Not true, Mr Golding

The National Water Commission (NWC) is disputing claims by People’s National Party (PNP) Member of Parliament for St Andrew Southern Mark Golding that inner-city communities such as those in his constituency are being sidelined by the company in the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Golding had made the allegation during a digital meeting of the parliamentary Special Select Committee on Public Health (Coronavirus COVID-19) on Tuesday, and demanded answers of the NWC regarding the water situation in his constituency.

“The NWC discontinues water supply without any notice, there is no scheduling. Persons will be without water for days at a time as opposed to being told that these are the days they will be without water supply, so they can plan their affairs. It is a major problem, especially at a time when persons should be washing hands regularly and so on,” Golding said.

Following on a comment by committee Chairman Dr Christopher Tufton, who is also the health and wellness minister, that the NWC normally gives notice of lock-offs and that it is difficult to schedule infrastructural repairs that cause disruptions, Golding said: “I would like to see what they are saying about this matter. I notice where I live…if there are interruptions we are made aware of them in advance so we can prepare, but in many inner-city communities they are routinely deprived of water supply. There is no communication, no notice, no information about when it will return; sometimes some long period of time — many days. There is not equal treatment and there is discrimination, and it needs to stop.”

Dr Tufton said that the NWC would be invited to the meetings at which time a report could be requested from the State agency.

Yesterday, corporate public relations manager at the NWC Andrew Canon said Golding’s comments were unfortunate as discrimination would not serve the interest of the NWC.

“First of all, it is important to state that the NWC has absolutely no interest in discriminating with respect to who we supply with water. We value all customers, we treat all customers equally, and it is in our interest – financially and otherwise — to ensure that all customers, irrespective of geographical location, get a constant supply of potable water and other services,” Canon told the Jamaica Observer.

“With respect to what happened in that constituency, they would have been affected by the massive improvement in the infrastructure that serves the Constant Spring area — that would have been the Constant Spring [Water] Treatment Plant. We have [also] replaced an old pipeline with a new pipeline. Those works were necessary works because over the years there has been population explosion and more businesses and households have developed so more persons came on, so there has been an exponential demand for water. So, we had to change out those pipes and put in new pipes,” he explained.

He said the area served by the plant represents NWCs largest distribution area in the country.

“So what happened is that when we were changing out, a number of communities were affected — and the constituency in question would have been among those affected,” Canon said.

He further countered the claim that there had been no notifications.

“We did send out a lot of releases regarding the improvement works. I was on radio giving updates. Our social media pages were updated and prior to that, we issued a press page telling persons there would be a lock-off and they should store water. Of course, we would have hoped it would be restored within a particular time but persons must brace in case it was not restored,” he said.

“As it relates to Arnett Gardens and that particular constituency, they are served by the Montgomery tank. We ensure they get water every other day from that tank and we were doing that up until we had to do the major disruptions to facilitate the upgrade. However, even when we were doing those upgrades, some two to three weeks ago, we did truck water to the community. So any suggestion that they have been without water for several months or years is really not true,” Canon said.

“Another issue, of course, is that it is very important that as many residents as possible get regularised on the NWC’s system. There are several households in the area that may be without pipes or infrastructure; we want to ensure that they get pipes and the infrastructure is there. So, they can apply to the NWC for those pipeworks that they can get their individual pies. When they are regularised it helps us to ensure that they get a constant supply of potable water,” he added.

“Right now there are no lock-offs [but] there may be disruptions because of infrastructural works,” Canon said, while adding that the NWC has decided against disconnections for customers in arrears and those who are late with payments, across the board.

He however cautioned that this was not to serve as an excuse for people who are able to pay their bills not to do so.

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