Following a protest by residents from some East Bank Berbice communities, a high level Guyana Water Inc. (GWI) delegation yesterday met with residents and promised to bring them relief from the discoloured water flowing through their pipelines.
GWI engineers have said that there seems to be high iron content emanating from the Edinburgh water reservoir, from where water flows to the East Bank communities. The situation is not unique to the area, however, as similar experiences were shared by other residents from some areas on the country’s coastline.
On Tuesday, residents living within several villages along the East Bank of Berbice expressed their frustrations by travelling over five miles to picket the offices of GWI at New Amsterdam. They also demanded that their water meters be removed.
The group of over 25 persons consisted of mainly women, who carried bottles of discoloured water in addition to placards and recent water bills, as they voiced their disgust over the quality of water and the increased tariffs attached.
Speaking to a group of just over 40 persons at a bottom house meeting yesterday, GWI Chief Execu-tive Officer Dr. Richard Van West-Charles, accompanied by Operations Director Joseph Codette, Engineer Dwayne Shako, Divisional Manager Jim Ramjug, among others, noted that the company was aware of their challenges facing the residents and that steps will be taken to rectify the situation.
“We are aware of your problems. We want you to be able to drink the water. We want you to avoid staining your lavatories, your white clothing …what we will do is that we have to flush the line more than once per week, by attaching a pump… the exercise should last a week. In the meanwhile, we will ask engineers to keep flushing the lines as frequently as possible, while collecting samples of water which can be tested,” he said.
The well, he said, has a high iron content, resulting in the discoloration of the water. He added that while chlorine is added to remove the bacteria, a new chemical, Seaquest, which was recently introduced locally, has the ability to improve the quality of water by reducing the effect of iron present in the water, such as discolouration.
Meanwhile, a resident complained of the removal of a previously issued plastic meter that was replaced by old metal meters, which the residents believed to be responsible for the high iron content they are seeing in their water.
Others called for yearly bills and the removal of the meters instead of the monthly notices given that the service is of a poor quality. “If the meters have a problem, we will look at the meter, but those without meters have to agree to pay unmetered charges until the situation is corrected,” Van West-Charles told the approving crowd.
However, he reminded the residents that having a meter will work in their favour as it will only register water used by the consumer.
Shako reminded that the area had been privileged to get sectionalised water because the wastage was high and the pump at Edinburgh could not supply all areas at the time.
“Right now the pump at Edinburgh is ’maxed out.’ The well cannot handle a bigger pump. So, the thing is if we are going to move backwards by taking out the meters and you use water indiscriminately, you will head back to get sectionalised water, as the pump will not be able to supply all areas,” he said, while emphasising that the meters would help residents to manage their water.
“Currently, the water flows for 18 hours per day. When the station cuts off, the iron oxidises in the pipelines. So when the pipe is opened in the morning, the iron content flows out until the water is cleared. What we will do, we will let the water flow for 24 hours to allow the iron to flow, but when we do so, I am sure many of you do not have valves on your tank, and two o’ clock in the morning this water flowing and the tank overflowing, you gon pay the bill because the meter will spin,” he added.
Increases in billing can also be as the result of leaks along the pipelines.
Highlighting the issue of the high billing, Van West-Charles noted that an average bill should be under $2,000 per month and any bill exceeding that amount may have been because previous bills may not have been paid.
He also told residents that it was the Public Utilities Commission which controls the setting of rates and not GWI as they may have perceived. “Anytime you are receiving treated water, there will be an increase in tariff,” he, however, noted.
Meanwhile, the team is expected to return to the community within two weeks, by which time it is expected that the service will be improved.