Minister Neymour Commissions Eleuthera’s Reverse Osmosis Plant

WATER -- Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. Hubert Ingraham holds a glass as Water and Sewerage General Manager Glen LaVille gets ready to turn on tap to draw water from the newly commissioned Reverse Osmosis Plant in Tarpum Bay, Eleuthera. Also pictured with glass is Environment Minister Earl Deveaux. (BIS Photo/Kris Ingraham)

Nassau, The Bahamas – Desalinating natural water into a precious commodity throughout The Bahamas has been the immediate goal of the government for the last 18 years. The Water and Sewerage Corporation was faced with national water quality challenges, during the time they were supplying 100 percent of the water through ground water wells.

“Until about 17 t o 18 years ago, we began to put together a plan at the Water and Sewerage Corporation.   I was a young engineer there, when we began the desalination supply of water throughout the entire Bahamas,” said Phenton Neymour, State Minister of the Environment.

“We began with Windsor Field Reverse Osmosis Facility, then we went to the various Family Islands from San Salvador, to Inagua, to Bimini, so it was the beginning of a transition.   We are now to the point where in New Providence, we are approaching 90 percent of water being provided by Reverse Osmosis with the objective of providing better quality water for Bahamians.”

On November 11th, Environment’s State Minister, Phenton Neymour, officially commissioned the Tarpum Bay / Rock Sound Reverse Osmosis Plant in Winding Bay and Queen’s Highway.   The desalination initiatives are a notable success, as the Ministry of the Environment celebrates National Energy Awareness Week, during November 4th to the 11th, 2011.

“Tarpum Bay and Rock Sound communities have long depended on ground water for their water supplies.   As populations grew in these communities, systems expanded and the demand exceeded the safe water yields, resulting in the increasing deterioration of water quality as a result of high salinity,” said Mr. Neymour.

“Despite major projects in the mid-1990’s and the early 2000’s, which addressed infrastructure needs throughout Eleuthera, including the distribution system in Tarpum Bay and Rock Sound, ground water continued to be the source of supply.   While in areas such as Waterford, Green Castle, and Deep Creek in the South, in addition, settlements from Savannah Sound to Gregory Town in the North that benefitted from improved water quality and desalination plants, Tarpum Bay and Rock Sound continued to be challenged with poor water quality.”

The Water and Sewerage Corporation signed an agreement in December 2010 with Aqua Design Bahamas Ltd., a subsidiary of General Electric, to build, own, and operate a 200,000 imperial gallons per day desalination plant that provides a guaranteed 150,000 imperial gallons per day over a period of 15 years.

The plant capacity is with a build-out capacity of 400,000 imperial gallons per day.   Its two storage tanks can hold a total capacity of 500,000 imperial gallons, supplied and installed by the Bahamas Water Storage Company Ltd. at a cost of approximately $500,000.

“The construction works were completed in June, which was only in six months.   For the first time in decades, your communities can boast of water quality that many of us still buy in bottles for over 100 times the price,” said Mr. Neymour.

“What is equally important and unique about this facility and how it ties in with our celebration of National Energy Awareness Week is the power purchase agreement between the Water and Sewerage Corporation and Bahamas Renewable Energy Corporation, called BREC, which seeks to utilise renewable energy as a power source.   The PPA is based on wind energy and is intended to reduce the cost of electricity, which is typically 30 to 45 percent total cost of desalinated water.”

The WINSO Company Ltd. of Nassau provides alternative energy solutions in a joint venture with Schneider Power Caribbean, Ltd. They signed a definitive 20-year Power Purchase Agreement with WSC. The energy will be produced by Eleuthera Wind Power Ltd. (EWPL), which holds the rights to a new wind farm under development on Eleuthera, ensuring to minimise greenhouse gas emissions produced by burning fossil fuels.

“The price of the power will start at only $0.20 per kilowatt-hour.   Now, I want to remind you that the average person pays about $0.37 per Kilowatt Hour and is not exceed 75 percent of the price offered by BEC.   I just want to say to BREC that we intend to hold you firmly to that agreement,” said Mr. Neymour.

“BREC plans to erect the wind tower to take wind measurements over the next 12 months in order to finalise the design and infrastructure.   This is essential because wind is seasonal and it is important that we record this data that is typical to obtain throughout The Bahamas, since this is new technology that we are bringing in.   This information will be used to design a new wind turbine, which is to be placed at the site.”

The power purchase agreement is the first private green electricity contract signed by the Bahamas Water and Sewerage Corporation with the goal to reduce the cost of operations for the water desalination plants in The Bahamas.   WSC signed a Memorandum of Understanding with BREC to repeat the use of renewable energy at other locations throughout The Bahamas.

“The Government and the Water and Sewerage Corporation acknowledge the widespread need of desalination in The Bahamas have concluded that the power needed to operate these plants should be provided by renewable energy where feasible. Ladies and Gentlemen, the new Reverse Osmosis Plant at Tarpum Bay is up and running and high quality water is now available to meet the needs of the long-suffering people of Tarpum Bay and Rock Sound,” said Mr. Neymour.

“I just want to remind your Member of Parliament, that we heard what he said in the House of Assembly, but this a part of a plan that began 17 years ago in which we began and put together under the leadership of the Prime Minister and we will continue with the journey to deliver high quality water to all Bahamians throughout The Bahamas.”

By Gena Gibbs