A-M u s i n g s – WASCO Woes

A-Musings are thoughts, the thoughtful kind. For the purpose of these articles,
a-musings are thoughts that might amuse, entertain and even enlighten.

I was driving along a couple of weeks back, listening to Timothy’s midday show – what else is there to do? I enjoy Earl on W-VENT (93.5, 94.7) but I tend to listen to him for his first hour from 12 to 1 pm, and then switch to Tim for the second hour from 1 to 2 pm, if I have access to a radio – when, as is often the case, a caller refused to stick to the subject (I can’t for the life of me remember the subject so it can’t have been too earth-shattering) and I remember Tim falling into the trap of forgetting what his main subject was and he started pursuing the topic the caller had introduced. I was a bit surprised because Tim is quite good at telling people to keep on track (CALLER – in capital letters – that’s not what we’re talking about! Stick to the subject, CALLER!) He’s quite a dictator at times.


Well, anyway, on this particular afternoon, what had been a rather desultory show with few calls turned into an avalanche of complaints about everybody’ whipping boy: WASCO. It seemed that everybody and their grandmother had been abused in some way or other by the island’s sole supplier of pipe-borne water. There is, apparently, and never has been a single Saint Lucian, living or dead, who has not suffered from the evil machinations of WASCO and its inept, inefficient, lazy, corrupt, incompetent, destructive, devious, alcoholic, fumbling, you-name-it, employees. Well, I beg to differ, and here’s why. Let’s start with the John Compton Dam. I seriously doubt that anyone at WASCO (or was it WASA way back then?) ever insisted that the government should not have financed an ongoing maintenance and dredging program from the very start. I might be wrong, but when planning such a multi-million venture the least you can ask for is a plan to maintain, sustain and protect your investment. Successive governments have failed to do this.

Then there is the attitude of the general public. In recent years we at IETV have travelled every road in the country documenting communities and highways in various ways. You would be surprised, or perhaps not, Dear Reader, to discover how many illegal water connections lie blatantly above ground with no visible meters (actually the same goes for LUCELEC’s product, which is a much more dangerous prospect when people splice connections to steal power). It seems that water is something provided From-Above-By-Jah, a basic Human Right that needn’t be paid for.

Some years ago, I happened to break a pipe at a school in the countryside, which the kids immediately turned into a fun fountain. I reported it to the Principal who said she would get on to WASCO immediately. When I left, the water was still gushing happily. Some days later, almost a week I think, I happened to be in the same district and was surprised to find the water still gushing, though not so enthusiastically. I called WASCO and within an hour the problem was fixed. I can’t help but believe that the Principal never made the call she promised to make. In fact, I was later told that “the gentleman” had fixed it. Who the gentleman was, I never found out. I’ve reported more than a dozen burst pipes through the years and have always found that WASCO has responded if not immediately then at least ten times as fast as the police ever do. At least WASCO has vehicles!

In the past months I have had terrible problems with WASCO at my home. They billed me for 41,000 gallons of water one month, then almost nothing, then over 30,000, then almost nothing. It was crazy. They billed me for over $1,000 a month. I refused to pay. WASCO insisted I had a leak on my property. I insisted I hadn’t. I mean, how could I have a leak one day and no leak the next, unless of course I was lying through my teeth? It was a standoff. Now here’s where you expect me to start screaming and shouting about “effing WASCO”; well, I can’t. The people at WASCO have treated me with the utmost courtesy and consideration. I believe they are as confused by the situation as I am. From the start, Shem, the first person I spoke to, and the others have done everything to take my complaint seriously. They installed an air valve to check if air was affecting the meter, an obvious first choice. Then they removed my meter and took it way for testing; it proved not to be faulty. Meanwhile my debt to WASCO was mounting. I checked and rechecked all my pipes, which are all above ground, and found no leak. I did find a broken underground pipe on the “WASCO side” – so I don’t see how it could affect my meter readings although, strangely, WASCO knocked off a few hundred dollars from my bill as compensation – and the company fixed it almost immediately.

Finally, I put a lock on my valve to stop water coming in (just as WASCO does when you don’t pay your bill) and still, it seems, I’m using water. If it is a leak, as WASCO insists it must be, then it is a leak that occurs now and then with no discernable pattern. In the past months I have existed entirely on rainwater, despite the drought, because I harvest every drop that falls on the house and have more than 50,000 gallons’ storage capacity in two large underground tanks. What is happening is a mystery and a headache, but in no way can I blame WASCO for the confusion. So give the guys a break, please!

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