More water disruptions until March
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.