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

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The Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) is still weighing its legal options against a contractor who allegedly dumped a large amount of silt and sand into a tributary leading to the Caroni Water Treatment plant on Tuesday.

Public Utilities Minister Marvin Gonzales has described the incident as odd, noting it happened on the same day PSA president Watson Duke called on WASA employees to stay at home.

In an interview with Guardian Media Gonzales said while WASA is still exploring what action can be taken against the contractor, the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) has already started an investigation into the incident.

According to WASA, operations at its Caroni Water Treatment Plant were stopped around 7 am on Tuesday due to high turbidity (the quality of water being cloudy, opaque, or thick with suspended matter) in the raw water in the Caroni River. Operations were restarted around 1 pm. WASA said on Tuesday an inspection of the river was done and the discharge appeared to be in the Manuel Congo area in the vicinity of the compound belonging to Harry Persad and Sons Ltd.

The incident cut the plants production by almost half, from 75 million gallons to 45 million gallons.

On Tuesday, Gonzales told Guardian Media he did not believe the incident was an attempt to sabotage the Authority’s operations. However, yesterday, he described the incident as a strange coincidence.

“I am also asking pertinent questions because I find it very coincidental that on the day that the strike action or sick leave action was called by the president of the PSA but I don’t have any evidence at this point in time that this was deliberate I find it extremely coincidental that this occurred on the same day that protest action was called by Watson Duke,” Gonzales said.

He said based on information from WASA, dumping sand and silt into the tributary was very unusual.

Gonzales said there have been incidents before, but never to this scale. He could not give an indication of the amount as he said testing from WASA is still ongoing.

“WASA officials have done some testing along the site where the silt and sand were dumped, the EMA has also done their own testing, I am assuming that coming out of these tests and the results, we will have some idea but my conversation a short while ago with the executive indicated that it was quite a huge dump of sand and silt into that tributary.”

Gonzales said operations at the plant had normalised by 2 pm yesterday, with production up to 80 per cent.

Meanwhile, Gonzales heaped praise on WASA employees for ignoring Duke’s call to take strike action on Tuesday.

He said staff records showed staff turnout was normal.

“All areas in the operations of the authority recorded over 95 per cent staff attendance, so there is absolutely nothing which indicates the employees responded to a call to stay away from work as a matter of fact, it was an overwhelming show of support and presence by the employees of WASA and a rejection of the call to stay away from work by Watson Duke,” the minister added.