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$6.7 million to repair Beetham Highway sinkhole

Wednesday, June 25 2014

THE SINKHOLE at the Beetham Highway which in September 2012, saw taxpayers foot a $6.7 million bill paid to Jumasco Pavers Limited, was caused by the action of the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) a week prior, Minister of Works and Infrastructure Dr Suruj Rambachan told the Senate yesterday.

The Minister also said some culverts crossing the highway were in danger of collapsing due to years of neglect. During Senate Question Time, Rambachan said the sinkhole – 3 metres in diameter – appeared between September 5, 2012, and September 6, 2012, at the highway in the vicinity of the Port-of-Spain Lighthouse at the St Vincent Jetty. He said Jumasco, a member of the Junior Sammy Group of Companies, was contracted to perform “refilling and repairing” works.

Rambachan said the sinkhole developed, “in an area where WASA had recently carried out repairs.” The Works Minister said after the site was excavated by Jumasco, “it was discovered that contractors acting on behalf of WASA had destroyed the underground culvert during one of their repairs approximately one week before the incident.”

The cost of repairs was funded from the budget allocation to the Ministry of Works and Infrastructure Highways Division. On what further action was taken to prevent recurrence, if any, Rambachan said the Highways Division instituted a system ensuring that all contractors have to seek the authorisation from the Highways Division before works commence.

Further, the Highways Division has been strengthening the utilities unit within the Division by increasing the number of personnel plus increasing the supervisory capacity of the unit. He said this unit deals with the assessment of utility works, ensuring required standards and methodology are implemented.

Rambachan said the ministry was also holding discussions with the Ministry of Public Utilities in relation to the establishment of a “memorandum of understanding” between both parties to ensure that systems and procedures are in place before road-works are in fact undertaken or before WASA does any work at all. The Minister said a meeting on this had occurred last week.

A technical repair report on the collapsed culvert was also prepared, Rambachan said.

“There are several culverts crossing the Beetham Highway for which technical reports have been provided and a couple of those are in danger of collapsing even as we speak here today,” he said. “The ministry will be undertaking repairs of them.” Rambachan stated the estimated cost to repair a single culvert was between $9 million and $11 million.

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