Freeport, Grand Bahama: The Grand Bahama Utility Company (GBUC) is excited to announce the installation of a three-million-gallon Reverse Osmosis (RO) plant, which represents a $5 million investment. After months of extensive hydrogeological surveys, planning and design, “we are delighted,” said Philcher Grant, GBUC’s Director of Operations, “that this significant step in GBUC’s long term storm hardening plan is now underway.”
Grand Bahamians and residents have experienced innumerable challenges to rebuild and recover since Hurricane Dorian ravaged the island in September 2019.
Unprecedented damage was wrought on the utility, where in particular Wellfield 6, which serviced 60% of the island, suffered a catastrophic impact. The pumping station and wellfield were inundated with a 20-foot surge of seawater for over 18 hours. This has had a long-term salinity impact on that fresh water aquifer, which for decades had been a high quality, abundant and reliable supply of pristine drinking water for the island.
The contract for the construction and commissioning of the RO facility, a key part of GBUC’s $5 million investment in water infrastructure, was awarded to Bahamas Hot Mix (BHM). Founded by Bahamian partners almost 40 years ago, BHM brings extensive experience in Reverse Osmosis systems and the treatment of brackish water to deliver reliable, cost-effective clean water.
“We are thrilled to be working with the GB Utility Company on this important project,” said Ebbe Saidi, Managing Director at BHM. “Extensive pre-work including surveying, environmental approvals and engineering design has resulted in a customized plan for an RO facility that meets exact specifications outlined by the GBUC, including integrating mobility into the design to ensure equipment can be moved in the event of a storm to limit damage due to flooding or high winds. The RO facility will be able to meet the needs of water customers across Grand Bahama for many years to come, both reliably in the event of a force majeure.”
Since Hurricane Dorian, the GBUC team has continued to work tirelessly to restore potability island-wide. In July of 2020, the company announced the return of potability to 70% of the island, bringing much needed relief to many residents. Ms. Grant outlined further details of the utility’s investment in water infrastructure. “With the customized, state-of-the-art RO system, GBUC’s $5 million injection will provide consistent water quality meeting World Health Organization standards, providing the resilient and storm hardened system necessary for climate change and future storms. These investments will not only restore water potability to customers across Grand Bahama, but ensure Grand Bahamians will never again be without potable water for a prolonged period. They will also expand capacity. We are building back better!”
As part of its modernization plan, GBUC has committed to SCADA automation, digitized well monitoring, reserve power supply improvements as well as pipe, valve and meter replacement programs.
GBUC confirms that it will maintain the current 25% discount for customers without potable water, and continue to provide free drinking water to non-potable areas, the costs of which will be borne by the utility. Detailed information on potability in communities across the island may be found on GBUC’s social media pages.
“We are seeing increased operating costs at GBUC as well as managing the cost of this significant capital program,” continued Ms. Grant. “But we know how challenging it has been for our customers, and we are pleased to be able to continue to absorb the financial impacts of the discount and drinking water stations for the benefit of those customers. We have used our experience gained out of tragedy as a catalyst for dynamic transformation.”