Gonzales: WASA $750 fine for illegal water sales outdated, obsolete

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Minister of Public Utilities Marvin Gonzales answers a question during a sitting of the Senate, Parliament, Port of Spain on May 17. – Photo by Angelo Marcelle

PUBLIC Utilities Minister Marvin Gonzales has said the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) will undertake a review of the relevant legislation which covers penalties associated with the illegal extraction, distribution and sale of the water it produces.

He acknowledged that the existing $750 fine for such offences was too small.

“There is no doubt that this fine is outdated and obsolete and with the effluxion of time, no longer serves as a deterrent to these serious acts.”

Gonzales made the statements in the Senate on May 17 when asked by Opposition Senator Anil Roberts if an existing fine of $750 for such offences under the WASA Act was a sufficient deterrent in light of a water-trucking scandal which happened last month in Morne Diablo.

At that time, it was alleged that one water-trucking operating earned between $4,000 to $5,000 per day, selling water to customers.

In light of this, Gonzales said, “WASA has taken action to strengthen enforcement and ensure compliance with the provisions of the WASA Act and has implemented a proactive and determined approach to eradicate water trucking scams in Trinidad and Tobago.”

Gonzales said WASA is currently doing a comprehensive review of the act that governs its operation.

This review includes fines for various illegal practices that endanger or undermine WASA’s ability to provide services to the population.

He said, “It is expected that this legislative review can be completed and appropriate amendments to the act presented to Parliament by the end of 2024.”

Roberts asked what steps had been taken by the Public Utilities Ministry and WASA to alert citizens about the threat posed by water-truck operators acting illegally.

Gonzales said recently, WASA expanded operations at its call centres to allow people to better access water-trucking services.

“The call centre operation is now a 24/7 operation. So, therefore, citizens requesting truck-borne services now have access to WASA and to make their appropriate request for free truck-borne supply of water.”

Roberts said his personal experience was that it took two weeks from the time of request, to get a truck-borne water supply to a house.

Gonzales said he did not know where Roberts got his information from and could not verify what Roberts said to be accurate.

But he added, “I can assure the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago that, recently, WASA has expanded its fleet of water-trucking operators.”

Additional operators, Gonzales continued, have been contracted to be strategically deployed in areas that are unserved and underserved (in terms of a regular water supply.”

“In addition to the expansion of the call centre operation to a 24/7 operation, additional water truckers – perhaps over 70 water truckers and tankers – are now available to provide to citizens requesting and desiring a supply of water in various communities across Trinidad and Tobago.”