After four weeks without a drop of water in their taps, residents of Serraneau Road Extension in Belmont are appealing to the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) to honour their basic right to receive a regular pipe-borne water supply for which they are paying.
Unable to cook, wash, bathe and even flush their toilets, William “Dr Will B” Bannister said on Saturday, “They used to send it twice a week on Wednesdays and Saturdays…then it came to Saturdays alone, and now it is totally none.”
A young lady who declined to be named added, “In our house, we are down to the dregs of our reserves where we now have to decide if to have one bath per day, flush the toilet or cook.”
Saying they should not have to protest by blocking roads in their peaceful community, located less than 15 minutes from the seat of Parliament which is situated in the middle of the capital city Port-of-Spain, the angry residents said that the situation was unacceptable.
Bannister said the community has been loyal to the current regime for more than 50 years but it was only at election time that they would be visited by politicians seeking office with promises of assistance and improvement. Minister of Youth Development and National Service Fitzgerald Hinds is the MP for Laventille West.
“We just want the same things as other citizens, one strong day of water and everybody will full their tanks and be happy. But to ask us to accept nothing at all is like going back to the days of George Chambers and Eric Williams where we have to tote buckets and that is unacceptable in 2021 with Corona raging,” Bannister said.
Calling on Public Utilities Minister Marvin Gonzales to turn on the pipe and see about the less fortunate, Bannister said the youngsters fetching water in plastic bottles and oil kegs had to trek one mile down the hill to fill them up.
He said no household in T&T should be without basic utilities such as food, electricity and water in 2021.
Admitting there were a handful of elderly people and babies who urgently need this precious resource as they could not fend for themselves, Bannister cried, “It is a shame WASA, this is a shame. We are not begging, we are demanding we receive water.”
Bannister said many of the residents collected rainwater in tanks and barrels set up to catch the run-off from roofs and gutters, but that this had now been depleted. They need WASA to respond by today, he said.
Another resident Joel George unscrewed several water hoses that had been attached to a standpipe installed at the top of Serraneau Road Extension to supply residents living on the hillside as he pointed to the dry tap and said, “That has created its own war up here.”
He explained, “Everybody always watching and waiting to unscrew your hose as soon as you go home. That is the war they have created by spoon-feeding us what they want.”
Public Utilities Minister assures urgent action being taken
Expressing surprise over the plight of the residents when he was contacted, Public Utilities Minister Marvin Gonzales called on the WASA to demonstrate respect for the citizens of this country.
Communicating via WhatsApp, he assured the matter would have been referred to WASA’s CEO Allan Poon King and Operations Director Sherland Sheppard for urgent and immediate action.
Revealing the area was served by Pump Trace, Gonzales said he was told by WASA officials the area’s supply had been affected after one unit went out of operation on January 9 and was extracted on January 12 for repairs.
Revealing no press release had been done to notify residents of the changes in the water schedule and subsequent repairs, Gonzales said information indicated the new water schedule was supposed to be from 2 pm on Wednesday to 8 am on Thursday, and then again from 6 am on Saturday to 6 am on Sunday. He said attempts would have been made on Saturday to install the repaired unit.
Gonzales said, “WASA needs to show respect to the citizens and let them know what is the cause of the disruption to the water supply and stipulate timeliness for rectifying whatever the problem is. WASA must not only react when citizens take to the media and social media in order that problems be attended to.”
WASA Issues Release After Complaints
Hours after residents of Serraneau Road Extension voiced concerns in the media, WASA issued a release advising customers in parts of Belmont and Laventille that are served by the Pump Trace Booster Station of a disruption in their pipe-borne water supply which they attributed to mechanical problems at the facility.
They claimed repair work had been undertaken and was expected to be completed by 9 pm yesterday.
The affected areas included China Town, Upper St Francois Valley Road, St Barbs, Beecham Cocoa, Sogren Tracem, and Ovid Alley.
Customers were advised that following the resumption of operations at the facility, it could take up to 24 hours for the scheduled pipe borne water supply to normalise in some of the affected areas.
Officials said a limited truck-borne water service was available upon request and advised customers to contact the WASA’s Customer Call Centre toll-free at 800-4420/4426.