Linstead residents threaten to sue highway operator over flooding

Some residents of Zephyrton district in Linstead, St Catherine, have threatened to take legal action against the state-owned National Road Operating and Constructing Company (NROCC), which operates the Edward Seaga Highway – formerly Jamaica North South Highway, which runs through Linstead.

The residents claimed that water gushing from the highway during rainfall is damaging their properties, adding that the drainage system constructed with the highway is too small.

One of the nearly 10 residents affected, Dave Osbourne, said the water, a few days ago, destroyed a fence and dumped garbage onto a property.

He said he has been living in the area before the highway was built recently, adding that he has observed that the volume of water now entering the properties has increased significantly.

“The highway that passes through the Linstead area is dumping probably hundreds of gallons of water anytime it rains. If I get 15 minutes of rain, it’s like a flood down my area. Prior to the highway being there, we used to get water but not the volume that we are getting right now. It was probably a third or less of what we are getting now… The drain that they put there is about a five-foot high drain to carry the water,” Osbourne told The Beacon.

He further explained that, prior to the highway construction, representatives of NROCC and China Harbour Engineering Company promised that the new infrastructure would not have worsened their issues regarding water run-off.

“They told us that we would not get any significantly different volume of water because of the highway. They are telling us now that the reason we are getting so much water down here is because of the intensity of the rains – which I find to be an insult to our very intelligence,” Osbourne said.

He noted that the residents have expressed their grouses in letters sent to their Member of Parliament Robert Pickersgill; they also invited him to their community meetings.

Pickersgill is yet to respond to the letters, and is yet to attend any of the community meetings, Osbourne told The Beacon.

“We have no representation; those that are there to represent us are not really there,” he further lamented.

“We are prepared to take legal action. A lot of silt and sediment run off the highway come down to us, and all they are saying is that they will come down and clean. I think what needs to be done is that they need to put in a drain to carry the volume of water that is coming off the highway. The drain that’s there now is far too small,” Osbourne reasoned.

Another resident, Carlton Wilson, stated that he owns the chain-link fence that the water destroyed, adding that the structure had been standing strong for many years.

Wilson said he too is concerned that the residents’ appeal has been falling on deaf ears although the Grantor’s Representative at NROCC, Raul Brito, visited the location on different occasions.

Brito, when contacted, told The Beacon that drainage reports done before and after the highway was constructed don’t support the residents’ claim that the new road has compounded their problem with flooding.

He added that the drainage report has been sent to the concerned residents of Zephyrton.

Asked if there is any likelihood of NROCC changing its position, Brito replied: “Any written resident’s complaints related to the Jamaica North South Highway (JNSHC) are sent directly to JNSHC (Treadways Management Centre) by the complainant and/or, if I get the written complaint, I send it to JNSHC for them to respond.”

By Horace Mills, Journalist; B.A. degree Media and Communications; CARIMAC, University of the West Indies.


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