Christmas gift of pipe-borne water supply for Fort George residents

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Councillor for Morne Coco/Alyce Glen Lisa Richards Cole, Diego Martin Central MP Symon de Nobriga, Public Utilities Minister Marvin Gonzales, and a Simeon Road resident pose in front of the the newly refurbised Simeon Road booster station following its commissioning on December 16. – Paula Lindo

Residents of Fort George Road, Simeon Road and environs in Diego Martin can look forward to an increased water supply over the Christmas period and beyond, following the commissioning of two booster stations on Saturday.

Speaking at the commissioning of the new Fort George booster station, Public Utilities Minister Marvin Gonzales said he was aware of the increased importance of water during the Christmas season.

“As Minister of Public Utilities, when you commission infrastructure like this on the cusp of the Christmas season, Divali season, when people use a lot of water, it means quite a lot. I’m aware of the challenges of Fort George because of the petitions of the MP for the area, we speak on a constant basis about the challenges of some areas in his constituency, including Fort George, which we identified as a problem area where we needed to get a proper supply of water.”

Gonzales said the project, which cost $600,000, was carried out under the Northwest Water Improvement programme. He said under this programme, areas such as Fort George, Simeon Road, Carenage, Cocorite, and others in Diego Martin had been identified for infrastructural improvement.

“We refurbished and in many cases bought new pumps so we could get the requisite pressures to get the water to the highest elevation. As a result of this booster, the people in Fort George would have moved from a water schedule of one in nine days or once per week to a minimum of three days a week, and in some cases four-five days a week, depending on availability.

“On WASA’s side, we no longer have to incur the cost of providing a truck-borne supply to fulfil the needs of the residents, who would request a supply almost daily. This will save the utility company hundreds of thousands of dollars. Water trucks literally live on these hills, providing the people of Battery and Upper Fort George with water. This situation has been in existence for over ten years, I am told.”

Gonzales said he had seen letters to the editors of newspapers from the people of Fort George complaining about water issues, and now expected to see letters saying they now had a reliable supply of water.

Diego Martin Central MP Symon de Nobriga said there had been problems with water for at least the last eight years, during his time both as a councillor and now MP. He thanked Gonzales for finding the solution for the community.

“It’s a win for WASA because they don’t have to provide truck-borne water for the area, and it’s a win for myself and the councillor for the area because we don’t have to find a daily solution for the problem. It’s great that it’s happening just before Christmas.”

Councillor Marcia Marslin said constituents had been frustrated and complained to the media several times, which was understandable. She said the complaints had been reduced since the new stations went into operation.

WASA operations director Shaira Ali said the station had been in operation for two weeks and had proved successful in providing water with adequate pressure to residents at the highest point in the area. She said she was looking forward to providing similar booster stations for people living on hills who have not been able to receive water.

Speaking at the commissioning of the refurbished Simeon Road booster station, Gonzales said for over a decade, the people of Upper Simeon Road had been suffering for water.

“In some areas, people have been receiving water for 12 hours once per week. They’ve been running five different schedules within this region of 4,000 people to move around the water because of lack of pressure coming from this booster station. With this upgraded booster station, with an investment of $400,000, we have the pressure to bring the requisite supply at least 12 hours per day five days a week. The residents have been experiencing the effects already and are pleased.”

De Nobriga said while he couldn’t comment about the residents’ reactions before the refurbishment of the booster station, they have been extremely positive since it came into operation.

“We are talking about 4,000 people, most of them at elevation. These are long-standing issues of both service and infrastructure, and because of the work of the minister and WASA, we are seeing a lot of these things being alleviated. I know people from Back-a-Yard, Skeete Lane, at elevation both on Sparrow and Simeon Road, benefiting from this station. It’s not just that you have higher or more reliable pressures, but people are getting water more consistently, which is always a good thing.”

He said work on Morne Coco Road and Pioneer Drive was also improving supply in his constituency.

De Nobriga said in 2024, he was looking forward to the completion of the Morne Coco Road, now that WASA was replacing 2.5 kilometres of pipe in the 60-year-old pipeline. Other anticipated projects to be completed were the Cocorite Terrace booster station, lighting, beautification and rejuvenation of the Diego Martin Highway, and the Cocorite Community Centre, which had gone out to tender, among others.