Residents advised of water supply disruptions during hurricane season

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Fort James reverse osmosis plant (Photo by Carlena Knight)
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Severe weather could create further disruptions to the country’s water supply produced by reverse osmosis.

Homes and businesses were left without water and electricity for several hours following the passage of Tropical Storm Fiona on September 16.

Prolonged inclement weather conditions further delayed restoration efforts.

Cabinet spokesperson, Information Minister Melford Nicholas, gave some insight into reverse osmosis-produced water suppression and why residents should prepare for such recurrences during the rest of the Atlantic Hurricane Season.

Nicholas explained that the seabed where the water is drawn from becomes turbulent with the passage of a storm, resulting in disruptions to nearby desalination plants producing water. He added that the increased churn brings more solid material into the intake valves, creating further damage to the filtration system.

“The proper operation practice is to suppress the production of water in those circumstances. This also means that because we are still in the hurricane season, should there be any near passage of any storm or hurricane in the foreseeable future, it will be likely that there will be further disruptions to the water flow, simply because that is the challenge that we have,” Nicholas said

 Nicholas also discussed potential solutions to this challenge and hindrances to those solutions.

One way to mitigate reverse osmosis suppression would be to find alternative means of producing potable water from aquifers. However, Nicholas noted that in instances where the country would receive up to four inches of rainfall, the run-off water is insufficient to replenish surface water to reach an acceptable production level.

Another solution he provided is an increase in storage capacity. But, with global supply chain disruptions experienced over the past three years, Nicholas underscored the challenge in reaching a level where storage tanks can circumvent suppression in reverse osmosis-produced water.

“We are still awaiting the two tanks for the Fort James facility, and clearly it is going to take a while in development for us to be able to achieve those alternative options,” he noted.

The Fort James reverse osmosis plant was recently commissioned for operation by APUA, amid ongoing works on September 8. The sum of EC $8,500,000 has been invested in purchasing and constructing the facility.

Although not yet completed, the plant is expected to add 500,000 gallons to the country’s 7-million-gallon water supply with surrounding communities of Villa, Yorks, Fort Road, McKinnons, Point and other areas projected to receive water daily.

The Antigua Public Utilities Authority Water Business Unit operates six other reverse osmosis plants – Crabbs, which produces 3.1 million gallons a day; Ivan Rodrigues, 1.6 million; Camp Blizzard, 600,000 gallons; Pigeon Point, 330,000 gallons; Ffryes, presently 600,000 gallons, and one in Barbuda.

APUA has set a target to produce more than 10 million gallons of potable water daily– a 30 percent increase on current levels – by the end of this month.

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