I have noted the concerns raised by environmental groups regarding the National Water Commission’s wastewater treatment plants, which are below the required standards.
As I have previously indicated, the current regulations regarding these sewerage plants were passed after many were constructed. One must admit that the NWC was somewhat tardy in addressing the problems, but this was largely due to the lack of financial capacity.
As part of the restructuring and reorganization of the National Water Commission (NWC), a new management team was installed as of December 2010, to transform the organisation’s businesses processes and oversee its capital development projects.
This team has adopted a more positive approach to the ongoing development and transformation of the NWC.
One of the priorities of the NWC is the upgrading and rehabilitation of the island’s wastewater treatment facilities.
The rehabilitation of treatment plants first started in the Corporate Area and St. Catherine with the commissioning of the Soapberry Treatment Plant in 2008. The plant was designed to reduce aging sewer plants in the Kingston Metropolitan Region, and reduce areas of on-site disposal.
The Ministry of Housing, Environment and Water, through the NWC has since embarked on a structured programme to further rehabilitate a number of the wastewater treatment facilities throughout the island.
Several of these rehabilitation projects are being facilitated through K-Factor funding. It was this Administration that applied for and received approval from the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) to implement the K-Factor for this process.
We have so far identified 33 of the 67 plants in the island for major rehabilitation. Of that number 11 are currently being rehabilitated with funding from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), under the Caribbean Regional Fund for Wastewater Management (CReW).
This funding was negotiated with the IDB to enhance the financial capacity of the NWC, in order to fast-track the rehabilitation process.
Rehabilitation under the first phase of this project has commenced in Clarendon, Kingston and St. Andrew, St. Catherine, St. Thomas, and St. Mary. We have worked out a schedule for the repairs, and requests for proposals are being finalized and will be issued soon.
Additionally, work has commenced on the Ocho Rios and Negril Plants, with the aim of bringing them to the desired standards, thereby preserving the coastal natural environment in critical resort areas. The European Union is providing financial assistance for this undertaking.
While, the Ministry acknowledges the concerns raised by homeowners and other stakeholders regarding treatment plants that were not built up to standard in some of the older developments, the NWC cannot take over these plants due to their current situation, as it will result in unplanned liability to the NWC. However, we are willing to discuss the way forward.
The Ministry, through the NWC has developed a positive and structured programme to correct environmental issues associated with wastewater treatment systems across the island.
We will be working closely with NEPA, other regulatory bodies, and we will be willing to incorporate advocates, to ensure adherence to proper standards at our treatment facilities while safeguarding our environment, as we proceed to correct the problems.
I urge the public to play its part by providing feedback to the Ministry and the NWC wherever there are problems with malfunctioning treatment facilities. This will enable us to discuss and plan the way forward.
Dr. Horace Chang, M.P.