Three months into the impasse between the Barbados Water Authority (BWA) and Innotech Equipment Inc. over community water tanks, there are now water safety concerns in some parts of St Joseph and St. John.
Last Friday, Innotech raised the alarm with the state-owned water company after eight of its tanks were re-commissioned without being sanitized. The company said that to the best of its knowledge the tanks had not been removed for cleaning.
Barbados TODAY understands that cleaning the tanks involves filling them with water that is heavily saturated with chlorine for a period of 48 hours. It is not safe to conduct this process in public as there is a high risk of persons mistakenly consuming the cleaning solution.
In a letter to the BWA dated January 11, 2019, addressed to general manager Keithroy Halliday, chairman Leodeane Worrell, and director of engineering Charles Leslie, Innotech charged that of the 36 tanks remaining in the field, eight were still being used.
“We are uncertain if the BWA cleaned and sanitized the tanks now in service prior to the reconnecting, refilling and recommissioning the eight tanks. As the residents are using the tanks, out of an abundance of caution please let us have your instruction to clean and sanitize these tanks and return them immediately to the communities. As per the attached Condition Report dated 8th January 2019 which indicates the last clean/sanitize date for all the tanks, please note the last clean/sanitize date for the eight tanks now in service was 11th September 2018,” the letter stated.
However, the BWA today strongly denied refilling the Innotech tanks. The Authority also asserted that it was therefore not responsible for the water quality in the tanks.
“The Authority categorically denies that its crews refilled the community tanks owned by Innotech as referenced in the letter, since the repudiation of the Innotech contract. Facts which have been confirmed by senior superintendent (Ag.) Mr. Grantley Philips, the section head who assigns staff to perform that duty and head of the Distribution Department under which that section falls, and engineer, Mrs. Shelley Parris,” the BWA emphasized in a statement from BWA marketing officer, Yvette Harris-Griffith.
The statement further noted that “with regard to the query as to whether the BWA was cleaning or sanitizing the tanks, it has never been the contractual responsibility of the Authority, that always was Innotech’s.”
The development presents a further complication, as one month after the BWA accused Innotech of breaching the five-year lease agreement by removing the community tanks, the equipment rental company is now claiming that the BWA is still using several of its tanks to service water-scarce communities.
“We returned to work on 7th January and in accordance with our Standard Operating Procedures we carried out the routine condition survey of the community tanks that are currently in the field. In summary, there are 36 tanks in the field of which eight have now been reconnected, refilled and commissioned into service by the BWA,” stated the letter, which was signed by David Tomlinson, director of Innotech Utilities.
Barbados TODAY understands that as a result of the alleged continued use of its equipment, Innotech has resumed monthly billings to the state-owned water company to the tune of $51,000 per month. Contacted Innotech’s chairman, Anthony Da Silva, who would not comment on the development but confirmed the authenticity of the letter signed by Tomlinson and that indeed eight of Innotech’s tanks were still being used. Barbados TODAY witnessed the tanks in use at Bowling Alley, St Joseph.
However, a source close to the development revealed that the company had written to the BWA noting that they do not recognize “any termination” of the 2015 contract.
“We don’t recognize it because we have not received any correspondence that tells us that contract is terminated from the Barbados Water Authority. We received a letter from the Minister of Energy and Water Resources [Wilfred Abrahams] saying that he has terminated the contract. The minister has no legal standing in the contract and therefore no legal authority to bring the contract to an end. They have compounded this by continuing to use the product,” the source said while hinting that the matter could be heading to the law courts.
This afternoon the BWA maintained that when Innotech removed the tanks back in December for non-payment they were informed that the contract was cancelled.
The revelation, If true, would represent a departure from the BWA’s position last month when the water company launched another community tank initiative with donated tanks from corporate Barbados. In a letter dated December 28, 2018, a copy of which has also been obtained by Barbados TODAY, the BWA had demanded that Innotech immediately remove the empty tanks from the field, claiming that they posed a health and safety risk to the community.
“As you are aware the Barbados Water Authority (BWA) accepted your repudiation of the community tanks contract and previously requested that you remove them from their respective locations. To date, you have failed to do so. It is now a matter of health and safety and that given the importance of the enclosed bulletin which warns of high winds, that you do remove them forthwith,” stated the letter, which was written before some of the replacement tanks began to collapse.