Deprived of water for a month

Barton’s Spring residents angry after NWC removes pump


Wednesday, February 12, 2014    

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MARVA Mahorn's palms were blackened after a day toiling in the cane field of Bartons Spring, St Elizabeth. Her face, too, was smudged, and burnt particles from the harvested cane stuck to her sweaty skin, face and hair.

After leaving the cane field, she made the approximately one-mile walk home to a lane informally called 'Blue Hole Road' in Bartons Spring, her machete in hand. Accompanying her was a fellow labourer who rode a bicycle.

A nice long bath would be ideal after such hard labour in the sun, but for Mahorn, and other residents of a section of Bartons Spring and the neighbouring community of Coker, there will be no such luxury. They have been without piped water for a month.

The mother of three, like the others who are without the vital commodity, has to travel the approximately one-mile journey to a standpipe in a place in the community called 'Building' to catch water. Some have paid persons to make the trip or send their children.

The affected residents, with whom the Jamaica Observer spoke last Friday, are particularly angry because, according to them, they were not notified beforehand by the National Water Commission (NWC) that the pump that ensured their supply would have been removed.

To add insult to injury, residents said they have been informed that the pump had been installed in the nearby community of Georges Valley where a pump reportedly went bad some weeks before the removal of theirs.

"That shouldn't be at all," Bartons Spring resident Richard Brown said, his frustration evident. "We had two pumps, they took one some time ago and now they turn around and take this one."

Brown, who had two empty plastic barrels siting in the bed of his pickup truck, was among a group of men on the Coker main road, in Bartons Spring, who were out seeking the precious commodity.

The men groused that the NWC shouldn't have to be juggling pumps between communities, as it was granted a rate hike recently, and the company should have had these vital pieces of equipment in storage.

Inside homes, dirty laundry pile up, toilets go unflushed for days on end and at least one man seen out on the road complained of getting a water bill for $2,000, even though there hasn't been any piped water.

When contacted, NWC's communication pointman Charles Buchanan was unable to speak immediately on the matter as he hadn't been briefed on the situation.

Elknah Walsh, who lives with his wife and 13-year-old son on Blue Hole Road, said that more people would have had water had the NWC bridged the pipe at the spot where the pump had been removed.

"We need the pump back. We need water back," was the cry of a resident who gave her name as Felisha. She shares a house with another adult and three children. Two plastic barrels stood to the side of the house, the contents of one already dwindling.

"Laundry, I don't even want to tell you about that. I have them stored until water comes back," said Natasha Stone, a mother of two children who listed a slew of problems when asked how she was coping with the lack of running water.

Lissette Martin, who lives in a lane neighbouring Blue Hole Road with her two children and her partner had already hung a line of clothes out when the Observer visited. Asked how she was able to wash when there was such a shortage, she laughed and said she used toilet waste water.

However, she eventually revealed that she had used a small volume of the little water she had.

She then hauled out of her house a basket of unwashed clothes, while clutching a handful, even larger than that on the line.

After a month without piped water, a water truck provided by the State went to the community for the first time last Wednesday. There was a second trip on Thursday and a third Friday. But not all benefited for one reason or another.

The poor condition of the Coker main road has been listed by residents as the main reason for this. According to residents, the water truck had to cut short its supply duties as the driver refused to travel on a section of the road.

Jacquel Garrick displayed a number of empty water bottles. She lives in a household of eight and for them enough water cannot be stored to meet their needs sufficiently.

"People said NWC said that water would be gone for two or three weeks," she told the Observer. "A month now gone."





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