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(Friday, November 25, 2011)

    The Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority Governing Board held an emergency meeting by videoconference today to approve the execution of an addendum to an existing contract with Seven Seas Water Corporation. Seven Seas will install, operate and maintain a 1.5 million gallon per day reverse osmosis water system for a one year period at the Randolph E. Harley Power Plant on St. Thomas. 

    Executive Director Hugo V. Hodge Jr. said it is the Authority’s mission to provide water and electricity to the territory in a more affordable and reliable manner. “While the hope had been that the existing method of producing water would hold on until the implementation of the permanent reverse osmosis water system, we have concern if we will make it until then, given the existing condition of some of the boilers,” said Hodge. He said the units have not been able to give an output of anything more than the bare minimum to meet demand, and to fix a unit, it must be taken off-line. There is no way to do that and still meet the demands of the district, Hodge said. Referring to the existing desalination plant, Hodge said they have served the Authority well over the last 30 years. In seeking board members’ approval, Hodge said, “There comes a time when you have to evaluate your technology and see how you can provide the service in a more beneficial and economical manner.”

    Hodge approached Seven Seas to determine the Authority’s ability to negotiate a temporary water installation to bridge the gap between now and when the permanent reverse osmosis system is available in the next 9 to 12 months. He was able to secure 1.5 million gallons per day of reverse osmosis production, similarly to what was done in St. Croix when IDE #9, one of the Israeli-made water plants, was taken off-line for repairs for an extended period. Hodge said there is currently 1.5 million gallons of reverse osmosis production on St. Croix daily, which has resulted in stabilization of that island’s water system and tanks which have remained full since the inception of reverse osmosis in the Richmond Plant.

    Seven Seas Water Corporation will provide the temporary water to WAPA at a rate of $4.42 per one thousand gallons; which is about 35% of the present cost of producing water through the existing desalination and steam process. “The temporary system will slightly increase the costs negotiated in the permanent water supply contract, but it will take the cost of the interim system and spread it out over the 20 year period of the contract,” said Hodge. The Authority will continue to run the IDE plants to meet the difference between the 1.5 million gallons per day to be provided by Seven Seas and the 1.8 million gallons needed to meet the daily demand, as well as, to build storage in the St. Thomas/St. John district.  Hodge says with this new plan, water tanks on St. Thomas will be filled within a 30 day period. He also said next quarter’s water LEAC could also be reduced by as much as two dollars per thousand gallons because of the reduced cost of the temporary system in comparison to WAPA’s current water production costs. “Customers will then see an immediate benefit in the reliability and availability of water as well as immediate savings on their water bill,” said Hodge.

    Attending were Board Chair Juanita Young, Board Secretary Noel Loftus, Licensing and Consumer Affairs Commissioner Wayne Biggs, Planning and Natural Resources Commissioner Alicia Barnes, Energy Office Director Karl Knight, Donald Francois and Cheryl Boynes-Jackson. Voting by proxy was Board Vice-Chair Atty. Gerald Groner. Brenda Benjamin was absent.