Little water, big bills

RESIDENTS in Crawle, St Catherine, are demanding answers from the National Water Commission (NWC) after receiving hefty bills from the Government-owned entity despite having to consistently purchase water from private truckers.

Mary Rose and Isaac Newton both received estimated bills totalling $442,892.88.

According to Rose, whose bill at the end of May totalled $259,450.26, she has not had potable water since Hurricane Ivan, which ravaged sections of the island in September 2004.

“We start getting little water in December, but before that we nuh have nuh water and them a bill we from Ivan. The storm did blow weh the pipe and everything and we stop getting water,” an angry Rose told the Jamaica Observer on Wednesday during a visit to the community in the St Catherine North Eastern constituency.

Rose said in 2015 a community tank was set up to help alleviate the water woes facing residents. But even then, she said, none of the scarce commodity flowed through her pipes because of the elevation of her house.

“My problem with them is that they not regularising the water properly. People, even up the road, getting bills for water that them not getting. You understand? Now them seh them turn on the water on Wednesday mornings; mi nuh get nuh water in my pipe until Thursday night when it’s about to turn off. Yuh not getting water and them a bill you. That nuh fair to mi. Them nuh come meter mi yet, [install water meter] but them still a send the bill. Them claim to say mi getting water when mi not getting any,” Rose insisted.

She said numerous attempts to get NWC to respond to the situation have been ignored.

She told the Observer that she has had to purchase water to keep her “pig and chicken” business afloat.

“Buy mi haffi buy water. A four tank mi have. People who get water regular don’t need a tank. Water commission need fi come tell people why we getting them bill here big bill and nuh water nuh inna the pipe. You understand?” Rose said, noting that she pays $4,000 to have the tanks filled.

“When mi see the bill mi dash it down back because it not going pay. Mi fed up of it! Yuh cannot bill mi fi water weh mi nuh have. If yuh going bill mi fi water, bill mi fi what yuh just start give mi, and even then mi hardly get,” she added.

For 83-year-old Newton, the $183,446.62 bill he received left him stunned and in a state of bewilderment.

The NWC account, he said, is for a small bar and ‘feeding shop’ operated by a relative in the community. He told the Observer that previous bills have never exceeded $2,500.

The senior citizen said that he is unsure why an estimated bill was sent to him although NWC workers had visited the premises and read the meter.

“I pay my bill all the while, man. Yes, man, I pay it on time. Mi nuh know what this is about. Mi send mi son down there fi go find out what kind of bill this, and him seh the office lock. Mi nuh understand this kind of bill,” Newton stated, adding that he receives water “once a week” from NWC.

“If you look up there you see tank on the top. We usually buy water, so I don’t understand this. Mi nuh know what cause it. Mi nuh owe nuh back bill. Every month mi pay mi bill. A Wednesday mi go pay mi water bill. More water use at mi house than at the shop, suh mi want them fi come talk to mi,” he said.

His son, Richard, is also demanding an explanation from NWC.

“Bars have been closed for the longest while, ain’t it? Both bills are in his name; the one for the house came to $7,000 and I’ve been saying it’s too much, he’s not getting this much water. Then now I see this bill for $183,000 and it said a down a the shop. I went to the office and it was closed. No one was there, and up to now I can’t get anyone to come explain. I’ve been calling and I’m not getting through to anyone,” the younger Newton fumed, noting that it is important that the issue is resolved before he returns home to the United Kingdom.

“The last time it came to $1,600, because nobody really uses it. There is a tank and we pay to fill it. When it’s filled for two, three months you don’t need to fill it again. The water only recently start coming up this side and it will come once in the week and you don’t see it again. So how is this possible?” he questioned.

On Wednesday, Corporate Public Relations Manager Andrew Canon said that the matter would be presented to the company’s billing experts.

Up to press time yesterday, the NWC did not respond to queries by the Observer about both cases.

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