The people of St Joseph want water coming from their taps and are not prepared to hear anything about service standards for the company that has not delivered the precious resource in months.
That was the message delivered loudly and clearly when a team from the Fair Trading Commission (FTC) faced residents of the eastern parish yesterday. FTC officials, including the Chief Executive Officer Sandra Sealy, Director of Utility Regulation Dr Marsha Atherley-Ikechi and water analyst Fiona Scantlebury had hoped to continue their consultations on proposed standards of service for the Barbados Water Authority (BWA) when they held a meeting at the auditorium of the Grantley Adams Memorial School.
Instead, they ended up taking the heat that angry residents who have been without a reliable supply of water for several months, wanted to put on the BWA.
“I don’t know that we want to hear about the standards that will probably be of benefit way down the road, unless the first standard that will impact on us is the efficient and effective delivery of a water supply to us,” Deborah Small told the panel.
“I think you are brave people to come here at a time like this with this issue,” added Dionne King.
“There is nothing in the standards that says about the actual provision of water . . . It talks about so many things, but there is nothing on here where you are saying to them, they are to provide us with water or else X, Y and Z will happen.”
The FTC has already held meetings in St Peter and St Michael where its team fielded public comments and suggestions. However, the St Joseph residents made it clear that their lot, as far as water was concerned, was much removed from those parishes.
“You all have entered a waterless environment,” said Small. “The standards of service are important, but to me right now this is being insensitive.”
“Of concern to me, and I guess my fellow parishioners at this time, is more of getting a reliable water supply, so that your daily living is not disrupted, your night time sleep is not interrupted, and still you’re not getting any kind of water.”
One woman, born in the community of Sugar Hill where her 84-year-old mother still resides, complained that residents had been without water for a sustained period but just before their demonstration outside the BWA headquarters last week, they suddenly found some flowing from
“These people ain’t had water for days on days, and they heard about a protest march last Wednesday and they [BWA] could put on water Tuesday night and come and read the meter Wednesday morning, and by the time the people get back home the water was off,” she said to much applause.
The woman, who refused to give her name, predicted that with the start of the new school year today and the issues still not resolved, students at the Grantley Adams Memorial School would likely be out of classes regularly.
“You know what it is for somebody living in a district and ain’t get water for four weeks?” the passionate resident asked the hapless FTC team.
“This passion is a serious passion . . . this ain’t no passion for ‘OK sweetheart, I’ll see you again’. This is a passion for explosion.”
Carol Cumberbatch complained that she has not had a drop of water coming from her tap since November last year. Yet, she said, she continues to get water bills.
“This is almost a year [BWA] still sending me a bill every month [marked] ‘Due for Disconnection’. I don’t know what they going to disconnect, if it is the air in the pipe or what,” she said.
“How would you feel getting up in a morning at 4:30 and going to a stand pipe and washing your clothes?”
A vocal King also used to the opportunity to address the issue of the BWA’s lack of communication with residents, particularly when it came to the provision of water tankers.
“Do not speak to us as if we are dumb, or not speak to us at all,” she said.
“There needs to be effective communication with parishioners and it needs to be detailed, because we work. The people who are at home during the day are [mostly] pensioners and when the tanker comes out at three o’clock, or two o’clock, there isn’t anybody home who can manage water, but you sent out the tanker.”