BY INGRID BROWN Associate editor — special assignment firstname.lastname@example.org
A shortage of funds at the Portland Parish Council has stalled the trucking of water to several communities in this eastern parish where residents have been without the piped commodity for many months.
Councillor Derron Woods (JLP, Fairy Hill Division) said since the piped supply dried up, he installed plastic tanks to be used as standpipes at strategic points in some communities, according to the needs. The plan was for water to be trucked to fill them weekly. However, this was discontinued two months ago when the Council, which does not own a truck, could no longer afford to foot the bill for private contractors to transport the precious commodity.
“If we had our own truck a lot of the problems would be solved,” he said.
According to Woods, the Council would normally get allocations from the Equalisation Fund from the Ministry of Local Government, but it has not received any such payout in the last three months. The fund, he said, is to finance infrastructural projects such as trucking water and effecting repairs to broken pipes, among other things.
“Every month the Parish Council comes up short with the monthly budget, and so we just don’t have the money for trucking water,” Woods told the Jamaica Observer North East.
He explained that in previous months the Fairy Hill Division was the worst affected by the water shortage, but the problem is now parish-wide.
Woods said the Council has since sent a request to the minister of local government, Noel Arscott, for $3.9 million to restart the trucking of water. He noted that while the Council was not very optimistic about receiving the total amount, it is hoping that the matter will be treated with urgency.
“Right now, $3.9 million is just a drop in the bucket and won’t solve the problem, but at least it would help farmers, hotels and villas in the area which have been worst affected,” he said.
Until then, residents are forced to rely mainly on rainfall which, in a parish known for constant showers and where farming is a major source of earning, has become unpredictable. Even the usual rainy months of April and May have become very dry according to their accounts.
Residents of Boston Bay said although some of them had fallen ill from drinking the piped water, which has a salty tastes, they would gladly welcome it rather than do without the precious commodity, sometimes for weeks at a time.
But even when there is water in the pipes, scores of residents have to travel miles to standpipes and either lug the full containers uphill or pay to have them transported.
“I born come see dat standpipe and we have had to struggle to keep it there,” said Alman Davidson.
He explained that there is often a long queue of persons waiting to catch water, a situation which often results in tense moments.
“Sometimes we have problem because you may have someone who want to catch water before others,” he said.
Shana Webber of Fairy Hill said she and her neighbours travel to the nearby community of Nonsuch to fetch water and pay to
have it transported to their homes.
“People pay to carry water in a car or van sometimes fi $500 and $400 for 10 buckets and that can’t even full a drum,” she told the Observer North East.
“Water is only trucked once in a blue moon and you have to sign for it,” added Webber.
Fellow resident Camille Buckley said although the water had been gone for months, no truck had come. And had it not been for the rain which fell that morning, she would have still been without the precious commodity.
“Sometimes the kids can’t go to school and we can’t wash,” she lamented, adding that not many people can afford to purchase the popular black storage tanks, and even those who have constructed the concrete types are finding it difficult as there isn’t usually enough water available from the trucks to fill them.
In Drapers, Jennifer Ranglin said her community has to ration its water because the area is sometimes without the flow for weeks on end as the water truck seldom visits.
“We can’t wash plate as we would like, and we have to catch rain water fi wash. Failing dat wi haffi pay to carry it up here from the main road,” she said, adding that operators charge $100 to transport four buckets.
She explained, too, that on the rare occasion that water comes through the tap it has a bitter taste and contains too much chlorine.
The experience, however, hasn’t been the same for Radcliffe Samuels, also of Drapers. Contrary to other residents, he maintained that the water problem in the community had improved in recent times.
“We use to have a serious water problem here, but from they replace the pump the water goes away every other day and this gives us enough time to store water,” he said.
The replacement pump, he said, was put in last year after the residents staged a protest.