Health department gives Sea Castles 30 days to fix sewage problem
Sewage has spilled out onto a section of the Sea Castles property in St James. (Photo; Anthony Lewis)

ROSE HALL, St James — The St James Health Department has put the owners of the Sea Castles strata development on a watch list because of persistent problems with raw sewage seeping on to sections of the once–swanky property.

The owners have been given until the end of January to connect to “the nearest functioning” sewerage plant.

On December 31, 2021, the health department gave the management of the apartment complex 30 days to address a complaint about an overflow of sewage at the rear of the property. The flow ceased a day later, but there is no word yet regardng their compliance with instructions to connect to a sewerage plant. The closest one would be a private plant operated by the Rollins Estate to serve its properties along the prime tourist stretch in Rose Hall.

For now, the health department is keeping a watchful eye out for any recurrence of the free flow of waste, a problem which one resident told the Jamaica Observer has cropped up over and over again for years despite their complaints.

“[We] will have to monitor the place now so that it does not cause a public health problem next week or the week after next week,” said Lennox Wallace, parish manager for the St James Health Department, who noted that by law, any sewage-related complaint must be investigated within 24 hours.

When the Observer visited Sea Castles in late December, maggot-filled sewage was seen flowing from a section of the property across an old road into mangrove-filled coastal waters near a section of beach.

Wallace said that during a December 30 visit, a team from the health department found large pockets of sewage flowing from the source to the discharge point.

“[There is a] nuisance taking place. The source of the issue appears to be the sewage holding and lift station. The sewage overflow is directly coming from the lift station. The overflow extended from the source all the way to the point of entry into bushes; [it] is about 25cm,” said a section of the report provided to Wallace by his inspectors.

The health department recommended that Sea Castles discontinue the use of its dysfunctional sewage system and connect to the nearest functional sewage plant.

“Failure to comply with this notice shall render you liable on summary conviction in a Resident Magistrate Court [Parish Court] to a fine not exceeding $50,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months,” said a section of the notice issued on December 31.

Wallace confirmed a resident's claim that the health department has had cause to visit the property before, adding that some issues date back to 2016.

He said, while he was the chief public health inspector, he and his team visited the property on more than one occasion to have a recurring sewage issue addressed.

According to one property owner, the sewage problems that have caught the health department's eye is just one of the issues that need to be addressed.

“This property has issues that need to be resolved and cannot be [glossed] over,” said the frustrated owner.

Under a strata structure, a corporation made up of lot owners is formed and tasked with collectively taking care of upkeep, maintenance, and daily operations. There is typically a monthly maintenance fee to help cover expenses.

On New Year's Eve when the Observer reached out to strata President Dr Denise March, she said she was unaware of the sewage issue.

“We have a management company in Jamaica that is supposed to be handling that. We were not notified. So that is news to me,” said March, who lives abroad. She indicated that she would need time to get in touch with the management company.

Up to press time efforts to get an update from March were unsuccessful.

The Observer also reached out to Gladys Fraser, an executive member of the strata's management committee without success.

Sea Castles was created as a hotel by the Urban Development Corporation, but was divested more than a decade ago. Now the strata corporation-managed property has individual owners who, in some cases, offer them as short-term rentals.

One popular booking site describes it as “a gated apartment community located on Jamaica's Gold Coast in Montego Bay”.

A cesspool truck draining sewage from a section of the Sea Castles property.

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