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Water crisis grips St Catherine South Eastern

MP calls for urgent action

Published:Friday | December 8, 2023 | 1:10 AMRuddy Mathison/Gleaner Writer -
Robert Miller, Member of Parliament, St. Catherine South Eastern.
Robert Miller, Member of Parliament, St. Catherine South Eastern.

In a scathing critique of the National Water Commission (NWC), Robert Miller, member of parliament for St Catherine South Eastern, has lambasted the commission for the ongoing water crisis plaguing communities, such as Waterford, Cumberland, Bridgeport, Edgewater and Independence City.

Miller, expressing dismay, revealled that the affected residents have endured more than three weeks of water scarcity.

Taking the matter up with the NWC, Miller claimed the commission attributed the problem to issues with the Jamaica Public Service (JPS) power system. He criticised the reliance on JPS power supply and insisted that the NWC should establish renewable energy sources to ensure a consistent water supply, asserting that such a reliance is "totally unacceptable in this modern time".

Said Miller, "NWC should not wait on the services of the JPS to provide running water to citizens, in a time when they could have other sources of energy to ensure that citizens are not deprived of this vital commodity.

"Despite engaging in dialogue with the NWC and urging them to provide water via trucks to the affected communities, there has been no response from them."

He now demands a comprehensive evaluation of the water crisis and immediate, permanent measures to alleviate the suffering of the residents.

The dire situation has not only impacted households, but also disrupted education. Several schools in the constituency are being affected, with Waterford High School Vice Principal Shawn Simpson reveallling that the crisis forced the suspension of classes on Wednesday after water they had stored ran out.

Simpson expressed concern that, if the problem persists, scheduled exams could face further disruptions.

Residents, grappling with the unbearable conditions of no regular showers and non-functional toilets, voiced additional grievances about receiving high water bills from the NWC.

The combination of water scarcity and hefty bills has intensified the frustration among the affected communities.

"Three weeks now no water. Kids to go to school, no water. Can't take shower, can't wash clothes, we see meter reader come and read meter and then big bill come and we don't have water," bemoaned one frustrated resident.

As the crisis escalates, residents await tangible solutions, emphasising the need for swift action and a permanent resolution to the persistent water woes in their communities.

In the meantime, when contacted, Delano Williams, acting public relations manager at the NWC, told The Gleaner that most of the recent water supply disruptions originate from power supply issues.

"Additionally, while there are some instances of the NWC experiencing internal issues, the bulk of the outages stem from JPSCo issues including single-phase occurrences," Williams said.

He continued, "It is worth highlighting that the unplanned nature of the outages does not put the NWC in a position to proactively address the problem."

Ideally, Williams added that the NWC's actions would include the implementation of alternatives for piped water, including filling storage tanks, utilising the time to properly mobilise trucking and provide advance notice to customers.

He said the impact of unplanned power outages is twofold and, while the outage causes an instantaneous water disruption, the return of power does not lead to an immediate water restoration. It simply takes longer for the system to recharge.

"Based on these realities, the JPSCo was engaged with the highlighted issues, and the company has committed to investigating the matters as outlined, presently, technical teams from both utilities are assessing power lines that supply the most severely affected facilities in St Catherine area in a bid to identify the source of the problem," Williams noted.