'This needs to stop!'
Water woes persist in WestmorelandThursday, September 02, 2021
BY DAINA DAVY
SAVANNA-LA-MAR, Westmoreland – Residents of this parish are at their wits' end after being plagued for years by water woes.
The most recent cause for concern is the inadequacy of the Bullstord treatment plant which serves six divisions in the parish but designed to provide potable water for only one.
“[It] services Grange Hill, Little London, Friendship, Frome, Sheffield and northern Savanna-la-Mar, but it was originally established to only cater to the people of Grange Hill,” explained the councillor for Grange Hill Lawton McKenzie.
“It [treatment plant] has been pushed [to cover] up to 12 miles and it has exceeded its capacity. The other areas should not be getting water from Bullstord, they should be getting [water] from Roaring River,” McKenzie added.
The Ramasar family of Paul Island, Grange Hill, is especially concerned about their inability to properly sanitise at a time when the country is in the death grip of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
“COVID has meant washing of hands thoroughly and sanitising, but without a regular supply of water how is this possible?” asked an exasperated David Ramasar.
He said they have been experiencing weekly water shortages since 2012, and it has started to take a toll.
“No water to bathe or flush your toilets is unhealthy, smelly, inhumane, and embarrassing for my family especially when they have visitors,” he told the Jamaica Observer.
Little London is another area that has been ravaged by water shortage in the past weeks and the councillor, Ian Myles, was equally peeved. He too was concerned about the absence of water as the country, particularly the parish of Westmoreland, sees an increase in the COVID-19 infection rates.
“Persons are not able to cleanse themselves as often or as properly as they should, so without potable water, it makes the pandemic linger even more. Hygienic principles are basically non-existent. So, it's really a difficult time and there is a direct correlation between the contagious nature of this virus and the lack of water,” said Myles.
He added that it has also been financially hard on residents.
“They have to be buying water for $3,000 or $4,000 per drum or tank, depending on the size, which is very difficult. During this time persons are not working, and the country is under a lockdown for multiple days, so that provides more hardship,” Myles said.
He is hoping Minister of Local Government and Rural Development Desmond McKenzie and the president of the National Water Commission (NWC) Mark Barnett will help.
“This is something that has to stop. It is something that needs urgent attention… I am calling on the minister with responsibility and the president of the NWC to look into this matter,” urged Myles.
He added that the Roaring River was identified some time ago as an alternative water source for some residents of Little London and that he hopes something can be done to put those plans into motion.
NWC Regional Manager Jeffery Smith said the main issues with the treatment plant at Bullstord were high levels of turbidity – especially after it rains – and drought.
“Our plants are designed to handle a certain level of turbidity so we cannot handle anything outside of that level,” Smith told the Observer.
He explained that when it rains, the water becomes muddy full of debris and that makes it unhealthy for consumption, so the pump has to be turned off. He added that this is not exclusive to Westmoreland.
Smith added that unregularised meters could also be contributing to paying customers not having a regular water supply.
“A lot of persons are connected so we disconnect them. But as soon as we do that, they reconnect. We try to get them to come in [office] to get regularised… but they refuse to come in and take up the offer… These persons do not have an active account, but they are still connected to the NWC pipeline,” he pointed out.
He also noted that customers who do not conserve water are contributing to the water shortage.
“If we could get more people to conserve water, then we can have more water to go around Negril and the surrounding areas,” he said.
In addressing concerns that individuals are still being billed for water they have not used, Smith said the bills are system errors and the Commission also gives its clients the option of having water trucked to them if their bills are paid.
“The billing system doesn't know if persons are getting water or not so once we recognise that, we do the adjustments… We truck water to customers as often as they call and we are able to dispatch a truck,” Smith assured.
Councillor McKenzie has been in touch, he added, and efforts are under way to meet with councillors of the areas involved to see how best they can address their concerns.