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Concerns about safety at Black Watch Pass

Assessing risks: Craig Cannonier, Minister of Public Works (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

Overseas engineers are on the island assessing the potential risk of falling rocks in road cuts and cliffs round the island.

The work is being conducted under the Ministry of Public Works after a large chunk of limestone from the wall crashed on to the road last year at Black Watch Pass in Pembroke after a downpour.

At the time public works minister Craig Cannonier said his ministry would look into the “most feasible solution of dealing with this issue”.

He has since made it apparent that the safety of Black Watch Pass is one of several areas of concern in terms of public safety.

He told The Royal Gazette: “The infrastructure of this island continues to be of concern and we have professionals involved who are looking out for public safety.

“Last year when we were looking at Black Watch Pass we were trying to figure out where the falling rocks came from and why it happened.

“It triggered us to pay even closer attention so we investigated and took a look at how these things were cut back in 1934. We now need to do more frequent inspections of all of Bermuda and its Bermuda stone make-up.

“We have these guys looking at the island on a regular basis — you have Scaur Hill, the other side of Black Watch Pass near Marsh Folly — the great big wall that goes toward Devonshire Rec where you have people who have built all along there. These are the things that we are concerned about

“The solutions are several — I am waiting for the engineers to come back to us and tell us specifically, as they drive through the island, where they see potential problems and where they do see immediate risk and what should we do about those risks.”

Bob Lortie, visiting engineer for Public Works said: “It is a monitoring process so we are doing visual inspections — our first and only priority is safety so whenever we have a doubt we go and do an inspection. If after the inspection we need to do some other work we will find the proper work. Monitoring will be complete by about mid-September.”

Following initial inspections at Black Watch Pass the minister has said he is confident it is safe although he added “it is likely that sand and small rocks could fall during rain events.” Quizzed further about how he could be sure the rocks likely to fall would be small he responded: “Nothing is 100 per cent. Looking at it right now it is highly unlikely but there is no guarantee in life — you can’t say for sure that that is the case.”

Mr Cannonier said there had been no reports of falling rocks at Black Watch Pass since they fell last September.

He said once monitoring was complete a more solid decision could be made about whether any further work — aside from regular inspections — is required to take place.

“We don’t know what initiated the fallen rocks — we are making assumptions there is something wrong with the wall. There hasn’t been the necessity to gunite or put a block wall.

“We need to make sure the scientists get in and look at this stuff with a real critical eye — we have never really had the full expertise that we do now — we do have our Works and Engineering guys and we have our engineers here and they have so far said that this place is safe. We have the scientists here now and they are looking at it — we will wait for the recommendations from them. It is important that we should get it right.”