I wrote about it and the print media would not publish the article. It was published online and I was fired and actually received a letter from a prominent attorney giving me two-weeks to retract the article or be sued for libel. I ignored the joker. Last year I was at BCC teaching the students again. Most likely I will be fired again for writing this, which is neither here nor there with me.

Robert D. Lucas, PH.D.

Food Biotechnologist.

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160 Comments on “Local Biotechnologist Comments on American Advisory | Should Barbadians be Concerned About ELEVATED Levels of Bacteria in the Water? | Should Food Establishments on the South Coast be Closed by Government?”

  1. millertheanunnaki February 1, 2018 at 5:19 PM #

    @ John February 1, 2018 at 10:07 AM

    Sir John, so you are ‘stubbornly’ warming to the thesis that the undermining of the road network on the South coast might be taking place and possibly putting the already over-laden utility poles at serious risk of falling over and creating a Bajan infrastructural 9/11?

    Wouldn’t you agree with what your mother told you about ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure’?


  2. John February 1, 2018 at 11:54 PM #

    I addressed the idea a while back using the presence of Carbonic Acid to explain that it might be possible.

    However, it may be that sulphuric acid is also present.

    Water on its own won’t cause the dissolution of coral otherwise Highway 7 would have collapsed years ago!!


  3. lawson February 2, 2018 at 6:58 AM #

    You know when some places brag about the secret ingredient they have in their recipe,….. now we know what it is.


  4. John February 2, 2018 at 10:34 AM #


    Page 6 is worth looking at to understand how the highway can be undermined and sewage pipes become blocked.

    If we have processes like these in an advanced state, there will be whole sections of the sewage system under highway 7 that will need to be replaced.

    This is not a quick fix if such processes are advanced.

    Listening to the minister describe 5 foot diameter concrete sections that are fractured sounds to me like this may be the cause.

    The water table can get into the concrete casings and the tide will cause it to rise and fall, which I believe we have witnessed at some manholes.

    We got a serious problem.

    Big $$ may need to be spent …. again.

    No party isn’t fixing this in under a year … but miracles do happen!!


  5. John February 2, 2018 at 10:52 AM #

    We should eliminate the possibility that sub standard materials were used in the construction of the sewage system.


  6. John February 3, 2018 at 11:54 PM #

    There are three possibilities if corrosion is the culprit.

    First, the design engineers specified substandard materials

    Second, the contractor cut corners

    Third, which we automatically assume, the folks at the BWA were lapse on maintenance and the powers that bee and dee did not adequately fund the ongoing system maintenance.

    Before we jump to the third alternative we should inquire into the first two.

    In fact, I am surprised neither party has raised this issue given the licks they have been getting.

    If we are at the IADB looking for finance is it to fix the problems or is it to replace sections of the system which have worn out.

    It looks from cursory digging on the internet that sewage systems have a lifespan and in our case, it may have been shorter than it should have been.

    Here is a report to Congress in 1991, before our system was built highlighting the issues in the US.



  7. John February 3, 2018 at 11:58 PM #

    Here was the situation in Los Angeles in 1991.

    Most of the CSDLAC collection sewers, especially the large-diameter lines in the lower reaches of the tributary system, are constructed of reinforced concrete pipe with no protective coatings or liners. These large sewers generally range in size from 54 inches in diameter up to 144 inches in diameter. The oldest of these sewers have been in service for approximately 65 years.


  8. John February 4, 2018 at 12:01 AM #

    At the time these sewers were designed, concerns existed about the possibility of
    corrosion. To guard against this possibility, the earliest of the large sewers had vitrified
    clay liner plates installed on the interior sides and crowns. However, sulfuric acid easily
    penetrated the joints between the tiles and destroyed the grouting and cementitious
    materials underneath. By the late 1930’s after approximately 10 years of service, enough
    of the tiles had fallen off into the bottom of the pipes to create flow obstructions and
    necessitate cleaning of the debris from these pipes.

    Because of the problems experienced with the tile liners, CSDLAC looked for
    another method to prevent corrosion damage. The Districts chose to design sewers to
    induce sufficient wastewater velocities so that natural reaeration would minimize the
    growth of the anaerobic slime layers on the submerged pipe walls where the sulfide­
    generating bacteria grow. Such natural reaeration forces would also help oxidize any
    sulfide that did form in the wastewater, preventing its release to the sewer headspace as
    hydrogen sulfide gas.

    In the early 1950’s, concrete pipe manufacturers began to market internally lined
    pipes to protect against hydrogen sulfide corrosion. However, at that time, little
    information was available to document how well these plastic liners would remain
    securely bonded to the concrete and provide effective protection. The lined pipe was
    expensive when compared to regular, unlined pipe, and CSDLAC decided to rely on
    high design velocities to control corrosion, rather than lined pipe. Consequently, during
    the 1950’s and 1960’s, as the size of the collection system increased dramatically,
    CSDLAC continued to install unprotected, reinforced concrete pipe for much of the
    sewer system. Current County standards require lined concrete pipe in all new
    installations to prevent corrosion.


  9. John February 4, 2018 at 12:09 AM #

    The City of Albuquerque maintains approximately 1,400 miles of sewer which
    serve approximately 450,000 people and transport an average of 49 million gallons per
    day (mgd) of wastewater to the city’s treatment facility. Separate storm sewers are used
    throughout most of the city, but some combined systems do exist.
    Albuquerque experiences 90 to 100 collapses per year that are attributed to
    hydrogen sulfide corrosion in its approximately 400 miles of 8-inch-diameter concrete
    pipe. These collapses are mostly in residential areas, and each typically involves two to
    four pipe sections (20 feet). The problem of pipe collapse is widespread in the city, but
    seems concentrated in North Valley, an older part of town that bas the most concrete
    pipe, and in pipe 40 to 60 years old. The rest of the collectors are mostly clay pipe.


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