ANWSERS TO QUESTIONS ASKED BY THE THIRD DISTRICT REPRESENTATIVE TO
MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS AND WORKS
AT THE ELEVENTH SITTING OF THE SECOND SESSION OF THE THIRD
HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY
MONDAY, 13TH NOVEMBER, 2017
The Member for the Third District to ask the Minister for Communications and Works the following questions:
Madam Speaker, as telecommunications customers are concerned that their services have been disrupted after Hurricane Irma, but they are still expected to pay for services they did not receive, could the Minister for Communications and Works please tell this Honourable House how he intends to address the matter?
Madam Speaker, I have been assured that all telecommunications operators within the Territory have been contacted and they have confirmed that no customer will be billed for services not received. However, mobile customers who have used roaming service will be billed accordingly.
Madam Speaker, BVI Cable TV has suspended services following major destruction to its infrastructure by the hurricanes and reconstruction will commence following the restoration of power.
Madam Speaker, if a customer feels that they have been billed unduly, they should first contact the operator for rectification and they can or may escalate the complaint to the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission TRC.
Madam Speaker, could the Minister for Communications and Works, please tell this Honourable House, how many overseas linesmen do we have assisting in the Territory?
Madam Speaker, as of Friday, 10th November 2017, we remain with a total of forty (40) overseas linesmen who have been assisting with grid restoration.
Madam Speaker, could the Minister for Communications and Works please give this Honourable House a breakdown of the number of linesmen by country, including those from BVI?
Madame Speaker, we have a total of sixty (60) linesmen working to restore power throughout the Territory. The breakdown by country is as follows:
- Five (5) from Bermuda Electric Company (BELCO)
- Five (5) from Grenada Electric Company (GRENLEC)
- Three (3) from Ruddy’s Electric in St. Vincent
- Five (5) from St. Vincent Electricity Corporation (VINLEC)
- Five (5) from Belize Electricity Corporation (BEC)
- Five (5) from ELMAR, Aruba
- Seven (7) from Cayman Utilities Corporation (CUC)
- Five (5) linesmen from Valard Canada sponsored by the UK Government, and
- BVI Electricity Corporation (BVIEC) currently has twenty (20) linemen employed
Madam Speaker, could the Minister for Communications and Works please provide this Honourable House with the schedule of when each of the remaining parts of the Territory presently without electricity, inclusive of the Third District, will receive electricity in totality?
Madam Speaker, following the passage of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, BVIEC estimated damages to its infrastructure to be in the region of 90% of the Distribution Network and 60% of the Power Plant.
Madam Speaker, the teams at the BVI Electricity Corporation have been working non-stop, seven (7) days a week, to restore power to the Territory, despite the numerous challenges which have naturally affected the pace of restoring the National Electricity Grid.
Madam Speaker, some of these challenges include;
- Manpower – the first of the linesmen from overseas arrived on island on September 23, 2017, three (3) days after the passage of Hurricane Maria. Most of these initial teams have fulfilled their maximum six (6) week overseas engagement and have returned home. Some of these teams have to date been replaced. Unfortunately, some have not.
It must be understood that the labour cost of these linesmen providing assistance from our regional sister utilities, is borne by the utility company providing such assistance.
The total number of linesmen on island has fluctuated from a low of 32 to as high as 44 over the past seven (7) weeks, since full scale grid restoration commenced on September 21, 2017, following the passage of Hurricane Maria.
- Material – severe logistical challenges are being experienced with the two primary cargo companies, being Tropical Shipping and Crowley. Logistics with respect to obtaining the needed equipment and material necessary to rebuild the National Grid, due to their respective shipping delays in bringing cargo to the BVI.
Notwithstanding the above challenges, the BVI Electricity Corporation continues to persevere in restoring the National Grid and to date, power has been partially restored to twelve (12) out of its total fifteen (15) feeders.
Madam Speaker, due to the above, it is extremely difficult to predict with any degree of accuracy, when each of the remaining parts of the Territory presently without power, will receive electricity in totality.
Madam Speaker, like most of the Territory, there are pockets of power in various communities and districts, including the Third District, who have had electricity from the BVI Electricity Corporation since October 13, 2017.
Madam Speaker, could the Minister for Communications and Works, please tell this Honourable House, if there is public water supply currently in any of the following areas:
a) Sea Cow’s Bay, Duff’s Bottom, Hannahs, Palestina, Havers, Pockwood Pond, and Pleasant Valley;
b) if the answer is yes, please indicate where and for how long, and state which reservoir the water is coming from; and
c) if the answer to (a) is no, please explain why, and give a schedule of time for when water will be flowing in these areas.
Madam Speaker, following the passage of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, the Territory lost access to all potable water supply from the national system. This was due to the loss of the power network and heavy damages sustained to the water production, storage and distribution network. Teams have been working tirelessly over the last 9 weeks to repair the system.
- Madam Speaker, currently, there is public water supply in the following areas; East End/Long Look, Road Town, Lower Huntum’s Ghut, Purcell Estate, Baugher’s Bay, Lower Estate, Kingstown, McNamara, Sea Cow’s Bay, Duff’s Bottom, Hannahs, Palestina, Havers, Pockwood Pond and Pleasant Valley.
- Madam Speaker, the water supply to Duff’s Bottom comes from two (2) sources. Firstly, from Road Town down to the New Life Baptist Church, customers receive water from the Fort Hill Reservoir. This is on a 24/7 basis. Therefore, if customers are not receiving water as indicated, they should contact the Department. Secondly, customers from Pockwood Pond east to Duff’s Bottom, receive water from the Hannah Hill Reservoir. Service from this reservoir is from 5:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.
- Madam Speaker, the answer to (c) has been answered in the answer to (a) above, i.e there is public water supply in the areas of Sea Cow’s Bay, Duff’s Bottom, Hannahs, Palestina, Pockwood Pond and Pleasant Valley. However, they are on the pre-Hurricane Irma and Maria schedule for distribution from 5:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.
Madam Speaker, could the Minister for Communications and Works please give this Honourable House his plans for restoring a reliable 24-hour supply of water to the people of the Third District?
Madam Speaker, with the passage of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, coupled with the damages sustained to the Distribution Network, it is extremely difficult to provide a timeline for a 24hr water supply to the Third District.
Madam Speaker, the Ministry of Communications and Works remains committed to ensuring a 24-hour water supply to all customers of the entire Territory, including the Third District. With particular regard to the Third District, we remain focused on making the required upgrades, which include an upgrade of the electrical supply at Diamond, which is in progress; and the installation of a pump station at Long Trench, which is also in progress. In fact, we have acquired the pumps, the design has been completed and a contract has been awarded for the construction of the pump house.
Madam Speaker, my technical team has assured me, that these efforts would ensure a better supply into the Third District.