The Water and Sewerage Authority said it is working to restore service within 24 hours to the 26 communities and 200,000 members of the public who were affected by the heavy rainsassociated with Potential Tropical Cyclone no 2. Acting CEO Kelvin Romain said ten per cent of the supply capacity of the entity had been affected.
Speaking at a virtual media conference on Wednesday, Public Utilities Minister Marvin Gonzales said the return to normality depends on the weather improving to allow plants and intakes to be cleaned, flushed, and returned to operations. He said people are advised to manage their consumption and conserve water.
Romain said customers were affected throughout the country, especially in the northwest and northeast.
“Work has already begun in areas where river levels have returned to normal, and WASA is monitoring the rivers where levels still present a safety risk to personnel. There has been a shutdown of some plants and facilities, directly related to excessive rain ,which has resulted in an increase of debris and silt to the pump feed. This has necessitated the removal and cleaning of intake and pump screens to avoid damage to the pumps which serve as the main process for extracting water.”
He said WASA relies on river/surface water, ground/well water, and desalinated water to supply customers. He said WASA has diverted water from the Hollis reservoir to serve affected areas. While rain is excellent for water replenishment, excessive rain presents a risk, he explained.
“Waste, debris, and soil runoff which find their way into the river make their way to the pumps and clog our screens at the intakes. This affects suction and the efficiency of pumps and can cause major damage to our infrastructure. Although shutting down systems presents a tremendous inconvenience, it is critical that we take preventative action to ensure a reliable and sustainable supply of water to customers by safeguarding severe damage to our pumps and equipment."
WASA operations director Shaira Ali said 16 water treatment facilities and ten surface water intakes were affected by the rainfall, affecting 26 communities and 200,000 people. She said work to clear the pumps at these sites began immediately once rainfall ceased, but this was hampered by continued intermittent rainfall.
She said the authority took several measures to mitigate the situation, including issuing an advisory early on Tuesday.
“WASA’s communications centre was established early. Several avenues for communication were fostered through our 800-4420 truck-borne request services, through our live chat at www.wasa.gov.tt, and Whatsapp messaging at 709-7793, all with immediate effect.
"We ensured that our storage facilities were filled to capacity and production was increased where possible. There was an increase in deployment of truck-borne water, with a critical focus on hospitals, schools, community centres and health centres.”
Communications Minister Symon de Nobriga said government continued to respond to threats to the country posed by bad weather.
“That process continues to be an ongoing one. While we are conducting updates like this, we are collating the information we have. The worst of the weather system has passed us but we are still experiencing bad weather, but that sort of post-mortem of our response will continue because this is not a one-off. We’re in a hurricane season so this will be the standard operating procedure going forward.”
In a release, WASA said stopping operations owing to clogged intake screens caused by flooded rivers and water sources led to a disruption in the water supply to over 19 areas across TT.
Trinidad: Matura, Valencia, Lopinot, El Dorado, Tacarigua, Maracas-St Joseph, parts of Santa Rosa, Malabar, Wallerfield, Toco, Balandra, Biche, North Coast, Guayaguare, as well as parts of Tunapuna, St Ann’s, Santa Cruz, Arima and Moruga .
Tobago: Bacolet, John Dial, Moriah, Mason Hall, Richmond, Goodwood,and Roxborough
Northeast:Caura, Acono, Luengo/Naranjo, La Pastora, Mc David, Matura, Guanapo, Aripo, Tompire, and Quare.
Northwest: Tyrico, Blanchisseuse, Las Cuevas, La Fillette, Rincon, St Ann’s, La Canoa, Grand Curacaye, Pipiol Reservoir, and Susconosco.
South: Trinity, Biche, and Petrotrin Guayaguayare.
Tobago: Hillsborough West, Highlands Road and Richmond.