BY INGRID BROWN Associate editor — special assignment firstname.lastname@example.org
WATER Minister Robert Pickersgill has appealed to the public not to steal the National Water Commission's (NWC's) property now that the scrap metal trade has resumed.
The NWC has reportedly lost more than $36 million in direct theft related to the scrap-metal industry. According to the utility company, this does not include the regular theft of manhole covers and frames throughout its sewage districts. Neither does it include single/short lengths of pipes rampantly stolen from its water distribution systems.
"I am appealing to Jamaicans to desist from stealing iron and in particular the property of the NWC, mainly meters and pipes," Pickersgill said, as he addressed journalists on a tour of the Ramble pipe/bridge emergency repairs to the Yallahs pipeline in St Thomas on Wednesday.
He noted that not only does the theft cause damage to the company's equipment, but it disrupts service to customers as well.
The NWC, which said it suffered losses in almost all parishes, noted that the costs indicated in most instances are merely estimates of the replacement cost and do not include costs for loss of revenue, customer inconvenience, increased trucking costs, and damage to the image of the enterprise.
According to the company, the full cost of the losses is anywhere between $144 million and $196 million.
Yesterday, even while expressing confidence that the new regulations will adequately deal with looters, Pickersgill said the company continues to spend a lot on securing its premises.
The controversial scrap metal trade — which was suspended 18 months ago amidst widespread theft amounting to $1 billion over the past four years — resumed earlier this week under far more stringent regulations.
Under the new measures, restrictions will be placed on the type of scrap metal to be exported and all containers must be loaded under the supervision of the police, custom officers and in some cases the military, at three designated sites in Clarendon, Riverton City and on Hagley Park Road.
Yesterday, communications manager at the NWC Charles Buchanan said there was a significant reduction in theft of its equipment during the period of the scrap metal ban.
"There were fewer cases of theft of our property during that time and we have not heard of any incidents of theft since the announcement that the trade was to resume," Buchanan told the Jamaica Observer.
In the meantime, the minister expressed satisfaction that the contractor, Kier Construction Limited, was able to repair the Yallahs pipeline within the scheduled six weeks.
The pipeline was damaged during the October 24, 2012 passage of Hurricane Sandy and this resulted in the disruption of raw water supplies to the Mona Dam.
Garth Jackson, vice-president of engineering and project delivery at the NWC, said it was important that the pipeline was restored ahead of the dry season.