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Downtown sewage relief

Relief beckons for residents and businessowners of downtown Kingston after Minister in charge of water Matthew Samuda announced that $170 million is to be spent in emergency repairs to replace century-old pipes in the capital city, which has been grappling with sewage-flooded streets.

Samuda made the disclosure Thursday during a tour of the area with Local Government Minister Desmond McKenzie and officials from the National Water Commission and the Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation. McKenzie is the member of Parliament for the Kingston Western constituency, which includes most of the affected areas.

For months, residents, businessowners, and customers have complained about the flow of sewage on the roadways in the country’s main commercial district and transportation hub.

The problem has been linked to the collapse of aged asbestos sewer pipelines on West Street. Storm water intrusion has also caused manhole covers to lift when it rains.

“The situation is unacceptable. The aging sewage infrastructure has caused suffering to citizens downtown and those who conduct business, “ Samuda told The Gleaner, adding that the problem with the pipes “has persisted for a long time”.

He said Prime Minister Andrew Holness has instructed that “all available resources be used to resolve the situation”.

“In this vein, we are mobilising Hi-Vac trucks to pump from the lines and cleaning crews to deal with the issue while the necessary construction work is under way. That work along West Street and environs has commenced today (yesterday) and will progress through the weekend,” Samuda said.

No ‘piecemeal’ response

McKenzie said he was pleased that the response to the problem was not “piecemeal”.

“This is the heart of Jamaica’s economy. And if the heart of the economy in your country is not beating, it means that the Government’s revenue is going to be in problems,” he said, urging “a little bit more patience” from stakeholders.

Some 650 metres of sewer pipes will be replaced, mainly on West Street and Matthews Lane.

Meanwhile, an additional $37 million is being spent on a pump upgrade under way at the Darling Street lift station. Pumps are being cleared at Kingston Wharves.

Samuda said the pumps, which will help to move sewage along the pipelines, will be installed within a week.

In 2016, Dr Horace Chang, as the then water minister, said rehabilitation of the downtown Kingston sewer system could cost up to US$400 million.