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WAPA Board Approves Additional Water Production Units During Emergency Meeting Today

(Thursday, December 29, 2011)



The Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority Governing Board voted today to add 500,000 gallons a day of temporary water production to the existing contract with Seven Seas Corporation. With this addendum to a contract previously executed for permanent water production to come on line by the end of 2012, Seven Seas will provide a total of 2 million gallons of water per day on St. Thomas, which exceeds the 1.8 million gallon daily demand. 

WAPA will add two more units to the six temporary reverse osmosis units already contracted. The eight units will remain on line until the permanent installation, which will produce 3 million gallons a day, is completed. Reverse osmosis filters sea water through a membrane to produce drinking water. Three of the temporary units have been on line for a week and Hodge expects the additional five to be fully functioning within two weeks.  Each unit can produce 250,000 gallons of water a day.

In seeking the Board’s approval, Executive Director Hugo V. Hodge Jr. said, “I think it’s prudent we increase the temporary amount to two million gallons per day, so that regardless of whatever takes place with getting the waste heat recovery boiler online, there will be ample temporary water to cover the demand completely from now, until the permanent solution is in place.” The waste heat recovery boiler assists the utility with making water through a steam process. 

The waste heat recovery boiler has been down for repairs since last week due to a broken rotor for the boiler feed pump. Engineers and technicians from the manufacturer are currently on-island and they plan to install the fabricated rotor, in hopes of getting the boiler online tonight. If the boiler is fixed, Hodge said in the best case scenario, the Authority will be able to discontinue the water schedule by this weekend. However, in the event that the fix is not successful,  he says the installation of the additional temporary units will allow the Authority to discontinue the schedule within the next 10 days. “There is hope,” said Hodge. “The end is in sight.”  

Seven Seas will provide the temporary water to WAPA at a rate of $4.77 per one thousand gallons; which is lower than the $15 to $18 per thousand gallons it currently costs the Authority to produce water through the existing desalination and steam process. Hodge said this is a financial benefit to water customers, as this price is locked in for the 20 year term of the contract. The addition of the temporary RO units is the basis for the reduction in the water LEAC, WAPA’s energy surcharge, that will be effective on January 1, Hodge said.

The request for proposal (RFP) for the permanent Seven Seas RO plants was issued in March 2010. Hodge recognized then that there were mechanical problems with the existing steam making boilers and that WAPA should move to a state-of-the-art, more affordable way of producing water.  Hodge said that WAPA was hopeful that the steam system could have held on until negotiating with Seven Seas, and permitting by the regulatory agencies, were complete, however, the existing system was unable to sustain the wear and tear until the permanent RO system was installed.  The permanent RO system will be in place between October and December of 2012.

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