Fri | Dec 9, 2016

Water lock-off - Authorities crackdown on major water-selling operation owned by Liguanea Lane Pharmacy Limited

Published:Thursday | January 22, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Corey Robinson, Staff Reporter

A STOP order has been placed on the water-selling operation at the former Kingston Ice Making Company Limited after the Water Resources Authority (WRA) determined that Liguanea Lane Pharmacy Limited, current owners of the premises, are in violation of their licences by allowing the sale of water there.

The stop order was issued last Thursday.

Geoffrey Marshall, senior hydrogeologist at the WRA, said an enforcement notice "to cease and desist from selling water from this source until they have contacted the Water Resources Authority to change the stated conditions of their licence", was served on the company.

According to Marshall, "the current activity is in breach of their existing licences.

"A well, which is licensed for industrial purposes, should not be used as a domestic-supply source without a modification of the licence from the WRA," Marshall said, while adding that the stated use of the water to be abstracted is for industrial purposes only.

In several visits to the property last month, The Gleaner learned from truck operators and persons working at the facility that water was being sold there for as little as $4,000 per load. The Gleaner was also informed that the water was being supplied to restaurants, hotels, and even government facilities across the Corporate Area.

BREACHING LICENCE with DOMESTIC SALES

However, Marshall, said, "It was never stated that the primary process had changed from industrial production of ice to the sale of domestic water to various users."

He said if the company is currently selling water for domestic purposes, "that would be a breach of its licence, since the stated use is industrial purposes". The senior hydrologist said further that if the company wants to sell water for domestic purposes, it should inform the WRA and provide supporting data such as water-quality tests that prove the water is safe for domestic purposes.

"Once the WRA has all the information required, it would evaluate whether the source, the proposed treatment, and final water quality would be sufficient to allow the well's use for domestic purposes," Marshall said.

Meanwhile, the National Water Commission (NWC) also supplies water to the Harbour Street facility. When contacted two weeks ago, Corporate Public Relations Manager Charles Buchanan, said that the owners would be in breach of the law if they were selling water taken from NWC lines.

Buchanan explained further that the NWC was currently in dialogue with the owners of the establishment in a bid to clear outstanding water fees owed to the NWC.

The Liguanea Lane Pharmacy is among a group of companies which purchased the rundown property, from which they were to operate the Super Cleaners Dry Laundry, according to WRA records.

NOT INVOLVED IN DISTRIBUTION

But Anthony Harris, who on Monday identified himself as the managing director of Super Cleaners Dry Laundry, said that the owners have not yet gone ahead with their initial plans, and that his establishment was not involved in the 'water business' in any way.

He, however, admitted that cheques from customers to whom water is supplied are made out directly to the Super Cleaners Dry Laundry, and that the entity was merely continuing the service offered by former owners of the ice factory. Harris explained, as well, that the operation was costing more than what the customers were willing to pay for the water, and that contrary to The Gleaner's sources, only one hotel is supplied with water from the operations at Harbour Street, and that no government entity is on his customer list.

"We merely supply water in bulk to existing customers and I am in the process of redoing my application," said Harris.

"We are compliant, we have not done anything wrong. In fact, it is costing me a whole heap of money just to supply the trucks," he said, noting that the electricity bill at the premises is in the region of $500,000 per month, due solely to the water operation. He said also that the owners were paying salaries to a string of workers, some of whom were seen on the premises during this newspaper's visit.

"The likkle money that comes from the water sales can't pay the bill," he said. "So I don't understand where this thing (investigation) is coming from and why. We have an existing crew that we inherited from the operators of Kingston Ice. We wanted to keep the people employed so that they don't come and tear down the building," he said.