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Pandemic Hinders Restoration Of Water In Grand Bahama

BY DENISE MAYCOCK

Tribune Freeport Reporter

dmaycock@tribunemedia.net

Grand Bahama Utility Company has reported full restoration of water potability for the island is being “severely hampered” by the global coronavirus pandemic.

To date, 70 percent of GBUC’s customer base has potable supply, Philcher Grant, director of group corporate affairs, and government relations at GBUC, said yesterday.

She indicated that a $5m capital investment is being made for a 3-million gallon Reverse Osmosis (RO) system as well as the construction of a new water plant pumping station and wellfield.

This, Grant stated, will not only accelerate restoration of full island water potability but also create sustainability and contingency in the event the island experiences another event like Dorian.

Since Hurricane Dorian’s devastating impacts last September the GBUC has been working to restore island-wide water potability to the island’s residents.

However, the company said their efforts have been severely hampered by the effects of the global pandemic.

“Disruptions to the supply chain, access to new equipment, machinery, and technical experts, and the requirement to split the workforce into two separate teams as a preemptive transmission contingency measure have all impacted GBUC’s timetable,” it said.

Additionally, the company also reported that wellfield data produced in March highlighted further Hurricane Dorian-related damage to the freshwater lens, impacting the forecasted wellfield recovery timetable.

“Our main wellfield that historically produced 60 percent of our supply was inundated with over 20ft of saltwater,” said GB Port Authority president Ian Rolle. 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,” he said.

Ms. Grant explained that because regulatory governance requires one month of testing and monitoring that demonstrates the water meets World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines, they 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,” she said.

Remington Wilchcombe, GBUC Engineering Manager, said they have completed repairs to damaged infrastructure, replacement of equipment, repairs to collection lines, and drilling and recommissioning of over 70 new wells.

He said 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,” Mr Wilchcombe said.

The GBUC said it understands the distress caused by the uncertainty around potable water.

“As with so many other businesses severely impacted by Hurricane Dorian, we are still working to recover. The Company extends its appreciation to customers for their continued patience and understanding during this time, and pledges its commitment to deliver robust and superior service as the operation returns to a state of normalcy,” the company said.

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