WASCO Woes

Mus­ings are thoughts, the thought­ful kind. For the pur­pose of th­ese ar­ti­cles, a-mus­ings are thoughts that might amuse, en­ter­tain and even en­lighten.

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Michael Walker

Iwas driv­ing along a couple of weeks back, lis­ten­ing to Ti­mothy's mid­day show – what else is there to do? I enjoy Earl on W-VENT (93.5, 94.7) but I tend to lis­ten to him for his first hour from 12 to 1 pm, and then switch to Tim for the sec­ond hour from 1 to 2 pm, if I have ac­cess to a ra­dio – when, as is of­ten the case, a caller re­fused to stick to the sub­ject (I can't for the life of me re­mem­ber the sub­ject so it can't have been too earth-shat­ter­ing) and I re­mem­ber Tim fall­ing into the trap of for­get­ting what his main sub­ject was and he started pur­su­ing the topic the caller had in­tro­duced. I was a bit sur­prised be­cause Tim is quite good at telling peo­ple to keep on track (CALLER – in cap­i­tal let­ters – that's not what we're talk­ing about! Stick to the sub­ject, CALLER!) He's quite a dic­ta­tor at times.

Well, any­way, on this par­tic­u­lar af­ter­noon, what had been a rather desul­tory show with few calls turned into an avalanche of com­plaints about ev­ery­body' whip­ping boy: WASCO. It seemed that ev­ery­body and their grand­mother had been abused in some way or other by the is­land's sole sup­plier of pipe-borne wa­ter. There is, ap­par­ently, and never has been a sin­gle Saint Lu­cian, liv­ing or dead, who has not suf­fered from the evil machi­na­tions of WASCO and its in­ept, in­ef­fi­cient, lazy, cor­rupt, in­com­pe­tent, de­struc­tive, de­vi­ous, al­co­holic, fum­bling, you-name-it, employees. Well, I beg to dif­fer, and here's why. Let's start with the John Comp­ton Dam. I se­ri­ously doubt that any­one at WASCO (or was it WASA way back then?) ever in­sisted that the gov­ern­ment should not have fi­nanced an on­go­ing main­te­nance and dredg­ing pro­gram from the very start. I might be wrong, but when plan­ning such a mul­ti­mil­lion ven­ture the least you can ask for is a plan to main­tain, sus­tain and pro­tect your in­vest­ment. Suc­ces­sive gov­ern­ments have failed to do this.

Then there is the at­ti­tude of the gen­eral pub­lic. In re­cent years we at IETV have trav­elled ev­ery road in the coun­try doc­u­ment­ing com­mu­ni­ties and high­ways in var­i­ous ways. You would be sur­prised, or per­haps not, Dear Reader, to dis­cover how many il­le­gal wa­ter con­nec­tions lie bla­tantly above ground with no vis­i­ble me­ters (ac­tu­ally the same goes for LUCELEC's prod­uct, which is a much more dan­ger­ous prospect when peo­ple splice con­nec­tions to steal power). It seems that wa­ter is some­thing pro­vided From-Above-By-Jah, a ba­sic Hu­man Right that needn't be paid for.

Some years ago, I hap­pened to break a pipe at a school in the coun­try­side, which the kids im­me­di­ately turned into a fun fountain. I re­ported it to the Prin­ci­pal who said she would get on to WASCO im­me­di­ately. When I left, the wa­ter was still gush­ing hap­pily. Some days later, al­most a week I think, I hap­pened to be in the same dis­trict and was sur­prised to find the wa­ter still gush­ing, though not so en­thu­si­as­ti­cally. I called WASCO and within an hour the prob­lem was fixed. I can't help but be­lieve that the Prin­ci­pal never made the call she promised to make. In fact, I was later told that “the gen­tle­man” had fixed it. Who the gen­tle­man was, I never found out. I've re­ported more than a dozen burst pipes through the years and have al­ways found that WASCO has re­sponded if not im­me­di­ately then at least ten times as fast as the po­lice ever do. At least WASCO has ve­hi­cles!

In the past months I have had ter­ri­ble prob­lems with WASCO at my home. They billed me for 41,000 gal­lons of wa­ter one month, then al­most noth­ing, then over 30,000, then al­most noth­ing. It was crazy. They billed me for over $1,000 a month. I re­fused to pay. WASCO in­sisted I had a leak on my property. I in­sisted I hadn't. I mean, how could I have a leak one day and no leak the next, un­less of course I was ly­ing through my teeth? It was a stand­off. Now here's where you ex­pect me to start scream­ing and shout­ing about “eff­ing WASCO”; well, I can't. The peo­ple at WASCO have treated me with the ut­most cour­tesy and con­sid­er­a­tion. I be­lieve they are as con­fused by the sit­u­a­tion as I am. From the start, Shem, the first per­son I spoke to, and the oth­ers have done ev­ery­thing to take my com­plaint se­ri­ously. They in­stalled an air valve to check if air was af­fect­ing the me­ter, an ob­vi­ous first choice. Then they re­moved my me­ter and took it way for test­ing; it proved not to be faulty. Mean­while my debt to WASCO was mount­ing. I checked and rechecked all my pipes, which are all above ground, and found no leak. I did find a bro­ken un­der­ground pipe on the “WASCO side” – so I don't see how it could af­fect my me­ter read­ings al­though, strangely, WASCO knocked off a few hun­dred dol­lars from my bill as com­pen­sa­tion – and the com­pany fixed it al­most im­me­di­ately.

Fi­nally, I put a lock on my valve to stop wa­ter com­ing in (just as WASCO does when you don't pay your bill) and still, it seems, I'm us­ing wa­ter. If it is a leak, as WASCO in­sists it must be, then it is a leak that oc­curs now and then with no dis­cern­able pat­tern. In the past months I have ex­isted en­tirely on rain­wa­ter, de­spite the drought, be­cause I har­vest ev­ery drop that falls on the house and have more than 50,000 gal­lons' stor­age ca­pac­ity in two large un­der­ground tanks. What is hap­pen­ing is a mystery and a headache, but in no way can I blame WASCO for the con­fu­sion. So give the guys a break, please!

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