Downtown sewage problems being solved in stages, says Samuda

MATTHEW Samuda, the minister with responsibility for the environment, has said he is pleased with the pace of works in sections of downtown Kingston to solve the problem of overflowing sewage in the streets.

Work to lay new sewer pipes on West Street and Matthews Lane in downtown Kingston have been completed and has led to a halt of sewage overflow in some areas.

“The pipeline works between West Street and Matthews Lane, which were started to alleviate the overflow of sewage that was happening on Pechon Street all the way down to West Street, are indeed complete in terms of pipe laying. Several laterals were also put in to allow businesses to connect to the new main,” Samuda said.

“What we are doing now is testing the line before we do the reinstatement of the roadwork to ensure that there are no leaks. Once we pave the road, we don’t want any further need to dig it up. So far we are happy with the pipe laying work. It has significantly improved the quality of life of residents and those who work along Pechon Street and West Street. I am happy for the progress, but I don’t want there to be any illusions,” he added.

Samuda declared that he does not want there to be any illusions as there are other sections of downtown Kingston that require similar work. One such area is on Spanish Town Road in vicinity of Oxford Street.

“The work so far has been in a very small area in what we all consider downtown Kingston. The sewage network downtown is very old and not fit for purpose. It was built with a much smaller population in mind and it has outlived its useful life. The Government has been very clear that we do see this is as a pillar of urban renewal in downtown and we will be working to significantly improve through upgrades and through infrastructure, the sewage capacity and indeed the potable water capacity in downtown Kingston. This might take years. The infrastructure is around 80 to 100 years old.

“I understand their plight very well and I understand their anxiety over the length of time it has taken. There is no sense of pride that we are only getting to this point now. You’ll recall that last year we had some difficulty in Greenwich Farm where the sewage lines from downtown eventually end. We had to do some corrective work there. Unfortunately we are behind and it is going to take a long time for us to catch up. They can be assured that Government is doing the assessment now and is replacing the oldest and worse lines first,” Samuda told the Jamaica Observer on Tuesday.

People in other sections of downtown Kingston such as Orange Street and Spanish Town Road who still experience sewage problems on and off have got jealous of the works being done on West Street and places nearby. They also referenced a sewage problem that existed in Cross Roads, St Andrew, very close to the meat market that was fixed by the authorities last year and has not recurred. They said they want a situation downtown where people can feel comfortable that the days of sewage overflowing in the streets is long gone.

On Tuesday, the Observer spoke to Donovan Anderson, manager of an ice cream store on Orange Street, who said that despite work to fix the problem in other areas, more work is needed to fix the issue once and for all.

“People make a lot of complaints about serious sewage problems in the other parts. I would love them to really sort it out and get to the bottom of it and once and for all fix it so we don’t have that problem anymore. I am happy for the works taking place now. Cross Roads was fixed and it is the same thing we want for downtown, even though downtown is a much bigger issue,” Anderson said.

“Latty”, a store operator on Spanish Town Road, near the Coronation Market, said she would be more than elated to know that the entire downtown Kingston is sewage free.

“It would be good if they could fix the entire downtown once and for all. They haven’t reached my side yet right by Oxford Street and Spanish Town Road. I believe they will fix it because it wouldn’t make sense to fix some part and leave other parts. I want to be in an environment where there is no sewage running at all,” she said.

In Cross Roads, where the problem of overflowing sewage existed up to March last year, the people who operate business in the area were overly pleased that since the fix, they are sewage free.

One woman, who was selling slippers on the sidewalk at the meat market in Cross Roads, said Tuesday that, “We haven’t had anything like that since last year. We feel good about that. When we had the problem it wasn’t nice at all. It wasn’t good for our health”.

A female store worker said she feels so good, it is as if there was no problem to begin with.

“We glad seh the water stop. Everybody had a problem. It made us so uncomfortable. It smelled so bad. Our shoes don’t have to catch in the sewage water anymore. We were wondering if it can’t fix. It was bad, bad,” the store worker said.