The Grand Bahama Utility Company (GBUC) has blamed COVID-19 disruption for restricting post-Hurricane Dorian water service restoration to 70 percent of its customer base.
The provider said disruptions to the supply chain, access to new equipment, machinery and technical experts, and the requirement to split the workforce into two separate teams to prevent COVID-19 transmission, have all impacted its timetable for restoring Grand Bahama-wide water potability to residents.
In addition, wellfield data produced in March highlighted further Hurricane Dorian-related damage to the freshwater lens, impacting the projected wellfield recovery timetable. “Our main wellfield that historically produced 60 percent of our supply was inundated with over 20 feet of salt water,” Ian Rolle, the Grand Bahama Port Authority’s president, said.
“Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet to remedy this. The experts we employed to conduct hydrological studies underestimated the extent of the damage and the rate of recovery. We have had to make revisions to our implementation plans and restructure our team in order to find a solution that would not only return water potability, but also ensure we never find ourselves here again.”
Philcher Grant, the GBPA’s director of group corporate affairs and government relations, explained that Grand Bahama Utility Company is now planning to invest $5m in a 3m gallon reverse osmosis system, as well as new water plant pumping station and wellfield to solve the problem and speed-up restoration.
She added: “We recognise that, with global climate change, we must contend with ongoing impacts to our natural resources. To that aim, we are incorporating a 3m gallon reverse osmosis (RO) system as well as the construction of a new water plant pumping station and wellfield.
“This $5m capital investment will not only accelerate restoration of full island water potability, but also create sustainability and contingency in the event we experience another event like Dorian. The reverse osmosis system is designed to be mobile – a preparedness measure to ensure equipment can be moved and not damaged, as part of our storm contingency planning.”
Ms Grant added: “Today, 70 percent of our customer base has potable supply. Regulatory governance requires one month of testing and monitoring that demonstrates the water meets World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines, so we are not announcing the additional subdivisions that are now potable until that process has been concluded.
“We’ll provide more information about the additional potable areas, as well as plans and timelines for the remainder of customers, in future communications once we have received regulatory approval.”
“The work completed so far includes repairs to damaged infrastructure, replacement of equipment, repairs to collection lines, and drilling and recommissioning of over 70 new wells,” said Remington Wilchcombe, Grand Bahama Utility Company’s engineering manager.
“Areas that have been declared as potable since April are Hawksbill, Pinder’s Point, Wellington Heights, South Bahamia and Mac Town. In the interim, as we work toward island-wide potability, the discount will remain in place for residents that do not have potable water, and we will continue to provide free drinking water at our water distribution sites around the island.”