More wa­ter dis­rup­tions un­til March

Daily Observer (Jamaica) - - FRONT PAGE - BY TANESHA MUNDLE

RES­I­DENTS in sec­tions of the Cor­po­rate Area and St Cather­ine now ex­pe­ri­enc­ing wa­ter chal­lenges should brace for fur­ther dis­rup­tions, as on­go­ing road­work is likely to af­fect sup­ply up to the end of March.

“So the in­fra­struc­ture work that we are see­ing now in the Cor­po­rate Area, yes, it has a neg­a­tive im­pact, but I want to put it in the con­text that the dis­rup­tions are very tem­po­rary. And, based on the time­line that these works are to be com­pleted... all of these works, the ma­jor ones, ex­cept for Ha­gley Park, as far as I know based on dis­cus­sions with NWA (Na­tional Works Agency), should be done by March,” said Na­tional Wa­ter Com­mis­sion (NWC) Pres­i­dent Mark Bar­nett, who was speak­ing at a press brief­ing at the agency’s of­fice in New Kingston on Fri­day.

While ap­peal­ing to cus­tomers for pa­tience, he said the on­go­ing road­work has se­verely im­pacted the agency’s abil­ity to re­li­ably and con­sis­tently dis­trib­ute wa­ter to its cus­tomers, ow­ing to fre­quent breaks in pipe­lines.

He pointed to the trans­mis­sion pipe­line from Ferry to Six Miles in St An­drew as one of the ca­su­al­ties of the road­work. It was dam­aged last De­cem­ber and has re­sulted in dis­rupted wa­ter sup­ply for be­tween 105,000 and 110,000 cus­tomers in sec­tions of the Cor­po­rate Area and a small sec­tion of St Cather­ine.

How­ever, Bar­nett told jour­nal­ists that the NWC will be re­plac­ing the pipe­line, in­stead of fix­ing it, and that the new main should be op­er­a­tional by the end of March.

In the in­terim, the NWC pres­i­dent said cus­tomers have been placed on a sched­ule to get wa­ter from the Mona and Con­stant Spring wa­ter sys­tems. Bar­nett also said that the NWC is col­lab­o­rat­ing with a pri­vate wa­ter-pro­duc­ing en­tity and in an­other week will be in­tro­duc­ing 700,000 gal­lons of wa­ter in the Cas­sia Park area, which will re­sult in im­prove­ments in the Molynes Road area.

“There are some cus­tomers that we know have been without wa­ter for a day and a half, two days, up four days, and we em­pathise and apol­o­gise pro­fusely for those sit­u­a­tions. But what we do is to main­tain the dis­tri­bu­tion for as long as pos­si­ble within those com­mu­ni­ties, which would have had a pro­longed pe­riod, where that doesn’t work we aug­ment that with truck­ing,” Bar­nett said, adding that schools and pub­lic health fa­cil­i­ties will be pri­or­ity for truck­ing in af­fected ar­eas.

The NWC pres­i­dent said, while the agency is work­ing as­sid­u­ously to fix the bro­ken pipe­line, it is dif­fi­cult to pre­vent break­age.

“Usu­ally, the breaks are oc­cur­ring, not nec­es­sar­ily as a di­rect hit on pipe, but be­cause you may have ex­ca­va­tion ad­ja­cent to the pipe, and when you are do­ing your com­paction, you would have dis­turbed the pipe it­self which would now cre­ate that void that re­sults in, say, a joint on the pipe start­ing to leak. And once a joint starts to leak, we have to fix it be­cause nei­ther can the road­work con­tinue, nor can we con­tinue to lose all of that wa­ter,” Bar­nett said.

While stress­ing that the rea­sons for the dis­rup­tion in wa­ter sup­ply was not an ex­cuse for the prob­lems be­ing ex­pe­ri­enced by cus­tomers, he said that ma­jor in­fra­struc­ture work usu­ally comes with some level of dis­rup­tion.

“It’s not some­thing that we are happy about, and it’s not some­thing that we would want to talk about, be­cause we would want no dis­rup­tion at all, but we also like to put it in con­text that the dis­rup­tions are tem­po­rary, they are not per­ma­nent,” he said.

Ac­cord­ing to Bar­nett, the orig­i­nal pipes that were laid over 60 years ago were in­stalled without in-line valves, which would al­low for a sec­tion of the pipe line to be locked off when there is a break, in­stead of shut­ting down the en­tire sys­tem.

“These things are go­ing to hap­pen, yes, it’s not the best. We com­mis­er­ate with ev­ery cus­tomer that is af­fected. A Christ­mas without wa­ter is like not hav­ing Christ­mas; we share that con­cern, but we are also say­ing it’s tem­po­rary and we are work­ing to im­prove that. We are work­ing to en­sure that we serve more peo­ple with more wa­ter and be­come even more re­li­able, and that is the ul­ti­mate goal,” he said.

In the mean­time, the NWC pres­i­dent as­sured af­fected cus­tomers that they will only be billed for wa­ter con­sumed, not­ing that the me­tered cus­tomers will pay only what is re­flected on the me­ter, while fixed bill cus­tomers may have their bills ad­justed.

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