Two days after reporting that its Hampton pumping station was back on line, the Barbados Water Authority (BWA) says it will have to spend some $300,000 in equipment to restore the facility, which it says was damaged mainly as a result of the power outage experienced last Monday.
At the same time, officials say they are unable to give any guarantee that those who have been experiencing water outages for the past ten days would not continue to, leading up to the Christmas period.
During a media conference at the Ministry of Water Resources’ Country Road, St Michael office on Thursday, officials said that when the island-wide blackout happened on Monday all ten of the pumps at the Hampton pumping station went down.
Six variable frequency drives (the brains of the pumps) and two pumps were eventually repaired by basically carrying out patchwork, taking parts from one piece of equipment to fix another.
And while this has made the pumping station operational, producing the usual six million gallons of water, it is now doing so without the redundancy (extra capacity).
Director of Engineering Charles Leslie said further repair work would have to be done in the coming days, starting Saturday.
“We still have some damages to repair at the Hampton pumping station. We have a cable to replace, we have a spare pump to install at the facility and we have two additional drives that we have to repair as well,” Leslie told reporters.
“I have not done a calculation of the cost, but my estimation is that is between $200,000 and $300,000 in equipment and parts that we have to replace at that facility,” he added.
He explained that contact was made with the Brazil manufacturers of the equipment and they have agreed to make engineers from Panama available to help since the instructions for the equipment are all in Spanish.
That technical team should be in Barbados by Saturday and would immediately start to work.
“So it will be over the course of the next week we will be doing periodic shut offs to do the repairs to the station and try to get it back up to full capacity,” said Leslie.
He explained: “We anticipate that on Monday we will do a shut down to do a replacement of the (160 ft) cable that we have not been able to replace, as well as to replace a pump in that well so that we have some sort of redundancy.”
That station pumps about 50 per cent of the island’s water supply, and supplies water to Christ Church and most of St Philip.
It will “take some time” before the Hampton facility is operating at full capacity, officials have pointed out.
Minister of Energy and Water Resources Wilfred Abrahams said the situation, which was compounded by a collapsed floor at the Hampton station last Thursday and ongoing drought conditions, caused “a world of problems” for the utility.
Apologizing for the “hurt” that people were experiencing, Abrahams said the BWA was doing all it could now to address the problem.
He said ten new variable frequency drives were ordered because “we don’t intend for this to happen to us again”.
Abrahams said the BWA has not yet estimated the impact the electricity outage had on its operations, and a decision on whether it would be seeking any compensation from the electricity company was not yet made.
“Right now our main focus is to restore normalcy to the situation. We have not discussed the issue of liability at this point . . . My principal focus at this point is to get the Hampton back up to capacity,” he said.
“As a result of outages all ten of the pumps and variable frequency drives at Hampton went down. Even when the electricity came back up they had some issues with tripping at the pole, so not related directly to the outages, and that cost some violent surges which knocked out the equipment again, causing major damage,” said Abrahams.