By Bobby Walker
The corner of Camp and Middle streets stinks and GWI says years of oily discharge from Church’s Chicken has created a blockage and the sewage has backed up, something the fast food business denies.
In addition to the sewage back-up there is seepage along the city’s sewer line, which runs on Camp Street, between Middle and New Market streets.
Residents and business-owners of Middle Street, in the vicinity of Church’s Chicken, are complaining of the pungent odour. They say that the problem has been ongoing for about three years and they have “had enough.”
Stabroek News visited the area last week and spoke to some of the residents.
A teacher, who carries out remedial classes for children, said that the stench from the back-up has been a problem for a long time, but it has been at its worst in the last couple of weeks.
When asked if anyone had done anything to clean up the area, the woman replied that Cevon’s Waste Management had gone there twice that week after three or four years and had cleaned the sewage systems along the street but it “didn’t do much.”
Another woman, who works for one of the residents, said that the stench greatly affects her while she works during the day.
The woman said her boss, who has a connection with the City Council, managed to have his sewage system cleared but the odour is still very present.
The manager of a business on Middle Street took this newspaper outside to see the sewage spilling onto the pavement. The manager said that people walking on the pavement are unaware that it is sewage so they step in it without thinking twice. Aside from being unsanitary, he said, it poses another problem for the business since customers enter the store after having just walked in the sewage water and they “stink up the place.” He added that it is a serious problem because the sewage back-up is not their fault but they are still paying to have the place cleaned.
Residents believe that the sewage back-up is being caused by Church’s Chicken, which is one of the busiest fast food restaurants in the city. They say that fat, oil and grease from the restaurant are responsible for the back-up. Residents say that over the years when they confront Church’s about the problem, it denies being at fault and “points back” at them.
One of the directors of Camex Restaurants, which holds the franchise for Church’s, denied the assertions that Church’s might be the cause of the sewage problem.
The director, who requested anonymity, told Stabroek News that Church’s does everything that it can to ensure that little or no blockage is caused. He said that Church’s does not cut or clean chicken on the premises, so there is no fat to be disposed of. All of the chicken, he said, arrives ready-made and the employees only have to season and fry it. The oil that is used during frying is afterwards frozen and then disposed of by Cevon’s.
Additionally, the director said, Church’s has in place three grease traps that are in proper working condition and GWI has often done checks to ensure this. He added that Church’s has its sewage system cleared every week by Cevon’s and also has the neighbours’ cleaned when complaints are made. This, he said, is a financial setback to the business.
He believes the sewage problem is caused by the lack of proper layout by GWI and that it could have been there even before Church’s arrived. “Despite this,” he said “we have still done as much as we could and we are still open and willing to do more to ensure that this issue is settled.”
However, in a statement issued by Public Relations Officer Timothy Austin, GWI said it has looked into the matter and found that the fat “is clearly a build-up from years of oily discharge from Church’s Chicken restaurant in the area.” Austin stated that the GWI sanitation team is working assiduously to clear the blockage that will allow the free flow of waste water to the sewer station that is located on the corner of New Market and Camp streets.
When Stabroek News relayed this back to the director at Church’s Chicken, he said Church’s is tired of being accused as the root of the problem and that even though the problem could be due to the original layout of the sewer line, “GWI is not going to take the blame.”
When this newspaper visited the area on Wednesday, passersby were covering their noses from the stench, and innocently stepping in the filth.