Government debt and the one-week delay in the territory being declared a federal disaster area are responsible, according to the executive director of the Water and Power Authority, for what many have perceived as WAPA's slow restoration of electrical power in the aftermath of Hurricane Lenny.
In an interview with WVWI Radio One Director of News and Broadcast Operations Jean Greaux, Raymond L. George of WAPA said the authority simply did not have the money to pump into the mobilization of off-island crews and equipment to shorten the recovery period.
"We understand that the government is having a difficult financial time but our finances are being impacted by the government’s fiscal deficiencies. Not many businesses can continue to operate while being owed $30 million by the government," George said.
Aside from the cash crunch, he said, WAPA’s second-largest obstacle was the time it took for the the White House to issue the federal disaster declaration.
The declaration, George explained, is the only instrument that authorizes the Federal Emergency Management Agency to reimburse the authority for a portion of the expenses it incurs in the recovery effort.
"To get FEMA reimbursement we had to wait on the federal declaration. Any prior movement of additional manpower and equipment would have been the financial responsibility of WAPA and our financial situation is so poor that there are literally no funds left for the procuring of outside help."
But, he said, with the federal declaration now in place, efforts are underway to secure the services of the Puerto Rico Electrical Power Authority. A contract is expected to be drawn today, with crews from PREPA arriving here early next week.
He urged the public to be mindful that although the infrastructure of the territory survived relatively well, the electrical distribution system was severely impacted.
"Sometimes it's not until we bring up a feeder do we find blown or leaking insulators, which can trip the entire feeder," George explained. "We then have to go out and search for the faulty insulator. You can have up to thousands of insulators on one feeder."
This is a time-consuming process which requires both understanding and patience, the WAPA director said.
George heaped much praise on WAPA personnel from the linemen to the plant operators for their dedication to duty.
"They were out there even while the high winds were still blowing, attempting to replace transformers, insulators and closing fuses to allow us to bring the system up as quickly as possible."
Responding to public criticism of WAPA for its perceived slow response, George said the "misguided comments" of political leaders only acted to further "demoralize an already exhausted" WAPA team.
From the linemen to the plant operators, employees of the public utility are giving more than 100 percent of themselves toward the restoration, he said. "It bothers me to hear this criticism because I know what it is doing to our employees."


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here