*Photo by Nicola Muirhead
*Photo by Nicola Muirhead
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The appearance of ‘grease balls’ on two South Shore beaches yesterday has sparked fresh concerns over the safety of Bermuda’s waters.

Last night Government moved quickly to quell fears saying water samples taken on Monday from 13 different sites, including the two beaches affected, were of “good quality”.

But recent reports of the island’s sewage problem have already begun to affect cruise passengers coming to the island this summer.

And a Washington Post article last week, in which two US citizens suggested they could have fallen ill due to pollution off Bermuda, did little to help the global perception.

Yesterday, Health Minister Trevor Moniz confirmed the grease balls found on Grape Bay and Elbow Beach originated from the Seabright outfall where sewage is pumped into the ocean.

But he said that every effort was now being made to tackle the long-standing problem.

He said: “I must stress that the presence of grease balls does not necessarily mean the water is contaminated.

“We have to separate the issues of grease being discharged from the Seabright outfall from any potential public health risks posed by waste discharge.

Mr Moniz added: “The Department of Health, the Corporation of Hamilton, and the Ministry of Public Works are all taking steps to limit grease being dumped down the drain by restaurants and homeowners.

“Longer term, the Corporation and Public Works are working together to ensure the effective collection and disposal of fats, oils and grease from any restaurant that ties into the Corporation’s outfall.

“In addition, Public Works is well-advanced in converting from a primary treatment process to a twostage process.

“The new installation will be commissioned in the second half of the year.

Treatment “Monitoring of effluent discharge is being implemented to measure output from the Tynes Bay facility to the main sewer.” The Corporation of Hamilton is currently looking at introducing an enhanced primary treatment facility that would remove solids, fats, oils and grease from the waste stream.

A project to extend the outfall is also being explored.

But despite the latest reassurances, the popular cruise website CruiseCritic has seen a growing number of posts by travellers concerned about how clean Bermuda’s waters are.

One comment said: “Of course, Bermuda officials are going to say the water is safe for us to swim and snorkel in. I’m still worried. We go this July.” While another added: “We are going in May, so if I learn any more, I will pass it on. Since most of our activities include being in the water, I just may see about the vaccinations they say to get.” Bill Hanbury, CEO of the Bermuda Tourism Authority, yesterday backed Government’s efforts to deal with the way sewage is disposed of off Bermuda.

He said: “We have got a good group of colleagues here and I think the Government is working very closely together here in order to achieve some objectives around communications.

“We were very unhappy with what happened, with this announcement, and the way it was done by the Consul General. It could have been done in a different way. But it is what it is.

“We are making a very big effort to keep our global tourism audience informed around this issue.

“There are a lot of folks interested in this and we have done a very good job up to this point with our public relation firms around the world working on this and ensuring that the right information gets out there.

“At the end of the day we have to remediate against this; Government is well aware of that and has taken some significant short-term steps in order to make sure we can assure our visitors that our beaches are safe.

“We are also taking longterm steps. Government is going to fix this problem.

“So I am satisfied with the response of government and we will continue to work closely with them to make sure those messages get out there and we are doing the kind of job we need to do to maintain a very important part of our economy.”




Statement by Environment Minister Trevor Moniz: Late yesterday evening it was noticed that greaseballs had appeared on two South Shore beaches.

As a result, Parks crews visited the beaches first thing this morning to remove the greaseballs.

Although inclement weather is forecast this week with 20 to 30 knot winds from the east south east, and high seas making swimming unlikely, the department of health wishes to advise users of these beaches that greaseballs were observed washing ashore late yesterday evening.

The origin of these greaseballs is the Seabright outfall approximately 1 1/2 km upwind. The typical April seasonal weather pattern has recurred. Greaseballs washed ashore almost one year to the day on April 16, 2013 in very similar meteorological conditions.

The Department of Health sampled the water at a number of beaches on Monday. Results of that sampling were received earlier this afternoon and demonstrate that all of the samples were of good quality. Those results are being posted on the Ministry of Health and Environment’s homepage on the Government portal.

Additional samples will be taken this week and results will be made available to the public.

As a reminder, I committed in my last press conference, to post water sample results as close to real time as possible and to alert the public if two consecutive samples were outside accepted standards. Since April 2013 all of the samples taken have been within the standards. As a result no alerts have been issued.

I must stress that the presence of greaseballs does not necessarily mean the water is contaminated. We have to separate the issues of grease being discharged from the Seabright outfall from any potential public health risks posed by waste discharge.

At this point I would like to give you some insights into what is being done both short-term and long-term to address these two issues.

The best way to address the issue of grease being discharged from the outfall is to prevent it being introduced in the first place. The Department of Health, the Corporation of Hamilton, and the Ministry of Public Works are all taking steps to limit grease being dumped down the drain by restaurants and homeowners.

Longer term, the Corporation and Public Works are working together to ensure the effective collection and disposal of fats, oils and grease from any restaurant that ties into the Corporation’s outfall.

In addition, Public Works is well-advanced in converting from a primary treatment process to a two-stage process. The new installation will be commissioned in the second half of the year.  Monitoring of effluent discharge is being implemented to measure output from the Tynes Bay facility to the main sewer.

As I said the second issue that must be addressed is public health issues related to waste disposal. There again, short-term and longer term solutions are being addressed.

In the short-term, the Corporation of Hamilton is actively investigating the introduction of an enhanced primary treatment facility which will remove solids, fats, oils and grease from the waste stream and provide a treatment mechanism for the elimination of human pathogens.

Longer term options for physically extending the outfall, which has been in existence for almost 100 years, are being explored. This combination of enhanced primary treatment and extension of the outfall should provide even greater assurances for our water quality. The introduction of the sewage treatment system at King Edward will serve to enhance these improvements.

To summarize, all stakeholders are working together to find sustainable solutions which include:

Improvement of sewage waste handling at Tynes Bay Septage Facility where investments in a new plant are being made;

Improved grease collection from City restaurants;

The introduction of enhanced primary treatment of waste by the Corporation of Hamilton

Extension of the Seabright outfall

Sewage treatment at KEMH is now online; and

Twice weekly monitoring of bathing water quality will continue by DoH.

Thank you.