Trinidad – Water scare
Residents warned not to drink from oil-contaminated supply; 60 schools closed
PORT OF SPAIN –– The Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) on Tuesday night shut down its Caroni Water Treatment Plant after an oily sheen was seen in the water. However, it was too late to prevent the contaminated supply reaching thousands of customers.
An alert went out shortly after daybreak yesterday, advising customers not to use the water if they detected a kerosene-like smell in their supply. They were also advised to empty all water stored in tanks and clean out the tanks with cleaning agents before refilling.
The authority said that up to late yesterday, there had been no reports of people falling ill from drinking the water.
However, 60 schools were closed and children sent home early, as a precaution.
According to WASA’s senior manager of corporate communications Daniel Plenty a substance was spotted around 7:15 p.m. on Tuesday and the operations ceased immediately.
The facility was restarted at 12:45 a.m. after the river was cleared of the oily substance, as well as clean-up and disinfection works on the plant.
Plenty told the Express the sheen was observed by WASA employees working on the plant that is situated on the river bank. Sections of the river form part of the facility. The plant extracts water from the Caroni River, which is then distributed via two major pipelines to north and south regions of Trinidad.
He said the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) was immediately contacted.
Plenty said: “We immediately stopped operations at the plant because what would have been happening there is that water from the river is being drawn into the plant for treatment. At that point, of course, if you have an oily substance in the water, that is also being drawn into the plant.
“After the plant was stopped, we had to engage in clean-up activity in relation to removing any residue of the oily substance from the various places at that plant before restarting.
“The EMA was contacted and they have a full-scale investigation that is being done right now. They are checking for the source of the contamination and they are also making checks along the system of irrigation to the water supply.”
No water supply was cut to homes, businesses or institutions, Plenty said.
He gave the assurance WASA was doing all it could to supply clean and safe water for its customers.
Plenty said: “The authority assures customers that the supply from the plant is safe and meets World Health Organization standards. However, flushing exercises are currently being carried out in order to eliminate any residue of the substance that may have entered the distribution system.
“The authority apologizes for the inconvenience and thanks customers for their patience and understanding.”
Not all areas that receive supply from the plant were impacted, he said.
“We are trying to focus on our flushing exercises, particularly in those areas that we keep getting reports of continued kerosene smell in the water supply,” he said.
He added that the public needed to be aware of environmental protection, especially for the watercourses, and any indiscriminate dumping of chemicals or materials could contaminate the water.
“As a population, we need to be aware of that importance of protecting our environment, protecting our watercourses, our watersheds, so that we can have water supply in an environment that will be able to sustain our way of life in the future,” Plenty said.