ALTHOUGH I intended to do a two part series, the second shutdown of the John Compton Dam and the reasons proffered left me in utter bewilderment. WASCO has been aware of the growing siltation of the Dam for the last 21 years and only within the last four years has attempted to deal with the situation. WASCO has also been aware of the extremely poor condition of the raw water line for more than ten years and has however to date not sought an approach to deal with this.
For those who are unaware of the operation required to supply water to the North of the island, the following is a very simplistic explanation. When rain falls in the upper catchment of the Millet area, the runoff is collected within the dam. In essence they have blocked a valley and allowed this runoff to collect behind this structure. This raw water storage is then transferred to the Ciceron Water Treatment Facility where it is processed and pumped to various Water Tanks throughout the north of the island and then into our homes.
There are thus some critical elements of our water supply. Firstly, sufficient storage within the dam, a functional pipeline system linking the dam to the preatment plant and an efficient treatment plant to process the raw water to potable water. There were improvements to the treatment plant to increase its capacity. This plant has not been known to have significant problems.
If the dam is filled to capacity and the raw water pipeline system fails, then there is no raw water to treat. If the dam is empty and the raw water pipeline is in excellent condition then there is again no raw water to treat. So if the treatment plant is in good shape then the two critical variables for a good water supply would be the pipeline and the dam.
WASCO, I understand, is losing 2 million gallons per day of raw water through losses in the pipeline, there are pinholes, cricket ball sized holes, and every other size of hole in these pipes. It is thus a mystery that the focus would have been to desilt the dam and not deal with the pipeline.
WASCO’s comment that the recent works at the John Compton Dam, caused major pinholes to develop along the pipeline was even more baffling. You have sought to get out more raw water from the dam and in the process admitting that this extra water is leaking out in the pipeline to the treatment plant. Surely, this would have created some concern and the adjustment of the prioritization of the works. I would want to suggest that the raw water pipeline is at this stage more critical than the desilting of the dam. The deterioration of a metal pipeline through corrosion can be catastrophic, and thus we can have a situation very soon where a significant section of the pipeline is lost and a major water crisis occurs in the north.
We have to always bear in mind how important this whole water system is to the economy of Saint Lucia. You have the following hotels dependent on this supply:
• Sandals La Toc
• Sandals Halcyon
• St James Club
• Calabash Cove
• Rex St Lucia
• Royal St Lucian
• Bay Gardens Resorts
• Bay Gardens Inn
• Bay Gardens
• Dive Centre ( under construction)
• Coco Palm
• Palm Haven
• Sandal Grande
• Le Sport
• Cotton Bay
• Royalton ( under construction)
• Cap Maison
• Bonne Terre Terrace
Then there are the other guest house and Villas. Your entire tourism sector will collapse. The north also contains 60% of your population.
The water reticulation system in the north is too important to be subjected to ad hocism, and thus this has to become a national security issue. I would go as far as saying that if WASCO has to raise the cost of water to generate income to pay for these pipeline works then this must be done. It is best that we pay a little more now than to have no water at all and a major crisis on our hands. WASCO’s Board of Directors must be held accountable for this matter, no longer can they hide, and in a private sector setting there will be some questions to answer.
As one commentator on the Greek Debt Crisis said, the Greeks have kicked the can down the road for so long there is no can remaining. There is no more can to kick on WASCO.