Is Den­nery Wa­ter Cri­sis at an End?

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Kayra Wil­liams

"Of­ten we get some wa­ter once a week but we can’t even use it to wash. When the wa­ter is a lit­tle clear, we see worms squirm­ing in it."

Imag­ine hav­ing to bathe ev­ery day out of drums and buck­ets, depend­ing on rain­fall to de­cide be­tween another trip to the river and no wash at all. Imag­ine hav­ing to ra­tion wa­ter ev­ery day while your chil­dren brush their teeth, cring­ing while your en­tire fam­ily uses un­fil­tered wa­ter straight from the river; mean­while you’re wor­ried to death about your youngest us­ing wa­ter you know is haz­ardous to their health. For res­i­dents of Den­nery North this is no dev­il­ish fan­tasy; it’s re­al­ity! Their wa­ter from var­i­ous river sources is, and has long been, plain and sim­ple - deadly. But what to do?

“We can­not use the wa­ter for any­thing,” a woman from Derniere Riviere told the STAR re­cently. “Of­ten we get some wa­ter once a week but we can’t even use it to wash. When the wa­ter is a lit­tle clear, we see worms squirm­ing in it. We never get qual­ity wa­ter. In the dry sea­son, what we go through is un­bear­able. Even the toi­let wa­ter is brown.”

Another res­i­dent: “Even when WASCO sends wa­ter for one day you can’t use it, you can’t drink it. It’s over ten years I’ve been buy­ing wa­ter ev­ery day, $20 a bot­tle. When­ever I drink wa­ter from the pipe I end up in hos­pi­tal hours later. Also there are those lit­tle red worms in the river wa­ter.”

A young res­i­dent in his 20s spoke about his jour­ney to a wa­ter source that takes him al­most a full day as he car­ries bucket af­ter bucket through a for­est to his house. He stores the wa­ter in a bar­rel. “When I have wa­ter, it doesn’t look like wa­ter. I’ve got­ten sick from drink­ing it.” He says it’s the same qual­ity he’s known all his life.

This month, how­ever, there was a glim­mer of hope. Fol­low­ing a se­ries of town hall meet­ings and a pub­lic sen­si­ti­sa­tion cam­paign, res­i­dents have been promised the Den­nery North Wa­ter Sup­ply Project will be im­ple­mented be­fore year’s end, thanks to the gen­eros­ity of the gov­ern­ment of Mex­ico, and the mo­bi­liza­tion of ad­di­tional funds from the gov­ern­ment of Saint Lu­cia.

The peo­ple of the area have, ac­cord­ing to rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the United Na­tions Of­fice, been us­ing un­treated wa­ter that typ­i­cally comes di­rectly from river sources. “There is no real treat­ment to take out all the mud,” said one of­fi­cial, “and solids that, many times, you see when it’s rain­ing.”

Project Man­ager Marta Bel­tran Perez said at a re­cent town hall meet­ing in Aux Lyon that the project that is be­ing im­ple­mented in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the United Na­tions Of­fice for Project Ser­vices and WASCO “will be look­ing at treat­ing the wa­ter, so you get wa­ter in the pipe that is of a qual­ity by in­ter­na­tional stan­dards”.

Perez said the main pur­pose of the project was to sup­ply good qual­ity wa­ter. The sec­ond as­pect, she said, was to en­sure wa­ter is avail­able on a reg­u­lar ba­sis: “Not just once a week, or once a month. Those are the two ob­jec­tives: that ev­ery drop of wa­ter sup­plied is treated and suf­fi­cient for you to live on.”

The Den­nery North Wa­ter Sup­ply Project will un­fold in two phases, and though the Project Man­ager said com­ple­tion of the first phase would not likely re­sult in res­i­dents hav­ing wa­ter 24 hours a day, she noted they would have daily ac­cess to clean wa­ter.

“The con­tract has been signed,” she said. “We will be de­sign­ing and build­ing a se­ries of in­fra­struc­ture. The first thing will be, in­stead of us­ing the three dif­fer­ent sources that are cur­rently sup­ply­ing the com­mu­nity, there will be a catch­ment, an in­take in the Tor­nesse River. This has been cho­sen be­cause of many stud­ies that iden­ti­fied this river as be­ing of good qual­ity. The qual­ity of the wa­ter is very good, and also the quan­tity is suf­fi­cient to pro­vide for the com­mu­nity. From that in­take it will go into a pipe­line, by way of grav­ity, to a wa­ter treat­ment plant in the Thomazo area. It’s in a par­cel that is close to the main road. In that plant there will be sev­eral treat­ment steps to take out all this mud from the wa­ter.”

From there the wa­ter will be pumped to var­i­ous tanks al­ready in place in­clud­ing those in Thomazo, Morne Panache, Aux Lyon, Derniere Riviere, and Gadette.

The Project Man­ager ex­plained why the project would be in two phases: “Phase One can only cover the ur­gent needs of the com­mu­nity, but in or­der to pro­vide wa­ter on a sus­tain­able ba­sis for the long term, there needs to be more in­fra­struc­ture built; there needs to be more wa­ter ca­pac­ity in the wa­ter treat­ment plant; and there needs to be a re­place­ment of pipe­lines and tanks, and new pump­ing sta­tions. That will hap­pen in Phase Two. Another par­tic­u­lar­ity is that he Aux Lyon com­mu­nity will be sup­plied by this in­fra­struc­ture in Phase Two . . . Aux Lyon was con­sid­ered, I know it’s not the best, but it has the best wa­ter source, so it’s go­ing to be sup­plied only in Phase Two.”

The first phase of the wa­ter sup­ply project is ex­pected to be com­pleted in one year. The first phase does not have to be com­pleted be­fore the start of the sec­ond.

“Phase Two is to­day al­most con­firmed be­cause the Gov­ern­ment of Saint Lu­cia re­quested a loan from the Caribbean De­vel­op­ment Bank to ex­e­cute Phase Two of the project, which the Caribbean De­vel­op­ment Bank has al­ready ap­proved,” the Project Man­ager re­vealed. “Now it’s just a mat­ter of fi­nal­is­ing that agree­ment. We can­not tell you to­day if or when it is go­ing to hap­pen, but it is in good con­di­tion to hap­pen soon.”

Perez added: “We have iden­ti­fied po­ten­tial lands where the in­fra­struc­ture will be built. If a pump­ing sta­tion needs to be built in Aux Lyon, we have iden­ti­fied in which area that could be in­stalled. We have been ask­ing the own­ers of these lands for con­sent to ac­cess. If there needs to be con­struc­tion, an ac­qui­si­tion process will be put in place by the gov­ern­ment to ac­quire any nec­es­sary lands.”

Par­lia­men­tary rep­re­sen­ta­tive for Den­nery North, Shawn Ed­ward, ac­knowl­edged there was need to thank the gov­ern­ment of Mex­ico for com­ing for­ward and lend­ing its sup­port. “Some­times things are so rough with so many coun­tries all over the world that they can­not give you any­thing by way of a grant,” he said. “Here you have Mex­ico, a coun­try that has been very loyal to the gov­ern­ment of Saint Lu­cia, and they came with­out hes­i­ta­tion. We re­ally have to say thank you to the am­bas­sador and oth­ers who made it hap­pen for us.”

Marta Bel­tran Perez, Project Man­ager for the Den­nery North Wa­ter Sup­ply Project.

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