'Faeces water' could kill your babies - Health official warns home builders

August 21, 2018

Steve Morris, chief public health inspector for Westmoreland, said the illegal and improper construction of absorption pits in the parish could contaminate the supply from the Roaring River and Bull Stewart water source, killing babies in the process.

"If those (water sources) become contaminated with nitrate which comes from the faeces, we can't use those water supplies as has been the case in Kingston, where several wells were shut down many years ago because they are contaminated," Morris told the WESTERN STAR. "You can't use water high with nitrate for domestic purposes."

He added: "When water has high nitrate levels, it's almost impossible to get that out. So if babies are given that water to drink, they get a disease called methemoglobinemia or 'blue baby syndrome', which is fatal; so that is what we are trying to prevent here."


Not recommended


An absorption pit is an underground storage pit within which sewage is digested by anaerobic bacterial action and passes through its walls into the soil serving as the simplest means of discharging effluent.

According to Morris, the infrastructure is not recommended for the parish due to the water table and he revealed that there is advanced discussion with the Westmoreland Municipal Corporation on ways to stem the practice.

"We at the health department do not approve any building plan with absorption pit ... so once a building plan comes to us with an absorption pit on it, we are not going to approve it," he noted. "We have been in discussion with the parish council looking at how we can ensure that they (builders) are complying with what is being approved."

Morris said that discussion is still ongoing because one of the clauses embedded in the recommendation and condition of approval for construction, compels the builders to inform the corporation the moment they start building.

But he admits that there is no available data on the amount of absorption pits in the parish.

"But I know that persons have been submitting plans (which) are approved. But in the end, they actually construct absorption pits, which is contrary to what was recommended," said Morris.

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