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Work on new sewer system at St Joseph Girls’ RC begins

The construction of a new sewer system for the St Joseph Girls’ RC Primary School commenced Wednesday, March 15.

A letter from the Ministry of Education (MoE) dated that same day, March 15, to Sharon Mangroo, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) at Catholic Education Board of Management (CEBM) said that it is anticipated that the necessary works will be completed to facilitate the commencement of the new academic Term III on April 17.

Mangroo told Catholic News while the school was closed most recently Friday, March 10 owing to sewer issues, the issue existed prior to 2018, but was resolved by regular pumping of the sewer.

Mangroo explained it was eventually established that the requirement for the school population had outgrown the current system and a new system had to be built. This, she said, involved obtaining approvals.

“Lots of red tape and delays ensued as we used all the resources of the CEBM and MoE to meet all of the requirements for the approvals,” Mangroo said.

Once the necessary approvals were obtained, it was realised that work could not proceed with the children present.

Mangroo explained that having endured the stress of online learning for two years, “we tried to avoid closing the school with the intention of working the vacation.”

However, she said, events overtook, and the school was deemed unsafe by the OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Agency). Since the school is now closed, work began immediately.

The Facilities Officer school visit report dated September 29, 2020, said that approximately 57 ft on invert drain south of Infant’s Department required reconstruction.

It said, “the school has been having serious issues with the sewer system that would be exacerbated to the point of shutting down the school when student body returns …. January 2021.”

A timeline report on work done on the school indicated that the CEBM supplied the MoE and by extension the National Maintenance Training and Security company (MTS) with all documents requested to support the application to the Town and Country Planning Division (T&CPD) April 12, 2021.

The site plan was illegible. Setback distances between the building and the site boundaries were not shown and parking was not indicated. The report highlighted documents to support modification of the sewer treatment plan: the cadastral sheet, the location plan, and the evidence of ownership.

The report stated that on September 13, communication from CEBM to the school’s principal of confirmation with New Services Department of the Water and Sewerage Authority of Trinidad and Tobago (WASA) that internally, WASA “is awaiting preparation” of its Feasibility Reports on Portable and Wastewater conditions in the area before proposing conditions for Outline Approval.

Only after Outline Approval is issued to the contractor “can Final Designs for the Modified Sewer System can commence.”

The Facilities Officer, via email to MoE personnel said that correspondence from the Chancellor, Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Port of Spain Joanne Miller confirmed the establishment of the St Joseph’s Girls’ RC Primary School as a “premier learning institution” for girls since 1951 “i.e. before the coming into effect of the Town and Country Planning Act [T&CPA] 35.01 in 1969.”

“In the circumstances, there is no legal obligation for the school to obtain Planning Permission re: its existing built environment, as a precursor to its application to WASA for approval to modify its sewer treatment system”.

The Facilities Officer noted, particularly, sec. 8(2) (a) of the Act states; ‘In this Act, except where the context otherwise requires, the expression “development” means the carrying out of building, engineering, mining or other operations in, on, over or under any land, the making of any material change in the use of any buildings or other land, or the subdivision of any land, except that the following operations or used of land shall not be deemed for the purposes of the Act to involve development of the land, that is to say- (a) the carrying out of works for the maintenance, improvement or other alteration of any building, if the works affect only the interior of the building or do not materially affect the external appearance of the building.’

In light of this, the CEBM sought the Ministry of Planning and Development’s guidance whether intended development- modification of existing sewer treatment system at the school falls within the umbrella of works described in Section 8(2) (a) of the T&CPA.

The Facilities Officer, via email to Ministry of Planning and Development personnel, January 14, 2022 said that in conversation with the Manager of New Services Dept at WASA, was advised that “standard format letter prepared by your office is required before WASA can proceed our application for Design Approval to modify the captioned school Sewer Treatment System.”

A letter was requested to be prepared “as soon as possible” as it was proposed that in class teaching would resume for all Standard Five students February 2022. The CEBM hoped that construction works to modify the existing failed Sewer Treatment System would be completed in time for physical re-opening of school to students and in so doing, minimise disruption of classes due to an existing non-functional sewer treatment system.