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Water for 14,000 in South, SW and East Central St Andrew

BY KIMONE THOMPSON Associate editor -- features thompsonk@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, August 28, 2014    

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AN estimated 14,000 householders in several communities in Kingston who have never had water piped into their houses, are reportedly now receiving the commodity as a result of an agreement between the National Water Commission (NWC) and private water company Tallawah Investments.

According to the contract, Tallawah, a subsidiary of Jamaica Wells Ltd, is to provide one million gallons of water to NWC per day for the next 20 years at a cost of between $4 million and $5 million per year.

The water is intended to supply communities in the Waltham Park Road, Maxfield Avenue and Spanish Town Road areas, which fall in the constituencies of South Western St Andrew, a seat held by Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller; East Central St Andrew, held by Finance Minister Dr Peter Phillips; and South Western St Andrew, where the member of parliament is Dr Omar Davies.

Yesterday, Minister of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change Robert Pickersgill said "the NWC will be making arrangements to hold talks with members of each community about how to become connected and how to maintain a legal supply of water".

The communities, the NWC said, will not be billed at a concessionary rate.

"We have some social intervention work to be done, but health and safety in terms of cholera and other illnesses is of greater concern than the cost of people not paying for water," vice-president of water operations at the NWC Mark Blair told the Jamaica Observer.

The Tallawah well, which the owners have informally called Rehoboth -- a Biblical place name meaning sustaining life, finally there is room for us, and we shall flourish in the land -- is located at the company's Ballater Avenue address in Kingston 10 and was commissioned into the NWC system in a formal ceremony yesterday morning. It has been in operation since the beginning of July, during which time rigorous testing of the system has been carried out.

The commission is continuing to troubleshoot and make improvements in the area, to include repairing valves, changing out sections of pipelines, as well as other adjustments, according to Pickersgill.

"Some of the areas I have mentioned, that formerly received water on an intermittent basis, will now see an improvement in their supply because we now have an alternative means of supplying them with water. For example, the limited water supplies during the drought that would have had to be shared between all constituencies can now be concentrated in different areas," he said.

"The improvement work being done in these areas will essentially provide water to communities that, for years, have not been able to receive water. In fact, some houses in these areas may not have connections and so water may run through the main in areas, but individual houses may not have water, perhaps because years ago when they were disconnected, there was no water supply to the area," he continued.

The well is capable of loading 8,000 gallons in 10 minutes and provides water that is filtered and treated by de-nitirification and chlorination.

"The result is a product that surpasses the impeccably high standards of the World Health Organisation's requirements for potable water as well as all relevant local government authorities," Pickersgill pointed out.

Deputy chairman of the NWC board Marjorie Fyffe-Campbell said connecting the well to the NWC system, and the purchase of water from the private operators were part of the commission's drought management strategy.

"The board of commissioners and the management of the NWC are fully seized of the critical importance of providing a reliable supply of water, even in the face of drought conditions to the health, economy and well-being of a people.

"We are therefore determined to increase our access to and use of underground water supply sources, increase the number of available sources that can be used to augment drought-stricken systems and improving the inter-connectedness within the NWC network.

The development has been two years in the making.

For its part, managing director of Tallawah Investments Richard Simpson became emotional as he traced the history of Tallawah and its struggle to acquire the land which it now occupies.

"We now have a successful well on the property. I felt the need to thank God for his blessings and to dedicate it to him," he said.

Tallawah Investments is one of Kingston's largest private bulk water providers and is credited with being the only facility able to supply emergency water in bulk to the Norman Manley International Airport, the University Hospital of the West Indies, and a large number of local restaurants and schools after Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

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