One month after its most recent update to the public on its progress to return water potability to Grand Bahama residents island-wide, the Grand Bahama Utility Company (GBUC) has received regulatory approval that deems 70% of the island’s water safe to drink.
Following the devastation of Hurricane Dorian, which inundated the majority of GBUC’s wellfields with salt water, the utility has worked to repair and rebuild its infrastructure. “Following significant revisions to our rebuild plan and capital investments of over $5 million, we are now on a sure path to full potability for Grand Bahama,” said Ms. Philcher Grant, Director of Operations, GBUC. “Reaching potability, which requires a high standard of testing for purity and consistency as established by the World Health Organization [WHO], means the water from your tap is safe for all uses, including drinking and cooking.
“We know that the impacts of climate change, including more significant storm activity such as we are seeing this year, will continue to challenge our natural resources,” continued Ms. Grant. “Our efforts today must not only restore water potability, but also ensure a reliable, storm-hardy system that can withstand and quickly recover from future storm events.”
GBUC’s $5 million investment includes a three million gallon Reverse Osmosis (RO) system and a new water plant pumping station and wellfield. As a measure of preparedness for the impacts of storms, its RO system will be portable to ensure equipment can be moved to limit the chance of damage due to flooding or high winds.
“We continue to repair damaged infrastructure, replace equipment, and drill and commission new wells as we progress in restoring water potability,” said Remington Wilchcombe, GBUC Engineering Manager. “We’ve also advanced our Reverse Osmosis investment, finalized the design, and have undertaken surveying for construction and installation. Since our late July update to customers, we can confirm that a number of additional areas of the island are now receiving fully potable, tested and safe drinking water.”
The Environmental Section of The Building and Development Services Department (BDS) of the Grand Bahama Port Authority (GBPA) is responsible to ensure GBUC is delivering water that meets WHO standards. According to Nakira Wilchcombe, Director of the Building Department, “The GBUC has undergone rigorous testing of water quality, and potability is confirmed only when the water has consistently met WHO standards and is confirmed by an independent lab. As regulator, the GBPA is satisfied that those areas identified are now receiving water that is considered potable.”
GBUC confirms that the following areas are now receiving safe drinking water:
Civic Industrial Area
Freetown (old & new)
Warren J. Levarity Highway
“We want customers to understand that there are some subdivisions that feed from different distribution lines and different wellfields,” continued Mr. Wilchcombe. “In those cases, some parts of a subdivision may have potable water while other parts do not. Those areas include Central Area, East Section, North Bahamia and Yeoman Wood. We’ll be sharing more specifics on our social media channels and we encourage you to follow us for details on each subdivision as we progress. Despite COVID-19 and the challenges it brings, our team is working hard to restore all customers in all areas, and we won’t stop until we’re done.”
Senator Kwasi Thompson, Minister of State for Grand Bahama, recognized GBUC’s progress and acknowledged the work still ahead. “With the devastation of Hurricane Dorian still fresh in our minds, and the added challenges wrought by COVID-19, we are grateful for the determination shown by the GBUC team in returning the island’s drinking water to our communities,” Senator Thompson said. “It has been almost a year since Dorian and I know it hasn’t been easy, but we trust the utility’s strategy and investment will ensure Grand Bahamians are never again without clean drinking water for a prolonged period following a storm. The Government of The Bahamas will continue to work with the GB Utility Company to ensure we have full restoration of our water supply.”
As the utility works toward island-wide potability, the 25% discount currently reflected on the water portion of customers’ bills remains in place for residents that do not have potable water. Additionally, the utility confirms that it will continue to provide free drinking water at its water distribution sites around the island.
“Today, 70% of our customer base has potable supply,” added Ms. Grant. “That means safe drinking water that has had regulatory approval and met all requirements including monitoring, WHO guidelines and testing that has been validated by independent labs. We appreciate our customers’ patience, and we’ll continue to keep residents apprised as we progress toward island-wide potability in the coming months.”