KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – Eighty per cent of residents of the Grenadines do not pay their solid waste management bill although garbage there is collected twice as often as in St. Vincent.
And Grenadine residents owe the Central Water and Sewerage Authority (CWSA) EC$750,000 for garbage collection services, the company said yesterday, even as it said it needs to device a more convenient bill payment system there.
“It s a bit disappointing, especially for me as solid waste manager,” Winsbert Quow, manager of CWSA’s Solid Waste Management Unit said at a press briefing yesterday.
Quow noted that Grenadine residents are not paying their bills even as the CWSA plans to invest EC$25 million in capital projects there.
“In fact, they stand to benefit most from our rate increase,” he said of the price hikes also announced yesterday.
The CWSA spends about EC$1.5 million in solid waste services in the Grenadines, Quow said.
He, however, said that even if every customer there — commercial and domestic — pay their bill, the CWSA would only receive EC$750,000.
“So, that means if everyone pay their bills, the Grenadines is still subsidized by EC$1.3 million. That is the reality down there,” he said.
Quow noted the CWSA has fully staffed offices in the Grenadines, takes part in public education programmes and responds to customers’ complaints.
“Most importantly, we provide a twice-per-week waste collection service, where we only provide it once per week in St. Vincent. And we have been doing that with resolute consistency for a long time,” he added.
Quow said that the CSWA had initially considered charging Grenadines residents the same EC$8 per month their compatriots on St. Vincent pay for garbage collection.
However, the fee was levied at EC$5 per month in the Grenadines, where rainwater stored in tanks and wells are the main source of fresh water.
“[But] we are not regulated by a public utilities board. The Cabinet makes that decision and we will go along and try to work with whatever we are given to try to provide the highest quality service,” he said of the fee.
He further said that a study before introducing the garbage disposal fee found that a proper service in the Grenadines should cost each household about EC$20 per month.
“And nobody objected. It was like ‘Yes, we can do that. We understand the importance of waste management to our economy; we see what you are doing and we can pay for that’.
“EC$20 is nothing, really, in the grand scheme of things. The introductory cost was $5 and any given month, less than 20 per cent of the people respond in paying their bills. It was surprising to me. Today I am still trying to come to grips with it,” Quow said.
He further noted that the CWSA continues to provide solid waste management services in the Grenadines, notwithstanding the noncompliance.
“I am just making an appeal personally and on behalf of the CWSA that the people Grenadines who are not paying, for whatever reason, they need to make a greater effort,” Quow said.
Meanwhile, Garth Saunders, chief executive officer of the CWSA, said that only 10 per cent of CWSA customers in the Grenadines paid their garbage disposal bills over the last month.
He said the CWSA is working assiduously to try to resolve the situation and ensure that consumers pay.
He noted that in Grenada, solid waste services are paid on the electricity bills.
“… we are going to try to find some mean of emulating that to ensure that the consumers in the Grenadines pay. It is not just ensuring that they pay but have an easy mechanism to ensure that they pay their bills. … It is kind of hard to expect persons to line up to pay EC$5 a month,” Saunders said, even as he noted that customers can choose to pay quarterly or annually.
In St. Vincent, the solid waste management fee is paid as a part of the water bill. However, no water bills are distributed in the Grenadines – where there are no rivers — because of the absence of a CWSA water distribution system there, as in St. Vincent.
“But EC$5 per month in the Grenadines, sometimes people overlook that and it is easy to overlook it. But we believe that once it is included somewhere else where you can easily pay that amount, things should improve. So we will be moving in that direction very shortly,” Saunders said.