Fri | Nov 24, 2017

St Thomas left high and dry

Published:Tuesday | July 7, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Kudos to The Gleaner for echoing what many have been saying about the urgent need for a new water minister. Robert Pickersgill simply doesn't cut it, and it is frankly annoying to hear his continued hollow announcements about addressing Jamaica's chronic water-supply challenges.

In the case of St Thomas, the situation is quite dire. Here we have a water-rich parish having water-supply problems on the scale of water-poor Manchester. The Yallahs River, in good times, pumps 17 million imperial gallons of water per day into the Kingston Metropolitan Area. Further yet, the Plantain Garden River has the capacity to produce eight million imperial gallons per day (MGD) of water, which is more than the average day demand of 5.8MGD, for the entire parish. However, the Whitehall Treatment Plant, which obtains water from this source, only treats 0.3MGD of this water, approximately five percent!

That aside, the ministries of local government and water and the National Water Commission need to sit together in a room as soon as possible and structure an effective emergency water- crisis-management plan for the St Thomas Eastern area, so as to prevent a serious health crisis and stop the collapse of remaining economic activities, given the fact that more and more persons are opting to not show up for work.

With St Thomas already officially listed as Jamaica's poorest parish, coupled with some of the highest levels of unemployment, exceeding 50 per cent in many districts, and wide-scale underdevelopment, it cannot be business as usual.

As it stands now, the St Thomas Parish Council is without a single operating water truck. The NWC, on the other hand, has two trucks operating for the entire parish with a population of 100,000, and private contractors are not sufficiently engaged due, in part, to monies owed to them by Government.

 

frustration

 

Residents and businesses in and around every district in St Thomas Eastern are simply unable to reliably access water, leading to much frustration. The use of dirty water is now a major concern, and some residents have left the parish to live with relatives in other sections of the island that have decent water supply.

Despite the abundance of potable water sources in St Thomas, the parish has always been plagued with the challenge of water shortages and improper water distribution. This is largely because of poor maintenance and the continuous degradation of piping infrastructure, intake facilities, treatment plants, and pumping equipment.

The piping infrastructure, for instance, is in a significant state of disrepair. An NWC 2011 report noted that water-supply pipelines range from 3/4-inch to 36-inch diameter. Most of the pipelines are old and are made of cast iron, with the remainder being asbestos concrete, galvanised iron and small PVC pipes, many encrusted and corroded for proper water distribution.

They are also many observable leaks on these pipelines, making their replacements pertinent. I recall a short walk through the Arcadia community several weeks ago and noted no fewer than seven leaks in less than a quarter of a mile.

Drought conditions have only worsened the already crisis-ridden water supply issues throughout the constituency, making them possibly the worst-affected areas in all Jamaica.

Despite the abundance of potable water sources in St Thomas, the parish has always been plagued with the challenge of water shortages and improper water distribution. This is largely because of poor maintenance and the continuous degradation of piping infrastructure, intake facilities, treatment plants, and pumping equipment.

It speaks to a level of neglect suffered by the people of St Thomas Eastern. Sadly, yet understandably, many are doubtful that the Government will act. They have lost hope in the system.

- Delano Seiveright is JLP caretaker for St Thomas Eastern.