Freeport, GB, The Bahamas – The Grand Bahama Utility Company (GBUC) announces that they have made official application to the Regulatory Committee of the Grand Bahama Port Authority (GBPA) for a rate adjustment to be effective May 1, 2023, where 40% of customers see no increase.
According to GBUC Chief Operating Officer Philcher Grant-Adderley, it has been a long road to recovery since the catastrophic effects of Hurricane Dorian. “There is no denying that Dorian had a long-lasting impact – not only on our infrastructure, but most critically, on our freshwater lens. Our biggest wellfield, W6, was inundated with over 20 feet of seawater for three days and the consequences to the fresh water supply were devastating. In total, GBUC has suffered over $15M in losses as a result of Hurricane Dorian recovery efforts.”
Mrs. Grant-Adderley continued, “We added 75 new wells and were able to restore potability to 70% of the island by July 2020. After comprehensive hydrological and geotechnical surveys with local teams, the international scientific community, and NGOs, it was determined that the rate of recovery of the W6 aquifer would most likely not return to potable standard in this generation. We made the decision to invest in a $5 million, 3-million-gallon per day, mobile Reverse Osmosis (RO) system that enabled us to return full potability to the Island in December 2021.”
Grant-Adderley added that it has been a very costly exercise for GBUC as RO systems are extremely expensive to run, adding an additional $2.5 million to the utility’s annual operating costs from its commissioning in 2021. That, coupled with the approximately $2 million in uninsurable losses associated with Hurricane Dorian including over half million dollars in costs to operate the free water depots for residents and 25% discounts given to residents for water usage, has taken a significant financial toll on the utility.
“It is never a decision that a company takes lightly when discussing possible rate adjustments for customers”, said Grant- Adderley. “We know that it is not an easy message to deliver or to hear. That is why despite the incredible financial loss to the utility we have absorbed these additional costs and deferred this rate adjustment application for as long as we could. However, to continue to do so would not only be fiduciarily irresponsible but makes it impossible for us to make the additional capital investments we need to restore island pressure and maintain potability.
The COO further stated that the utility has proposed a rate adjustment with the least possible customer impact while balancing the increased cost of doing business. In the application proposal 40% of customers will see no increase in their bills, while the remaining GBUC customers will on average experience an increase of approximately $8 in their monthly bills.
Grant-Adderley added that as part of the rate case application, GBUC has budgeted over $6.5 million for capital improvement plans. This is inclusive of the construction of an additional 1.5 million gallon a day mobile reverse osmosis system which will increase island potable water capacity, further improve water quality, and address the lower pressure being experienced by residents because of the diminished freshwater lens. Other projects include a multiyear asset management program where GBUC will strategically upgrade aging infrastructure with an island wide pipe and valve change out program, a robust leak detection program, using satellite technology to reduce non-revenue water, continuation of an island wide meter change out program to smart metering and the implementation of automation of the utility’s critical systems.
Olethea Gardiner-Miller, GBUC wellfield officer, wished to remind customers that they are 100% in control of their usage. “Customers control their consumption and that’s one of the most important takeaways from the Utility,” said Gardiner-Miller. “Our rate proposal addresses key components and consumer behaviors we want to encourage. The first being to encourage environmentally conscious customers, hence no rate increase for the lower usage customers, about 40% of our base. The second being that Hurricane Dorian has significantly damaged our freshwater lens and we must learn the new normal of consuming less or we run the risk of destroying what’s left of the aquifer for us and future generations.”
The full application proposal and breakdown of rates, along with conservation tips are available on the company website www.grandbahamautility.com and information will be shared on all social media platforms. Our Utility Relations team is ready to serve customers and can assist with affordable payment plans to help bring accounts in good standing and can be contacted via phone at 350-9009 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.