Water supply damage bill hits $10 million
The Samoa Water Authority (S.W.A.) estimates fixing central water supply networks damaged by last week’s heavy rainfall and flash flooding will cost $10 million as repair work continues.
Three central water supply networks were damaged in the inundation that struck the country last Friday: Fuluasou, Alaoa and Tafitoala. Each has been severely damaged by rainfall and the accompanying debris
But the heavy rainfall limited damage to water treatment plants near riverbanks, so Savai’i and rural Upolu are not as affected.
The S.W.A.’s Chief Executive Officer, Seugamaalii Jammie Saena, told the media on Monday that teams have been working for 36 hours to restore water supply to affected villages. An estimated 30-plus villages were affected by supply disruptions.
Had there been more wind and not just rain, boreholes would also have been damaged, Seugamaalii said.
The Authority prioritised returning water supply to families over the weekend. But some repairs were more likely to be temporary fixes than others.
The S.W.A. has submitted a $9.5 million request to the Government for funding but says they will not wait for money to be approved before they get to work.
But Seugamaali'i said that operations will be conducted slowly but surely as staff take breaks over the Christmas and New Year period.
“This didn’t just start on Friday, it started on [the previous] Sunday,” Seugamaalii said of the recent inundation.
“All the heavy rainfall saturated the earth and by Friday high tide there were a couple of conditions that all came together and caused a lot of damage to our assets located on the riverside.
“They are buried, but because the river widened it was just too much rain that came and ate away at the banks and got to the pipes.
“Once it hit our pipes [there] was a lot of damage.
“We are thankful it was just heavy rainfall that affected us because it kept us in one area instead of spreading out our staff in the whole country. The rural area was fine, Savaii was fine, it was just the town area really affected.”
The Interim Chair of the National Emergency Operations Centre (N.E.O.C.), Agafili Shem Leo, confirmed some 276 millilitres had fallen upon Samoa on Friday alone.
That was nearly triple the average daily rainfall in the wet season: 100 millilitres.
She said the amount of dirt in the water caused a lot of problems too because the water treatment plant couldn’t handle it, being designed to handle significantly less debris.
The S.W.A. has joined with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment’s Water Resource Division to mitigate the impacts of soil erosion on the river water quality.
Routine weekly testing of the water for diseases has not detected anything unusual, the S.W.A. chief said, nor has the Ministry of Health reported unusual rates of water-borne after the floods.
In a detailed press release, the S.W.A. said that the Fuluasou River had overflowed and swept away the main pipes which supply water to the distribution pipes.
It was too dangerous to reach its river facility on Friday, but on Saturday work began despite “perilous conditions”, the Authority said.
Around 30 S.W.A. staff stayed on site until Sunday night to continue working until its Fuluasou site was up and running.
At Alaoa, the Authority employed a temporary fix to have water reach supply services, especially at “problem areas” such as Vailele and Fagalii. The system is working again now and being monitored, the S.W.A. says.
The Tafitoala treatment plant main was severely damaged but repairs had it working in 24 hours, the Authority said.
The S.W.A. is currently asking customers whether their connections have resumed.
In Savai’i, the S.W.A.’s Palauli treatment plant was damaged by heavy flooding and dirty water blocking the system.
“We couldn’t do anything if it’s not safe, so it wasn’t until Saturday morning we could assess the damage,” Seugamaalii said.
“It took us 36 hours to get everything up and running.
“It’s not a permanent fix. We have to do some rehabilitation work to make sure it stays that way. Our first priority was getting water back to the people”
Seugamaalii was unable to give a timeline for when repairs will be completed.
“We are taking it slow now. So long as we get water back to families, then we will sit down and take a breather, get some sleep and then [continue] with rehab work,” she said.
“We had to bring in other systems to help cater for some families so at least they could get some water, so now it’s about returning everything back to normal but our permanent fixes we will look at and how we can afford it.
“Coming up to Christmas, my staff need a break.”