By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
THE first shipment of reverse osmosis units has arrived in Grand Bahama for construction of a new three-million-gallon RO plant being built at a cost of $5m by the Grand Bahama Utility Company.
The completion of the RO plant is scheduled in late August, according to GBUC, which seeks to return full water potability across Grand Bahama.
According to an update issued by GBUC, the first shipment of RO units and backup generation, and with completion of the RO columns and generator pads arrived on the island last month and construction is proceeding on schedule.
The second shipment of RO units and related equipment is due to arrive in July.
“Development of the $5-million facility has entered the next phase,” the company said in a recent press statement.
Grand Bahama’s wells were compromised by salt-water intrusion as a result of storm surge during Hurricane Dorian in September 2019. Although water potability has been restored to many areas on the island, about 30 percent have still not been restored.
The construction of a state-of-the-art RO plant was started in January 2021 by the GBUC team, in partnership with Bahamas Hot Mix. The goal is to deliver reliable, cost-effective, and clean water.
“Construction is on schedule for completion in late-August 2021, barring no COVID-related shipping delays. Once commissioned, it will enable the remaining 30 percent of the island to become potable,” the GBUC said.
Philcher Grant, director of operations at GBUC, said the RO plant is part of its “modernization and long-storm hardening” plan.
“With the completion of the RO system, more of our equipment will be updated with advanced technology which includes digitised well monitoring, reserve power supply, pipe, valve and meter replacement programmes, and a leak protection programme,” Ms Grant said. “This will be a milestone achievement for GBUC, enabling us to expand our capacity as part of our modernization and long-term storm-hardening plan. We are rebuilding stronger and better.”
Remington Wilchcombe, GBUC operations manager, indicated that they are building the plant according to World Health Organisation (WHO) standards.
“Due to the extensive pre-work, including surveying, environmental approvals, and engineering design, the customised plan that was created for the Island’s RO facility will meet the exact requirements and specifications outlined by GBUC and the World Health Organization (WHO),” he said.
“By integrating mobility into the design for the RO plan, we are ensuring that the equipment can and will be moved in the event of a storm which will limit damage risk due to flooding or high winds,” Mr Wilchcombe explained. “The RO facility will not only bring the entire island of Grand Bahama to full potability, but it will also meet the needs of water customers reliably for many years to come.”
GBUC expects the second shipment of RO units to arrive by mid-July. It is projected that the new water plant pumping station and wellfield will also be completed.
“The full RO system is on schedule to be tested and ready for commercial use by the late-August deadline,” the company said.
With 70 percent of the island currently potable, Ms Grant stated that the RO facility will not only enable restoration of full island water potability but also create sustainability and contingency in the event there is another catastrophic storm like Hurricane Dorian.
“We wanted to ensure the reliability of fresh, potable water supply, today and in the future, and the RO system was the right solution to make that happen,” she said.
Ms Grant stated that GBUC’s $5 million capital investment followed unprecedented damage caused by Hurricane Dorian to a freshwater aquifer located at wellfield six which, prior to the storm, serviced 60 percent of the island with high quality, abundant and reliable supply of drinking water for decades.
“Not only do we work here, but we live here too. That’s why our GBUC team has worked so tirelessly. We have experienced first-hand the same challenges as our customers. The completion of the RO system allows us to meet the potable water needs of all our customers and ensures that Grand Bahamians will never again be without potable water for a prolonged period no matter what we endure, whether interruption to our power servers or a severe storm season,” she said.