Water will resume flowing on a regular basis Friday morning to St Thomas customers, the V.I. Water and Power Authority announced Thursday. It also announced its water rationing schedule for Thursday night, possibly the last night it will need to do so.
Water operations have been severely curtailed for weeks, with some areas of the island receiving water only a few hours a day, and others none at all while WAPA employees scurried to repair the system. Thursday Executive Director Hugo V. Hodge Jr. said the wait was over.
"It’s a good day," he said. “We are pleased to announce that St. Thomas will return to normal water operations beginning tomorrow morning.”
The authority expected to begin recharging the system by midnight, and to begin continuously pumping water to its customers Friday morning.
Residents and businesses in the town area will begin receiving water first, early Friday, because of their proximity to the Randolph E. Harley Power Plant, Hodge said. Those on the eastern end of the island will receive water as the day progresses.
Hodge said completely re-energizing the system might take the entire day, but throughout the day various areas will come online one by one. The utility will proceed carefully, he added, as water technicians rid the lines of excess air and verify that all valves are fully operational to ensure that service to all areas of St. Thomas will take place by late Friday night.
Normal water operations will continue throughout the weekend. If necessary, the authority may return to rationing in a few areas on Monday to build water storage quickly. However, those areas can expect service for at least 12 hours a day. If this becomes necessary, an announcement will be made on Sunday.
Hodge said he appreciated the community’s patience during what he called “a long and arduous process” to bring St. Thomas’ water crisis to an end.
“WAPA fully understands the hardships on residents, businesses, and the tourism product and we assure customers that WAPA has not just worked on a stopgap for this crisis, but is putting a permanent solution in place that will serve St. Thomas for decades to come,” he said.
Hodge said WAPA is believes water production will now allow the authority to pump water on a regular basis. By tomorrow evening, WAPA anticipates pumping 1.5 million gallons per day from six temporary reverse osmosis plants, and by the end of next week a total of two million gallons per day.
Additionally, the waste heat recovery boiler is online and the desalination plants will produce another 1.5 million gallons a day. The total water production will exceed the 1.8 million gallon daily demand on St. Thomas. By the end of the year, WAPA will replace the temporary reverse osmosis plants with permanent plants that will produce 3 million gallons a day.
Hodge also offered a special thank you to Hovensa, which gave WAPA around the clock access to Subbase Dry-dock and its employees to repair the boiler feed pump shaft, which would have taken 16 to 18 weeks outside the territory, but was accomplished within three days at Hovensa.
WAPA will pump water to the following designated locations Thursday evening:
- 4 to 6 p.m. – Sugar Estate, Estate Thomas, Havensight
- 6 to 8 p.m. – Altona, Contant, Subbase, Frenchtown, Lindbergh Bay, Contant Knolls
- 7 to 9 p.m. – Tutu High Rise Housing Community
- 8 to 10 p.m. – Hospital Ground, Ross Taananberg, Garden Street, Bunker Hill