A section of the Caroni River contaminated by dirt which caused the shutdown of WASA’s Caroni Water Treatment Plant yesterday.

After more than 300,000 customers had their water supply disrupted yesterday, the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) has moved to take legal action against a contractor for illegally dumping material into a tributary that empties into the Caroni Water Treatment Plant.

A press release issued by the WASA yesterday advised customers that operations at the plant were stopped around 7 am due to extraordinary high turbidity in the raw water in the Caroni River. Operations at the plant had to be restarted around 1 pm yesterday.

The release stated that it “appeared to be due to an illegal discharge upstream of the intake to the plant.”

Officials said following an inspection of the river, the source of the discharge appeared to be in the Manuel Congo area in the vicinity of the compound belonging to Harry Persad and Sons Ltd.

Around 5 pm yesterday, WASA officials estimated the production rate to be around 45 million gallons daily, compared to a capacity of 75 million gallons daily.

Customers served by the treatment plant were advised that it could take up to 48 hours for their pipe borne supply to normalise, in keeping with established water supply schedules after the plant returns to full production. They said a limited truck borne supply would be available to affected customers which priority being paid to health institutions, government agencies and homes for the elderly. Persons can contact WASA’s Customer Call Centre at 800-4420/26.

Responding to the turbidity issue yesterday, Public Utilities Minister Marvin Gonzales denied there was sabotage at the plant following calls by Public Services Association president Watson Duke for its members to “rest and reflect” at home yesterday.

“It is not sabotage because the executive director (Dr Lennox Sealy) went on “the ground of the Manuel Congo River in Arima where they discovered equipment owned by a well-known contractor dumping dirt” into the river.

The deposited dirt, Gonzales said, discoloured the water.

Gonzales said such dumping was a breach of the Environmental Management Authority rules.

“The turbidity was as a result of the irresponsible behaviour of a mining contractor located in East Trinidad. We are taking this matter very seriously and we will be taking action against this contractor to set an example. When we talk about the transformation of the water sector these are the things we have to address and tackle head-on.”

Gonzales said the plant services over 300,000 customers “both in North and Central Trinidad.”