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Homeowners owe WASA bulk of $604 million

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Gail Alexander

Residential homeowners are responsible for the bulk of $604 million owed to the Water and Sewerage Authority by various sectors.

The authority’s Customer Service Manager Alan Poon King confirmed yesterday.

He gave the figure when the management of WASA appeared before Parliament’s Land and Physical Infrastructure Committee.

Poon King said homeowners owed WASA approximately $469m while private sector (commercial/industrial) customers owe $79m.

State agencies owed WASA $56m, he added.

WASA also owes contractors $342.4 million.

The authority’s chairman, Romney Thomas, said WASA had increasingly moved to sale of delinquent owners’ property to recover debt. But he said owners usually tried to arrange payment when WASA moved to sell a property.

One property will soon be advertised for sale by auction.

He added: “We’re not satisfied with the level of indebtedness especially concerning our financial circumstances.”

Poon King said about 50 per cent of WASA’s water supply was unaccounted for—being lost not only to leaks, but also by customer wastage and illegal connections which deprived people at the extreme ends of the system from adequate supply.

Thomas said he did not know exactly how many illegal connections existed, but had “suspicions.”

Thomas said metering was the best solution to prevent consumer wastage.

A 2016 feasibility study on the plan was done by a Canadian company.

Operations director Sherland Sheppard said there was 93 per cent water coverage throughout T&T— but not on a 24/7 supply basis.

He said there was only a 33 per cent supply 24 hours, seven days a week in Trinidad and 13 per cent in Tobago. Thomas said WASA is trying to “inch up” to 100 per cent supply, 24/7.

Out of 13,000 leaks, he said, WASA had cleared up 11,000 since 2017 and about 2,700 were outstanding.

Apart from a Rapid Response leak repair plan, WASA CEO Ellis Burris said every day 160 leaks were reported and while WASA tried to fix them, others appear.

He said WASA was acquiring ground-penetrating radar among its plans to spot leaks.

The other solution, changing ageing infrastructure, would require changing 150km of its 7,000 km line network.

This would cost around $934million, but WASA lacks the funds. Most of its funds go toward employee costs, Rachelle Wilkie (Finance) said.

Replying to JSC member Rushton Paray’s complaint that WASA’s image was one of digging up roads as soon as they were fixed, Thomas admitted WASA was responsible for some damage to roads following pipeline work, but not all. There is a backlog of 1,970 road restorations currently.

Dion Abdool (General Counsel) said 22 parties had filed claim against WASA concerning damage to properties by the authority and two regarding damage to vehicles resulting from WASA’s work.


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