It was reported that many Virgin Islanders who need the ease of water expense are unable to benefit from the free water programme that the Government has implemented because of a technicality. It is a situation Opposition Member and Second District Representative Hon. Melvin Mitch Turnbull has referred to as a sort of catch 22.
During the Opposition press conference on 19 May Hon. Turnbull said that there were instances where some residents who tried to benefit from the initiative found difficulty. In noting the situation the Opposition Member said, “Persons applied for water and for various reasons weren’t able to get a meter installed or get their connection hooked up from the water and Sewerage Department.”
This inability to get a meter, Hon. Turnbull said, was a conundrum because without it residents were unable to get the needed water. As a result he said that as the District Representative he had to assist his constituents who were affected by this problem. “You’re denying them water because they don’t have a meter and they are not in the system. Now it is left to the District Representatives who continue to receive those calls and I know I have purchased loads and loads of water so far for residents in my District to help them.”
In further complaining about the alleged unfairness of the situation the Second District Representative said, “You are saying you are doing something, but if you dig a little bit deeper than the surface and all of the talk and the rhetoric. If we pay attention to what’s going on as Hon. Fraser said and Hon. Penn said this is the Government’s responsibility. This is something that people are put in a position that they didn’t ask for that they can’t control.”
The free water programme is part of the concessions that are being made by the Water and Sewerage Department to assist residents in this economically stressful time. The initiative was first mentioned by Minister for Transportation, Works and Utilities Hon. Kye Rymer on 19 March.
In that announcement that was aimed at sharing that Ministry’s COVID-19 preparedness and actions Hon. Rymer stated, “In an effort to promote healthy practices, Cabinet has approved the suspension of charges by the Water and Sewerage Department for water to residences for a period of 30 days in the first instance, effective Thursday, March 19. We are doing this because we understand that the precautionary measures that have been put in place for everyone’s safety will affect the livelihood of persons.”
The Minister also mentioned that measures are in place for residents in areas that are prone to water shortage. “In addition, water delivery will be offered free of charge to existing Water and Sewerage Department customers in areas affected by interruptions in the water distribution network for a period of 30 days effective Thursday, March 19. Further, no more than three customers are allowed at a time inside of the Water and Sewerage department offices at Baugher’s Bay,” Hon. Rymer mentioned.