Tue | Jul 23, 2019

NWC seeks millions in compensation from CHEC - Big bill for damaged water mains in roadwork projects

Published:Sunday | May 19, 2019 | 12:20 AMPaul Clarke - Gleaner Writer
National Water Commission worker Bobby Lewin reconnects pipes to a water main on Constant Spring Road on February 15. Busted pipelines have complicated roadwork projects across the city.

China Harbour Engineering Company Limited (CHEC) may have to shell out millions of dollars for damage after the National Water Commission (NWC) filed compensation claims for repairs to damaged water mains on ongoing roadworks at the three Legacy infrastructure projects across the Corporate Area.

Charles Buchanan, the NWC’s communications manager, confirmed that letters have been dispatched in respect of recovering costs related to a series of breaks.

“The NWC president (Mark Barnett) had indicated that the claims ran into millions of dollars. But as the work continues, and in cases where more breaks occur, we will send updates to the contractor. It is a fluid situation at the moment, and so it means the total amount on the claims could increase further,” stated Buchanan, while declaining to specify the exact figure.

E.G. Hunter, chief executive officer of the National Works Agency, which has general oversight for the roadwork projects, made it clear that his organisation bore no liability for the costly repeat errors. He said that the projects being undertaken arose from a contract between the Government of Jamaica and CHEC, which has subcontracted some of the works.

“The NWA is the engineer on the contract and not a party to that contract. So please be aware that the NWA cannot be sued for damage as we are not party to the said contract, and the engineers’ function in the contract is really to see that the contractor, in this case, CHEC, undertakes the work in accordance with the provisions of the contract,” Hunter told The Sunday Gleaner.

“Secondly, in the contract, the Government had paid China Harbour approximately US$2 million to provide insurance for the works, and that insurance covers staff as well as any damage that would have occurred in the execution of the works,” said Hunter.

How it works

Claims levied against the contractor would presumably be referred to its insurers, with assessors playing a key role in settling on the payout amount. According to Hunter, it would be useless to levy a claim against the NWA if the existing works are insured.

“I know that there is talk around the subject of claims, but I have not seen an official claim made by the NWC on the contractor. And I am not saying there is none. All I am saying is that I have not seen it,” he said.

CHEC is undertaking major infrastructure development at three nodes of Greater Kingston – Three Miles/Hagley Park, Constant Spring Road, and the Mandela Highway. The projects have been hobbled by hundreds of pipeline breaks, especially on Constant Spring Road and Mandela, causing traffic snarls and deadline breaches. At Constant Spring Road alone, there have been 120 breaks in total in March and April.

The NWC has reported that water supply to more than 100,000 of its customers has been disrupted as a result of damage to several pipelines, with some households going weeks without piped potable water. Three of four major water systems in the Corporate Area are operating well below capacity. To illustrate the gravity of the crisis, the Constant Spring Water Treatment Plant has been supplying eight million gallons of water daily, or half the demand. And to make matters worse, its daily inflow is four million gallons.

In the meantime, the storage levels at both the Mona Reservoir and the Hermitage Dam are a cause for concern. The Mona Reservoir is operating at 26.8 per cent of capacity while the Hermitage Dam is at 33.8 per cent.

paul.clarke@gleanerjm.com