Fix coming for Brown's Town water woes?

Fix coming for Brown's Town water woes?

Observer writer

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

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BROWN'S Town, St Ann — Business operators here who have been without piped water since last Christmas Eve are hoping water will flow from their taps soon.

Member of Parliament Krystal Lee, meanwhile, has assured their wait will end within the next few days.

In addition to business owners' complaints that the service disruption is hampering their day-to-day commercial activities, there is also the added worry about what the lack of water means for those who want to follow COVID-19 safety protocols.

“[It] is a great inconvenience, especially for the clinic, the police station and the schools – especially at a time with COVID-19 and you're supposed to be washing [your hands often]. There is no way we can be washing without water,” said well known local businessman Tony Charley. He added that the problem is a recurring one and each year there is no water from the taps for one to two weeks.

“The supermarkets, hairdressers and other businesses have to lock up because they have no water,” he said of this latest service interruption.

Tired of waiting, some determined to stay open have found solutions to the problem.

“A lot of people have turned to black drums to mitigate against the loss of water. We built five thousand-gallon tanks for the tenants on the plaza,” Charley told the Jamaica Observer. “Anybody who doesn't have a tank is in deep trouble.”

Residents of St Ann North Western are served by Minard Deepwell, their only water source.

MP Lee is optimistic that her constituents will have water back in their pipes by January 23. That is the timeline given by the National Water Commission (NWC), with whom, she said, the issue had been discussed. The NWC, the MP said, has attributed the problem to mechanical challenges with the water pump.

“They are working on the pump to make sure it is more reliable, and that is why it is taking this long. A schedule was sent out [that outlines] which communities will get piped water and trucked water,” she said.

She also urged residents to alert her office if there is any deviation from the NWC's schedule.

“They can speak with their councillor or reach out to my office and we can see how best we can engage NWC for them,” she said.

Lee pointed out that she has a solid understanding of the challenges stemming from the lack of water in her constituency and this had spurred her into action even before the pump got damaged.

“That is the reason why we did a constituency tour, and we are expecting a visit from the [NWC] chairman and [the] minister [without portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation], Senator Aubyn Hill to do an in-depth investigation on several water problems to see how best they can support,” she told the Observer.

However, this is little comfort to frustrated residents, some of whom are forced to source water from neighbouring communities.

Food shop owner Andrew Christie said he collects water from home and transports it in his car to his business place.

“A one tank weh almost dry me have down there and a it me have to a use for my business same way, so it dun quicker,” he said. “Ah nuh today this a gwaan. When ah nuh pump bruk down, a something else… dem say we a get back water from January 5 and it nuh look like we a get it back anytime soon.”

Workers from other establishments that provide food to the public expressed similar concerns. Working without piped water makes their job even more difficult, they said, as they have to lift drums of water, then purify it to ensure it is safe for consumption. In addition, cleaning cooking equipment requires a substantial amount of the limited commodity.

A barber, who only goes by the name Briggies, was among those complaining of the dent the situation has left in their wallets. The landlord for the plaza that houses his business, he said, has asked for extra contributions to help purchase water.

For other residents, their main worry is how they will maintain the hygiene requirements needed to keep safe during a pandemic.

“The Ministry of Health was here last week telling the people to follow the health protocols and I think that every citizen has a right to water access, especially in the pandemic [when there is an added need for] sanitisation, and so it's crucial we get this situation under control,” argued Nicholas Nam from Nam's Hardware.

Brown's Town has the third-highest number of COVID-19 cases in St Ann.

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