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Minister of Public Utilities Marvin Gonzales, right, and SWMCOL chairman Ron Milford, left, plant Plumrose trees while CEO Kevin Thompson waits to plant his during the launch of SWMCOL’s Empowering Sustainable Communities at the Trestrial Lands housing development, D’Abadie, yesterday.

Blame is being placed on the shoulders of citizens who engage in illegal and unlawful activities which are now affecting the Water and Sewerage Authority’s (WASA’s) ability to provide a reliable water supply to dozens of communities across the country.

Illegal quarrying, indiscriminate dumping of garbage into watercourses and clearing of lands for housing have been cited as three of the major factors that have been affecting WASA ability to supplyhundreds of thousands of citizens with water in their taps.

Speaking yesterday at the launch of the Solid Waste Management Company Ltd’s (SWMCOL) “Empowering Sustainable Communities,” programme at Trestrail Lands housing development in D’Abadie, Public Utilities Minister Marvin Gonzales blamed poor decisions and actions by citizens for WASA’s production plants and pumps going out of service within recent times.

Speaking in the presence of SWMCOL chairman Ronald Milford and CEO Kevin Thompson, Gonzales said over the last few weeks the country faced sustained and unusual rainfall as a result of climate change and global warming.

He said last week, WASA’s North-East production plant had to be shut down due to the turbidity in the water, which deprived “over 100,000 residents and citizens of an efficient water supply.”

Among some of the communities affected by the shutdown were Guanapo, Aripo, Sangre Grande, Valencia, Toco, Arima, Piarco, St Joseph and Caura.

“It is real and happening before us and when one takes into consideration the poor state of WASA’s infrastructure it is very vulnerable to the vagaries of our weather condition.”

Gonzales said the Guanapo Water Treatment Plant also had to reduce its production by six million gallons daily.

The same thing, Gonzales said, happened recently at the North Oropouche Water Treatment Plant, which has the capacity to produce 20 million gallons daily.

“A pump went down because of the dirty water that is coming down the stream. The pump picked up some garbage in the water that caused an entire pump to be disrupted because of illegal mining and dumping in our waterways.”

He said a number of communities remained without water for two to three weeks “and in many cases perhaps months without a water supply.”

Gonzales said it was easy for some citizens to turn to social media to blame WASA.

“What I want to remind people of Trinidad and Tobago is that oftentimes, it is our behaviour that is depriving our own people of water. We are the victims of ourselves and we are the victims of our own behaviour.”

Gonzales told Guardian Media following the function that a lot of the challenges authority faces “are outside of WASA’s control.”

He said while WASA had no power over illegal mining in northeast Trinidad, the matter is under the radar of the Government and Energy Minister Stuart Young.

“We will be telling the country very soon some of the things we intend to pursue to reduce illegal mining, because the people of the country are now starting to feel the effects in their water supply based on what is taking place in our watersheds by illegal mining. It simply cannot happen. It cannot continue to happen. The livelihoods of our citizens are now at risk with illegal mining.”

Gonzales said when crises like these occur, WASA has to pay workers overtime, which they have been trying to curb.

“We simply do not have the money again to continue to fund WASA to the tune billions of dollars that we are doing. The country is aware of that.”

Gonzales said land developers also have to take responsibility for their inconsiderate actions.

“Land developers continue to go up close to our watersheds and excavate the soil and a lot of runoff from the soil … they find their way into our watersheds and the water goes into the water production plants and its is wreaking havoc of WASA’s infrastructure.”

He said it would require a holistic approach from all agencies to deal with the issue, since citizens are now feeling the brunt.