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Plans to tackle ‘grease balls’

Initial improvements at Tynes Bay to help tackle the problem of “sewage balls” are expected to be up and running by mid-October.

According to a Bermuda Government spokeswoman, the Flo-Septage receiving station and screening system will improve the quality of the effluent and allow solid waste to be burnt to create electricity.

It comes after the Bermuda Tourism Industry, Greenrock and the Bermuda Environmental Sustainability Taskforce called for a “complete” solution to the problem plaguing South Shore beaches to protect the island's most important tourism asset.

Meanwhile, independent tests of the waters at Grape Bay and Hungry Bay commissioned by The Royal Gazette came back clear.

The spokeswoman said there has also been a reduction in grease passing through the Front Street Waste Water treatment plant since legislation mandating all commercial kitchens fit grease traps to prevent fats, oils and grease from entering the sewerage system was passed.

Responding to questions about how the Government was addressing the “grease balls”, the spokeswoman said: “The Flo-Septage receiving station and screening system is under installation and anticipated to be commissioned in mid-October 2016.

“This equipment is part of a phased installation of a plant that will remove solids from the septage pit, which will be dried and burnt to produce electricity at Tynes Bay.”

She added that the works were intended to improve the overall quality of the sewage effluent by enhancing the removal of grease and solids.

According to the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences' website, the island's largest sewage outfall is at Seabright, which is 784m from the entrance to Hungry Bay, 700m from the eastern end of Grape Bay and 1,600m from the eastern end of Elbow Beach, and receives preliminary-treated effluent from Hamilton and surrounding areas. According to the spokeswoman, the Seabright Pipe, which is inspected every two months, “is being considered as part of a holistic approach to sewage management”.

“The quality of effluent entering the pipe has been improved with the introduction of FOG legislation to control sources of grease, and the sewage treatment at the Front Street Plant has been improved with finer screens,” she said. “There has been a large and noticeable reduction of grease arriving at the Front Street Waste Water treatment plant.

“For example, grease was previously removed from the well eight times a month, but now only has to be removed twice a month.”

And the Scientific Technical Advisory Committee is investigating the risk for enzymatic degreasers to be exacerbating the problem, she said.

Meanwhile, everyone is being asked to remove grease from their waste water and producers of grease waste are asked to only contract removal with waste cooking oil collectors/haulers that are authorised by the Department of Public Works, she added.The problems posed by the “grease balls” — once described as “human waste wrapped in a grease raincoat” — hit the headlines again after they reappeared at Grape Bay Beach last week Wednesday.

First reported by this newspaper in 2002, they drew growing concern after a 2013 water quality study conducted by the University of Laval, Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences and Government scientist showed that human bacteria levels in the waters off South Shore beaches reached up to four times the acceptable US standard during strong easterly winds, tide and swell. The Government assured at that time that the water quality would be monitored and steps would be taken to eliminate pollutants, including “significant improvements” to the Tynes Bay septage facility.

The spokeswoman said yesterday that there had been six reports of “grease balls” on central beaches since 2013. But she reiterated that the US Environmental Protection Agency testing method “evaluates the microbial state of the recreational seawater and says that water is safe for human contact”.

“The DoH has never had a scenario to test the water underneath floating grease balls as this has never been encountered in the field, but the Department would not recommend swimming when floating grease balls are in the water and would also avoid contact with grease balls that are washed ashore.

“Sampling the same day as, but after, pollution events shows that the seawater has been suitable for recreational use.”

She added that tests are only conducted during the peak season because the intent of the sampling is to protect recreational water users and reflect the typical Bermudian bathing season.

“If reports are received from the public, Government will respond with the appropriate testing and cleanup in any season.

“Anyone viewing grease balls floating or ashore should immediately call Environmental Health at 278-5333.”

Additional reporting by Rajan Simons.

Sewage problem: grease balls found at Grape Bay Beach (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

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Published August 31, 2016 at 9:00 am (Updated August 31, 2016 at 5:50 am)

Plans to tackle ‘grease balls’

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