JPS, NWC blame game as water a scarce commodity in Somerton DivisionThursday, July 29, 2021
BY ROCHELLE CLAYTON
The instability of the Canaan Pumping Station in rural St James has been the root cause of the frustration experienced by residents living in the Somerton Division for close to a year, according the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) councillor for the division, Mark McGann.
McGann, in an interview with the Jamaica Observer West, disclosed that the pumping station has been plagued with several issues, which were being drawn out by a blame game being played by the National Water Commission (NWC) and the Jamaica Public Service (JPS).
“The area has been having some challenges in terms of leaks (burst pipes) so the water situation has been on and off for the past eight months. Every time we have managed to stabilise it, we had another breakage. There have [also] been other issues, we had an inconsistent electrical supply at the pumping station of which [had us] going back and forth between the National Water Commission (NWC) and Jamaica Public Service (JPS), in terms of who is to be blamed and what the actual cause of the problem is,” explained McGann.
The councillor shared that a meeting was held with representatives from both agencies to remedy the issues, as residents grew frustrated by their circumstances.
“We had to bring both parties to the table, NWC and JPS, because they kept blaming each other; NWC saying it wasn't them, JPS saying that they were supplying electricity to the main source at Canaan supply so whatever happens after the main source wasn't their issue,” he told Observer West.
A site visit, he pointed out, revealed that a defective line running to the main supply of the pumping station, was the issue behind the lack of water so it was replaced by JPS and since then piped water has returned to some communities in the division.
With the Somerton Division being the home of six primary schools, three health centres and two police stations, McGann told Observer West that the inconsistency of the water supply has been frustrating for both him, as the councillor, and the residents in the affected communities.
“It has just [been] frustrating in terms of the water supply system not being consistent because while water has returned to areas like Dumfries and Canaan and parts of Somerton, we still have parts of Goodwill [and other communities in the division] that have not received any supply for probably eight months and I can only say that it's the pipeline that is causing the problem, a distribution problem, which we are hoping will be fixed soon,” said McGann.
Somerton resident Leshon Simpson said while she and her parents purchase water from a small company that supplies water to the communities, the lack of piped water has forced them to seek assistance from a family member in another community to do their laundry weekly.
“There were times when we had to pack up all our laundry and take it to my grandmother's house in another community to get it washed,” she said in an interview with Observer West .
The mother stated too that while the Canaan Pumping Station is now said to be active after being down for eight months, the water system is still inconsistent as she is currently without water, after receiving it late last week.
“The water came back just last week, I was able to do all the laundry, but I came home last night and there was no water, so we are out of water again.”
The uncertainty of water supply, she said, is also being experienced by the people who supply the communities with water when the pumping station is out of service.
“When we could not handle it any further last week, we called the people who usually truck the water and they told us they do not even know where to get the water to sell to us,” said Simpson.
Cedar Hill resident Veronica Innis shared that it has been “an uncomfortable” last couple of months, which has seen her purchasing a tank of water for $5,000 every three weeks.
“We have to buy a tank of water for $5,000. A 650-gallon tank of water won't last you more than three weeks and you have to know how to use it to make it last that long too,” Innis said.
Innis corroborated Councillor McGann's statement regarding some communities in the division still being out of piped water though the pumping station is back in service.
“Since the pump come back it has been good because some places [are] getting water but some [communities are] still not getting any, Tambana does not have water at all [even though] the pump is up and running,” she stated.
Though she pointed out that the community of Tambana has been without running water for some 10 years.
“If my memory serves me right, I think Tambana has been out of running water for more than 10 years so who can afford to buy water have to buy it and who have vehicle drive to anywhere a standpipe is. Then some persons have to walk with their jugs,” she told the Observer West.
The Canaan Pumping Station supplies water to 13 communities including Dumfries, Somerton, Orange, Goodwill and Content.
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