Bournes Road residents angry at theft of WASA pipe fittings

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Dana Herbert shows where thieves stole the brass fittings from pipelines that
lead to their homes on Issac Terrace, Upper Bournes in St James. – SUREASH CHOLAI

Residents of Upper Bournes Road, St James,
are calling for swift action after several above-ground Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) pipelines were damaged by bandits who stole brass fittings and accessories.

A video circulated on WhatsApp by one resident showed pipes leaking after the fittings were stolen.

The resident, who did not identify herself, said the thefts were comparable to the theft of copper wire from electricity and telecommunication cables.

Newsday visited Isaac Terrace, Upper Bournes Road, on Friday and spoke with residents, who said they were concerned the thefts were part of an emerging trend.

One resident, Dana Herbert, said people living further up the hill could not get water because of the damaged pipes.

“It’s really distressing, because there are a lot of elderly and young children around, and it’s hard enough to get water on a consistent schedule. Now this situation has made it even worse.

“It was about after 2 am I came to visit my mom and I saw a spring at the back of her house and no one could pass. I realised higher up on the hill the bandits cut the pipes to steal the brass.

“This is the first time they have been stealing pipe fittings.”

Herbert said officials from WASA visited and tied the cut pipes at around midday on Friday. They promised to return, as heavy rain prevented any extensive repairs from being done.

Another resident said the bandits were selfish and called on the police to take aggressive action not only against bandits they caught in the act of stealing the fittings, but also against dealers who buy them.

“They need to get rid of these people who are buying all the brass and copper and so on. They are the ones who are creating a demand for these things.”

Responding to the incident Minister of Public Utilities Marvin Gonzales described the thefts as disappointing and likened it to an act of terrorism.

Newsday spoke to him at the launch of the North West Water Supply Improvement Programme at the Government Campus Plaza Auditorium, Richmond Street, Port of Spain.

Gonzales said while he had heard of WASA pipes being damaged at least once before in Santa Cruz, it was not as extensive as the damage done in Bournes Road.

“I was very disappointed, and we continue to descend to new levels of crime in Trinidad and Tobago.

“This problem of the operations of the scrap-iron industry is something we need to regulate, because the reason people do these things is because there is a market, and that market is quite profitable.

“We are living in really challenging times in TT. I consider this to be a very serious crime and I consider it to be very similar to terrorism, because when you damage things like that, it means all of those homes and water connections will be out of water today until such time as those pipes can be replaced.”

Gonzales said WASA’s wells have also been the target of criminals and referred to the damage of pumps at the Bamboo No3 pump site in Valsayn last Wednesday. He said a valuation of the damage done to the pumps was not available, but from the extent of the damage, several residents would be affected.

Newsday also contacted president of the TT Scrap Iron Dealers Association Allan Ferguson, who said despite repeated calls for local dealers to avoid buying certain metals, thefts of brass and copper continued.

He called on Minister of Trade and Industry Paula Gopee-Scoon to meet with him and discuss possible solutions, and suggested a temporary halt of the export of brass, copper and aluminium to stop illegal dealers.

“Other countries faced the same problem and I think that’s the approach they took to hold back.

“I am fed up of spending a lot of money calling on people to hold up on buying all these things and nothing seems to be going on.

“Trinidad is a lawless country where they just don’t care about what they do and who they distress, and by distressing a lot of people it’s causing a lot of heartache for this industry, because most of the people who are doing this are people who are walking off the street and think they can just come here to eat a food and damage the industry.”

Senior Western Division police said this is the first time they have heard of brass fittings being stolen from pipelines and they were working to gather more information.

St James CID officers visited the area on Friday morning.

Contacted for comment, police public information officer ASP Sheridon Hill said the police were taking the thefts seriously and were committed to finding those responsible.

Newsday also spoke to WASA corporate communications manager Daniel Plenty, who said a long-term solution has not yet been formulated to deal with the thefts.

“That’s something we need to assess with these developments going forward. But for now the authority will be assessing how it operates in relation to the lines that are exposed.”

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