The Chairman of the Triumph Neighbourhood Democratic Council (NDC) yesterday instructed workers employed on a private site, reportedly intended to build a first-floor pool, to cease operations, just two days after residents called on authorities to halt its construction.
Members of the community related to Stabroek News on Sunday that they anticipate that the placing of piles during the building’s construction will affect the concrete structures of the surrounding houses as well as the coastal sea defence system.
It was reported yesterday that the men began working in the morning, during which heavy vibrations were felt through the neighbourhood. One resident related that he feared the windows would crack, with the shaking that occurred.
Stabroek News was informed that around 1:30 yesterday afternoon, Chairman of the NDC Leyland Harcourt visited the site and instructed the men to stop working, following which they reportedly left.
In an interview with this newspaper last evening, Harcourt explained that he had seen the letter in the Sunday Stabroek on the matter and decided to go to the site to verify what had transpired.
Stating that he was “peeved,” the chairman expressed surprise at the actions of the individuals responsible for the construction, as he related that he had had discourse with their power of attorney last Thursday before any of the pile-driving activity began.
Noting that he had conducted site visits to the location on several occasions, Harcourt said that last week when he received a call that the men on site were preparing to do work, he visited and told the contractor to have the power of attorney visit the council.
Later that afternoon, during a full council meeting, Harcourt said he advised the woman that work be ceased on site until approval of the plan comes through from the ministry. He related that in cases such as the one in question, where several lots are to be combined, the approval of the Central Board of Health is needed. Once this approval is granted, it is relayed to the council.
He noted that when he advised such, they had not yet begun to drive piles at the site, but pointed out that when he visited yesterday, several were already in the ground.
He said he reiterated his advice, this time telling the workers to relay to their employers that no piles are to be driven until approval is received on the plan.
He described the actions of the owners as blatant disrespect towards the NDC and towards the ministry.
“I am peeved. And until the plan comes back from the ministry, the most I can do is write them and ask them not to proceed until it is passed though the different spheres of the council,” Harcourt stated.
The issue was brought to the attention of this newspaper following a letter from members of the Triumph community, who fear the effects construction of that magnitude will have on their properties.
Addressing statements in the letter that suggested that a plan may have been granted to the owners of the land through his influence, Harcourt called the claims “totally erroneous” and said he was disturbed by the letter’s contents.
He noted that he himself had visited the site on several occasions, and had even taken with him representatives of various agencies such as the Sea Defence Department, which has interest in the matter.
In the letter, residents stated that they are now faced with the “imminent danger” of their collapsing homes, and called on the responsible agencies to address the matter and cease construction in order to address whether due process is being followed.
“In the interim, at a minimum, can the government, Sea Defence Department of MPI, the EPA, NAREI, the Ministry of Housing, Ministry of Communities, the RDC, first halt the construction, conduct a review of due process, and even if somehow all is well, get the contractor to use a hydraulic press to minimise vibration shocks? If not, by Tuesday 22nd August pile-driving will be over and creeping structural damage would have already begun to step in,” the letter stated.
It was acknowledged that the effects experienced as a result of the construction may not be immediate, but are also likely to be seen much later down the road, perhaps in a few years’ time.
Their apprehension is mostly driven by the fear that history will repeat itself and that like an event that occurred a few years past when a fibre optic cable tower was placed in the community, the concrete infrastructure of their houses will be impacted by the setting of piles by what is reported to be a building that will house a first-floor swimming pool.
One of the residents who was affected by the aforementioned event related that she had spent more than $1 million in repairs following that occurrence, which had left cracks in the foundation and various sections of the house, damaged the windows, and loosened the putty, among other effects.
Another resident, whose house is only six months old, is especially fearful of the damage that can result to his property as he was informed that it takes approximately two years for concrete structures to properly cure and settle.
In what they described as a test on Friday, it was explained that one pile was driven into the ground and the intrusion “rocked the whole neighbourhood”.
The owner of one of the houses that had suffered significant structural damage a few years ago, described Friday’s event as more as a vibration than a shaking.
It was related that additional piles were put down on Saturday.
Even before the letter was penned, community members said they had directed their concerns to various agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, the Sea Defence Department of the Ministry of Public Infrastructure and the Neighbourhood Democratic Council.
Their complaint initially, reported to be as long as two months ago, was solely on the fact that piles would be driven into the ground. Now, the method of doing so has compounded their fear, as they believe the use of a drop hammer will have more impact than the hydraulic process.
Adding to this, it was speculated that several mangrove trees may have been removed from the shore opposite as they “somehow suddenly disappeared in the past few months, coincidentally when the first pile-driving attempt occurred,” the letter alleged.
There is observably a relatively clear path directly in front of the property, compared to the surrounding area, which is occupied by mangroves.
It was reported by residents that representatives of the Sea Defence Department said that they are limited in their ability to deal with the matter as the construction is being done outside of their jurisdiction.