NASSAU, BAHAMAS – The Grand Bahama Utility Company Limited (GBUC) confirms steady progress towards the full return to potable water on the island of Grand Bahama.
Assessments to date reveal a continuing decline in salinity levels, according to a recent press release.
Wellfield 1 is now 2,400 ppm, Wellfield 3 is now ‘potable’ at 500 ppm, and Wellfield 6 is 3,600 ppm.
Grand Bahama Port Authority president Ian Rolle said: “The GBUC is committed to resolving the issue of salinity levels as a result of the tidal surge.
“The actual water pressure and the volume pumped per day is back up to pre-storm levels which is reassuring.
“Key infrastructure works are in progress and we continue to confer with the experts to bring about the best and speediest return to our pre-storm highest quality fresh water.”
Residents have been advised through public notices that the water can be used for sanitary purposes only and not for consumption.
Prior to the onset of Hurricane Dorian, tap water provided to the community of Grand Bahama was below 600 ppm (salt particle content per million parts of water), which bettered by a large margin the 1,000 ppm World Health Organization (WHO) standard for consumption.
In certain other jurisdictions, 1,500 ppm is considered an acceptable level, the release continued.
Damaged pumping stations were brought back on line within five to seven days of the storm to restore the island’s running water ‘distribution’.
However, the wrath of Hurricane Dorian compromised the island’s ‘supply’ of fresh salt-free water in Wellfields 1, 3, 6, comprising some 220 wells in total, which account for 35 percent, five percent and 60 percent (respectively) of water being supplied throughout the island.
Wellfields 1 and 3 were flooded with 4 ft. of sea water, while Wellfield 6 was flooded with 21ft of sea water for a period of 36 hours during and after the treacherous storm.
The flooding destroyed the entire vertical infrastructure including utility poles, wires, electrical components, control and motoring systems, the release continued.
Post assessment, mechanics were recruited to bring back-up systems into service.
Once back-up systems were restored, the GBUC was able to begin rationing fresh water reserves into the system five days after the storm.
Simultaneously, the GBUC began working with Sanitation Services Company Limited to conduct clean-up efforts within the Wellfields – while Grand Bahama Power Company Limited was conducting repairs and working to regenerate the power systems at Wellfields 1 and 6.
Additionally, industrial partners including the Grand Bahama Shipyard, Bahamas Industrial Technologies Ltd., Martin Marietta Aggregates – Bahama Rock, and Freeport Container Port, contributed resources to the restoration by providing technical service and physical support in manpower and equipment to return the plant to service.
Geron Turnquest, General Manager of the GBUC said, “A second phase Hydrological Study must be carried out to validate and confirm the capacity of the fresh water lenses that were found for the development of new Wellfield locations.
“The most feasible approach, currently underway, is to bypass various higher salt content wells in Wellfield 6 with additional fresh water reserves further East, and to revive and develop Wellfield 4, which has been out of service for a number of years.”
In light of current efforts to reduce water salinity to WHO standards, the GBUC has also discussed the possibility of a Reverse Osmosis (RO) System.
Turnquest added: “We have considered the possibility of introducing a large-scale Reverse Osmosis System. But we are advised that this presents challenges. Despite it being an expensive investment that will impact the cost of water to the consumer, it will also take a minimum of three to four months to develop.
“By this time, we aim to have resolved this salinity issue with new measures in place. An RO system on this scale would only be needed if the possibility of having no fresh water exists.”
According to the release, smaller backup RO systems in small modular units are very likely be part of the utility company’s plan to provide drinking water in the event of a future hurricane.
GBPA Chairman Sarah St George added: “We wish to emphasize that the water is clean and bacteria free.
“While we work to restore potable water, we have established a partnership between GBPA, GBUC, NEMA and several NGOs to provide free drinking water to local communities at water distribution sites island-wide.
“We are grateful to our NGO partners Isra-Aid, Samaritan’s Purse, Mercy Corps, Siemens, Resolve Marine, Water Mission, International Medical Corp, Operators without Borders, and ADRA.
“As salinity levels decrease naturally through rainfall and new wells come on line, we look forward to restoring a potable water supply through the island of Grand Bahama in the near future. We thank everyone in the community for their patience and understanding.
“We are on the right path to bringing our water back,” she added.