No water for thousands as WASA cleans up several flooded plants

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

In this August 2021 file photo, WASA workers do maintenance work at the North Oropouche water treatment plant, off Valencia Road, Valencia. – AYANNA KINSALE

AS MANY citizens have started to realise, heavy rains do not necessarily equate to a better water supply.

TT once again faced the wrath of flooding between Wednesday and Thursday, and thousands were also left without pipe-borne water after surface-water treatment plants started shutting down, particularly in the north, east and in Tobago.

Increasingly often, communities which receive pipe-borne water from treatment plants fed by surface water, especially rivers, are left with flooded yards and dry taps after a few hours of heavy rain.

Intakes at water-treatment plants become clogged when rising river levels increase turbidity (measurement of silt and other debris in water from a river or lake) and can only be cleared when the levels subside.

The Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) hosted a news conference just after midday on Thursday, at which time the worst of the day’s weather seemed to have passed.

The authority’s chairman, Ravindra Nanga, and acting director of operations, Shaira Ali, gave updates on the affected plants and the communities they service.

Ali said the weather earlier on Thursday presented “significant challenges at the authority with respect to the surface-source treatment facilities.”

In other instances, conditions were improving and WASA was able to restart several plants.

Nanga and Ali expressed optimism about the restoration of service to most of the affected areas within 24 hours if the weather allowed for it.

On November 5, WASA also announced that its Tompire water-treatment plant in north-east Trinidad was similarly affected by high turbidity levels which resulted in clogged screens which left the plant inoperable.

However, while the TT Meteorological Service lowered the severity of its riverine alert from orange to yellow on Thursday afternoon, it also forecast a medium (60 per cent) chance of thunderstorm activity between Thursday afternoon and night, which could affect WASA’s ability to have the treatment plants up and running and water restored on Friday.

Ali said there were a handful of other issues affecting the water supply to some communities.

“Yesterday (Wednesday) we encountered two breaks on the 42-inch transmission main (at Daniel Trace and Pine Settlement, Valencia) that supplies water from the plant to several of the off takes which supply the communities.”

Ali said crews were immediately mobilised to both sites and had been working intensely overnight.

He said because of “the challenges with the weather system, the high levels of rainfall and the river conditions,” WASA was “able to mobilise works last night. Crews were working (continuously) with the weather conditions as they were.”

A crew remains at Daniel Trace where there were several challenges, particularly the terrain, being in a forested area, as well as at Pine Settlement where restoration was hampered on Thursday by the high river levels.

But, Ali said, “We have equipment mobilised. We have the expertise, the engineers, the managers; they are all on site and all efforts are being made at this time to go into the second repair and have that completed over the next several hours.”

She admitted the timeframe for completion of repairs would depend on the weather at the various sites.

Ali said WASA was also engaged in other “major items of works” being co-ordinated in east Trinidad, particularly at the North Oropouche water treatment plant in Valencia, which services over 100,000 customers in the East-West Corridor, from Sangre Grande to Five Rivers, Arouca.

WASA said customers can call its hotlines (800-4420 and 800-4426) to receive truck-borne water, but it added that places such as schools and health centres will get priority.

Communities without water:

Sangre Grande and environs

Guaico Tamana Road

Toco Road

Manzanilla and environs

Cumuto

Wallerfield

Tumpuna Road

Malabar Phase I, III and IV

Brazil

La Horquetta

Carapo

O’Meara (including the industrial estate)

Mausica Road (north and south)

Maloney Gardens; Five Rivers

Bon Air West and surrounding communities.

Affected plants:

Plants out of operation at the time of the news conference included:

Quarry water treatment plant, affecting Valencia and environs

La Pastora/McDavid intakes in Lopinot

North Oropouche water treatment plant

Guanapo water treatment plant, which supplies Arima

Matura and Tompire water treatment plants, which supply Toco, Matura and environs

Blanchisseuse water treatment facility

La Fillette

Rincon

Las Cuevas

Charlotteville (Tobago)

Hillsborough West (Tobago)

Highlands (Tobago)