Rotary International, Gra-nd Bahama assures that its Emergency Water Relief Foundation or water plant will continue to supply the general public with potable water until the normal supply is no longer interrupted.
Rotarian Michael Stafford, Plant Manager provided details on the plant’s operation during an exclusive interview with The Freeport News on Wednesday, February 12.
Stafford said that the plant, which is located on Bahamian Way, is open 24/7 and self-serving.
“People come to get water, before work, after work and in the middle of the day,” he said.
He revealed that the self-serving pumps are sanitized about three times a day.
The plant is a Bahamas Government registered foundation that was started in 2007, but the first water was actually pumped in 2009.
“It’s the result of a Rotary global grant between District 6990 which is Southeast Florida; District 7020, which is the rest of The Bahamas and the Northern Caribbean and District 5280, which is the Greater Los Angeles, including the Beverly Hills Club and the Club of Santa Monica,” Stafford said.
He added that the water plant was also funded by a very generous donation made by the TK Foundation, which paid to build the building.
The 12-foot elevated building houses the plant’s generator, which is used when the power goes off, Stafford noted, adding that there is a water maker system that produces seven-and-a-half thousand gallons of water per day. The plant also has its own well.
“So, when city water is off, we’re in business,” he said.
Stafford furthered that during Hurricane Dorian, the organization found that it could not keep up with the demand. Therefore, thanks to a donation made by District 6990 Robbins Fund, a disaster relief fund, they were able to purchase another machine.
“This week we are hooking up that machine and that will increase our capacity to 15,000 gallons,” he disclosed.
He added that this new system will be elevated to reduce the chances of flood damage.
Additionally, Stafford revealed that a second Reverse Osmosis (RO) Unit will be installed and that will be mounted.
“Every single system has a spare on the shelf already here,” he said, noting that this is in case something happens, the equipment and technical knowledge to repair it right away is on hand, as the Rotary receives technical support from Polymers and Bradford Marine as well.
He explained that during the water making process, the RO Unit takes water from the well and forces it through two membranes that takes out all the impurities. At this time, most importantly, it takes the salt water out.
“As you know, we have salt water intrusion in our wells right now and the water coming through the tap is brackish,” he said.
Stafford noted that the plant produces very pure water, even more pure than most bottled water that can be bought on the island.
He explained that water is measured in totaled dissolved solids and parts per million.
“The US EPA wants 550 per million or less before it will pump water through the system. The World Health Organization (WHO), which is what Grand Bahama Utilities work with, is 1,000 per million before they certify if the water is potable,” he said.
Stafford revealed that the plants produced water anywhere from 28 to 18 total dissolved solids and parts per million. “That’s very pure.”
The plant has a 5,500-gallon storage tank that is kept full along with ten 275-gallon trailers, which are often seen delivering water.
“We also have 20 additional tote tanks and before Hurricane Dorian we were in preparation mode and we had all of those assets in the shelters, at the clinics, and in the communities at home with Rotarians so that after the all clear was given we could immediately begin delivering water,” he said.
He furthered that they ran the machine for 28 days straight with their RO unit. “We only shut down once for about 20 minutes just to check the water and oil in the generator.”
Before the non-profit government organizations started, Rotary was the only fresh drinking water source on the island for the first week post Dorian.
“We were providing water outside here 24-hours a day. We had a team of Rotarians manning the plant and we had a team of Rotarians that were also delivering water, refilling all the hurricane shelters, clinics and wherever water was needed,” he said.
The plant is still servicing some restaurants and schools on the island so that they can operate in a sanitary manner, he added.
Stafford revealed that the NGOs have taken over dispensing water from the GB Sports Complex, with water points in the East End area also.
“All of the water produced from either the Water Plant or an NGO water point is tested by the Grand Bahama Environmental Health Services to be certified that its free of any type of contaminates like bacteria or E. coli,” he said.
He added that if it is not certified that water point is shut down and those tests are conducted often.
Stafford reminded that the tap water is fine for people to bathe or brush their teeth, but not to drink.
He took the opportunity to thank Rotary’s various partners that contributed to the plant’s operations, including the Grand Bahama Port Authority (GBPA) that provided the land; the Grand Bahama Power Company, which provided free electricity; FOCOL, that provided free diesel and oil for their generator, and GB Utilities for the water connection, although they only use city water for sanitary purposes.
Once drinkable potable water is available, via the city system, the plant is mandated to shut down.