TCI News

New motor arrives in Grand Turk today to fix water woes; Minister exposes $6 million in unpaid water bills

Magnetic Media Photo, File

#Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos Islands – Thursday June 28, 2018 – Unpaid water bills in Grand Turk have hit a staggering $6 million, and though having even half of those monies paid would be more than enough to completely overhaul the water system in the Capital, the Minister of Infrastructure Goldray Ewing says the Administration is not holding it against residents.

The Minister returned a call to Magnetic Media overnight, explaining extensively the long standing problems in Grand Turk and remedies upon which he is working; but more significantly, Minister Ewing confirmed that the repair needed to get the water pump working now will be done today thanks to the swift purchase of a brand new motor.  The motor was shipped into Turks and Caicos from Ohio.

“The replacement motor arrives on the Lew Tide tomorrow in Grand Turk; from there it is just a matter of installing it.  The broken one will be taken to Provo Water Company, which has the expertise on the ground to fix it.”

Minister Ewing, who has a background in engineering said he personally inspected the site and it was evident that the motor which eventually seized up, was over worked.

“When I put my hand on it, it was hot.  The bearings in the motor were gone and as with anything that is running non-stop, it burned out and stop running altogether.”

There was a scramble to get the funds together as the country is in a fiscal transition which means monies are not so readily available; the $9,000 was identified said Minister Ewing and paid as down payment on the 800lbs motor, which has a total cost of $15,000.  

Currently, residents of Grand Turk are forced to ration water because the demand far outweighs the supply.  Magnetic Media was contacted on Wednesday by residents who called it a crisis situation.

Minister Ewing said the issue of a water shortage in Grand Turk is not new, but that he is working assiduously to lay a proper foundation for radical reform.

Already in motion, a Cabinet approved amendment to the Water and Sewage Ordinance which will allow the Water Undertaking Department to continue with monthly billing for water usage, but now also be legally allowed to cut off supply to those who are not paying their bill.

And that is pretty much everyone explained Hon. Goldray Ewing.

Her Majesty’s Prison is the largest consumer of city water; but the Prison does not pay its bill despite being given the money from the public purse to do so.

The second largest consumer of water is Carnival Cruise Line with an annual bill of around $400,000.  Carnival is among the only entities which honors its commitment and pays its water bill.

Government Offices are third in the line for consumption and are guilty of leaving water bills unpaid, despite the monies being allocated for there to be payment. Even the Governor’s Office does not pay its water bill.

“I have had all kinds of people calling me too about the water.  I explained to them what was happening and when I ask if they are paying their bill; they hung up on me.”

The Minister said Government should be paying its water bill, that Government offices should set a better example.

Grand Turk is also facing a serious problem with seepage.  Water loss for the Capital of the country is at a critical level, with all of the government tanks being in dire need of repair and further to that, residences and businesses are also with a multitude of leaks.  The leaks and sizable water loss, shared Minister Ewing are not being fixed because no one is paying for the water.

“If people knew they had to pay for the water they were using or the water that was wasting due to leaks, they would get the leaks fixed.”

The pumps at the Government’s Reverse Osmosis Water Plant in Grand Turk, when at optimum are churning out between 500,000 to 750,000 gallons per day.

“This was still not enough; that may however be due to the number of leaks”, said the Minister.

Magnetic Media was told that all six of the large government-owned water storage tanks are losing water; the tanks are located at the hospital, two tanks are on the ridge near the Community College, there is one each at the South Base, North Well and north of HJ Robinson High school.

“Even the smaller tanks in areas like West Road and Backsalina are leaky.’

Minister Goldray Ewing believes it would take $2.5 million to bring the modernisations and change to the Reverse Osmosis Plant required.   The Minister also believes the water plant should be privitised; allowing islanders to own 49% of a new entity which would function more like a business and not like a public service.

“I believe it is a good business opportunity and it has the potential to earn as much as $7 million per year.  In the interim, I think we need to get a private company to control billing and eventually create a Statutory Body for Electricity, Sewage, Telecommunications and Water so that there would be better administration.”

This fiscal year, the plan is to conduct major repairs on the system which is over 100 years old. That is projected to cost $1 million. Eventually, there needs to be the addition of another ‘skit’ which will churn out an extra 300,000 gallons of water per day; this would take the units working at the site to three and would cost around $800,000 to purchase.

As for the critical  water shortage now, the new motor which arrives in Grand Turk today, will pump 500,000 gallons per day and that will complement the current pump which is producing 250,000 gallons per day.

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