House of Assembly of the Virgin Islands
Madam Speaker, two days after Hurricane Irma struck the British Virgin Islands, the Ministry of Communications and Works engaged its Special Projects Unit to implement emergency protocols for the Water and Sewerage Department.
Our Technical Consultants reported that the Water and Sewerage Department’s compound was destroyed and they proceeded to establish a temporary base of operations at the Burt Point Waste Water Treatment Facility.
Employees were contacted and mobilized on September 11th, with priorities being to evaluate the Water and Sewerage infrastructure, to determine the extent of the damage, all while focusing on life and safety.
Madam Speaker, we developed a Short-term Action Plan for all systems, Water and Sewerage, with emphasis on:
- Securing the ability to produce potable water by assisting the potable water producers on all islands,
- Securing the ability to store water by making temporary repairs to reservoirs,
- Securing emergency power for critical water pump stations,
- Making water available to all critical areas like the shelters and hospitals,
- Making water available in highly populated areas,
- Repairing all damage to main water lines,
- Repairing all service line damage,
- Repairing all critical pump stations,
- The collection of sewerage in densely populated areas.
- Securing emergency power for critical sewerage lift stations,
- Making all Sewerage Treatment Plants operational,
- Repairing all lift stations,
- Clearing blocked manholes,
- Clearing blocked lines and
- Repairing force mains.
Madam Speaker, on the main island of Tortola, the team sought to address critical areas and focused on normalizing the water infrastructure service to consumers.
The approach was to begin restoration on the eastern end, starting with Beef Island and work our way westwards.
Prior to Hurricane Irma, Madam Speaker, the majority of the islands had potable water supply 85% of the time, while the other areas received service from 5am-10am and more in areas where pipes are being repaired.
As of today, Madam Speaker, I am pleased to report that significant progress has been made to restore potable water to consumers on the four major islands.
On Tortola, crews are currently working from Duffs Bottom to Pockwood Pond restoring service and the Department intends to move even more westwards within the coming weeks.
The higher elevations of Road Town remain a challenge in areas such as Long Bush and Huntums Ghut, as they are fed from the Long Bush Reservoir and the Pump Station that supplies the reservoir was destroyed by the hurricane.
A plan to relocate that station is being implemented in the coming weeks.
Madam Speaker, Anegada was the least affected by the hurricane. However, the Desalination Plant and the Water Distribution Pump Station suffered some damage.
With assistance from the British Military, our team was able to get the systems functional in short order after the storm and Anegada, for the most part, is back to normal regarding water.
Madam Speaker, Virgin Gorda has two Desalination Plants and two Distribution Systems. The Valley is 96% recovered, but at the North Sound System, where the Desalination Plant was destroyed, we are still completing line repairs.
At this point, I am pleased to report, that a new plant is already under construction on site and we expect production to begin in the coming weeks.
Madam Speaker, the water Infrastructure on Jost Van Dyke suffered major damage. The island lost many main lines and most of its service lines. We also lost the only reservoir on Jost Van Dyke.
A temporary open sea intake was built for the beach well, we have repaired the system so that the plant can operate, we have installed a generator to supply power and preparations are underway for a temporary water storage of 100,000 gallons, which would be online in a few weeks.
Madam Speaker, there remain several other challenges as we seek to restore the water supply throughout the Territory.
With the lack of electrical power to many stations, we have had to install diesel generators on critical stations.
We are also encountering challenges with some damaged reservoirs and major road erosion has damaged some water lines, which are being replaced or repaired.
Madam Speaker, the Water and Sewerage Department has done a sterling job in the water restoration efforts and I highly commend the team for its efforts.
The Department will continue to meet the restoration head on.
Thank you, Madam Speaker.