Since Hurricane Dorian’s devastating impacts in September 2019, the Grand Bahama Utility Company (GBUC) has been working to restore island-wide water potability to the island’s residents. GBUC’s efforts to return the island to full potability 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.
In addition, 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% of our supply was inundated with over 20 feet of salt water,” Mr. Ian Rolle, President of GBPA, 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, Director of Group Corporate Affairs and Government Relations, explained the solution. “We recognize that, with global climate change, we must contend with ongoing impacts to our natural resources. To that aim, we are incorporating a three-million-gallon Reverse Osmosis (RO) system as well as the construction of a new water plant pumping station and wellfield. This $5 million 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 RO 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 continued, “Today, 70% 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, GBUC 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.”
The GBUC understands the distress caused by the uncertainty around potable water. As with so many other businesses severely impacted by Hurricane Dorian, it is 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.