States Works and Guernsey Water work together to maintain services
Staff from Guernsey Water and States Works are working around the clock to maintain essential services despite staff being impacted by the COVID-19 resurgence.
It includes working into the early hours of the morning on Monday night, to repair a burst wastewater pipe close to the Vazon pumping station. Flows from the pumping station were diverted by tankers to avoid potential sewage pollution at Vazon, where warning signs were in place on Tuesday as a precaution.
Guernsey Water managing director Steve Langlois said the speed of the response had helped avoid a worse incident.
"This probably could not have happened at a worse time, but fortunately we were able bring in staff from various sections to assist our contractors Geomarine. They worked in very difficult conditions to avoid what might otherwise have been a serious incident," he said.
Staff have had to be redeployed in various roles within both businesses to maintain services while colleagues are having to self-isolate.
Guernsey Water's headquarters are currently closed to the public, in line with Public Health guidelines, with most office-based working from home. However customer services support is still available by phone, email and online, with colleagues from other sections drafted in to provide cover.
The customer service team is dealing with a higher than normal volume of enquiries due to the bad weather over the last week, and also assisting States Works with cesspit emptying calls. Mr Langlois said the two businesses are closely working together to maintain services.
While most public waste and recycling sites are currently closed, the transfer station at Longue Hougue has remained open to process waste collections from households and essential businesses. States Works has brought in staff from other waste management operations to fill in for colleagues having to self-isolate.
States Works managing director, Paul Lickley, said such flexibility was an important element of the business, but the current situation was different.
"We are very used to dealing with emergencies, such as when the island is hit by storms or snow. In those instances, staff will be reassigned from their normal roles, to maintain lifeline services and ensure normal service is resumed as quickly as possible. That is part and parcel of our business," he said.
"The current situation is quite different. A number of staff are having to self-isolate, at very short notice. That may be because they have potentially been exposed to the virus, or they have symptoms, or they have a pre-existing condition. They are correctly following the public health advice, and it has put a strain on the workforce across many of our operations.
"However we have been able to redeploy people from other sections to provide cover and help maintain services. Flexibility is again the key, and as always we are incredibly proud and grateful to our staff for their hard work and dedication."
States Works staff are also supporting the normal cesspit emptying crews, who are dealing with additional volumes due to the wet weather and most islanders having to stay home.
Guernsey Water has opened additional emptying points at L'Eree and Vazon to shorten journey times.
Mr Langlois said: "It has increased the number of loads they are able to collect each day, so we really appreciate the understanding of those living nearby during these temporary measures.
"The water table is currently high after the wet winter, which has probably increased demand further. If any households find they require excessive loads, we would urge them to have their cesspit surveyed as soon as lockdown restrictions permit. It could be that groundwater is getting in, which is costing them money and causing unnecessary journeys, which has an environmental impact. It also puts added pressure on the service at times like this."