If all goes well with repairs to its boiler unit no. 11, now in progress, water rationing on St. Thomas may soon come to an end, according to V.I. Water and Power Authority Executive Director Hugo Hodge Jr. Meanwhile, conservation schedules remain in effect.
Technicians with Foster Wheeler, the original equipment manufacturer, are working around the clock on 12-hour shifts alongside WAPA plant personnel and are making significant headway with completing all boiler repairs by the weekend, Hodge said in a statement released Wednesday. All four desalination plants will then be returned to service to produce water.
Hodge said that once the boiler is on line and the water plants are producing at maximum capacity, it will take about a week to store up water. As storage improves, WAPA will relax the water conservation schedule, but for now, it will remain unchanged from 5 to 7 a.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. daily, with gravity feed to low lying areas and the town districts from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
A water conservation schedule has been in effect since Nov. 15, when a steam turbine went offline. Since then, WAPA has called on the V.I. National Guard to help distribute water: the Guard recently erected four mobile water plants in Sub Base.
The day after Thanksgiving, the WAPA governing board approved an amendment to WAPA’s contract for reverse osmosis (RO) water purification with Seven Seas, calling for the installation of a 1.5 million gallon per day system at the Randolph Harley Power Plant. That plant is on schedule to come online within two weeks, according to Hodge.
Seven Seas has been contracted to provide a permanent RO system, but that would not come online for another nine months, so a short-term fix was needed to bridge the gap, Hodge said at the governing board meeting.
RO systems do not generate steam in boilers to produce water and will provide an additional option to make water. The RO plant will supplement the utility’s capacity to meet St. Thomas’s daily water demand of 1.8 million gallons, and help to build sufficient storage supply as the territory enters into the holiday season, according to WAPA.