Almost every St Lucian knows what it feels like to live with no water flowing through their pipes—at least for a couple days. Having to resort to collecting rainwater, or transporting water from places where it is available to your home or workplace is frustrating enough to deal with for a few days, but residents in Canaries and other areas in St Lucia have been dealing with a much worse situation for months.
When disaster management organizations and other volunteers started post Tomas relief efforts, areas like Dennery, Vieux Fort, Soufriere, Canaries and Fond St Jacques were all on the priority list. Immediately after the hurricane Canaries residents expressed that it was hard to even imagine what their village looked like before. Over time they managed to get most roads back to stable condition and clean up streets, homes and schools, which had all been covered in mud. Despite all that has been done, the village of Canaries has remained without pipe borne water ever since hurricane Tomas dealt its furious blow upon St Lucia in October 2010.
Though it seemed as if everything was back to normal when the STAR paid a visit to the Canaries Primary School on Wednesday this week, there were problems lurking beneath the surface. Drinking water had to be supplied to students from organizations like the National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO), and for other uses, water had to be trucked in to fill the school’s tanks.
Presently there are two water purification points in Canaries, one of them set up after Tomas by the French Army and other by Operation Blessing International in the United States. Other communities have also benefited from the purification systems and one of the WMI Water Purification Units set up by Operation Blessing is capable of filtering 10,000 gallons of water a day.
While the water purification system lessens the threat of people contracting cholera or other water borne diseases, getting the water from the purification points to their homes has proved difficult for residents. For some it’s almost a mile and a half trip uphill to an area near the countryside to get clean water. Despite the effort required, some residents still walk to the river where the purification system is set up and back home as often as they need to, some carrying buckets on their heads, others using wheel barrows.
The STAR was informed that there is a man in the area who charges residents one dollar to get water delivered to their homes. Residents say he’s up and down with his vehicle all day, but in order to secure his services you first have to set up an appointment.
Ian Frederick, a teacher from the Canaries primary school and representative of the Canaries Disaster Management Committee told the STAR the Committee recently teamed up with the Village Council to send a joint letter to Wasco. They had several concerns as both felt the situation was taking a huge toll on the people in the community.
“We haven’t had water for a while and people’s lives have changed completely,” Frederick said. “We have to go to the river to get water for everything.”
The letter sent from the two committees included suggestions to deal with the situation. They suggested getting a pump and pumping water into a reservoir where it could be treated and sent to the village through the main lines.
“We also wanted them to waive the charges,” Frederick added. “People have to be paying to get water from the purification systems. You have to pay for transportation, sometimes 10 dollars and in some cases about 40 dollars. It’s unfair to have people spending so much then they still have to be paying the basic rate to Wasco when there is no water.”
Since the letter, the residents still didn’t know where they stood or how soon things would be back to normal.
“It is very frustrating for everyone. We all have to make sure laundry doesn’t pile up so we have to go to the river every day after work.”
Frederick felt it was high time the island’s water company met with the Village Council or the Canaries Disaster Management Committee to discuss what was happening with the water situation.
“Wasco needs to step up. They need to issue some kind of statement saying what the situation is. Information can help relieve the situation. When people don’t know what is happening and they don’t see anything happening it adds anxiety.”
NEMO has already provided water tanks to provide the community with water, but the Disaster Committee says they need transportation to get the water to the tanks, which have been set up in areas like Flora Villa and points closer to the village itself.
“We have to depend on them to truck water to the school,” a teacher from the Canaries Primary School said. “The principal has to be calling all the time. There was a time, had we not harvested rainwater, we wouldn’t have been able to flush the toilets.”
On Wasco’s side, nothing has really changed since their announcement on December 14 stating they were “awaiting final approval of the plans/design for a new water intake in Canaries. The Canaries intake was washed away completely in the hurricane. The government of Trinidad and Tobago is assisting with funding for that project and providing technical support. Once the designs are approved, work will begin in Canaries.”
On Friday a representative from Wasco told us the company was still in the negotiation process with Trinidad. In the meantime he says Wasco is exploring some other options that have not been finalized, that should make water available through the pipes, however no time frame could be given.