Water ration on La Isla Bonita may be prolonged
In our Thursday newscast, we reported on a water crisis in San Pedro Town. The speculation was that it is being caused by a large scale housing project on the south end of the island. Well today the Belize Water Services called a news conference in the island to explain that the problem is no fault of theirs. BWS Chief, Alvan Haynes, said when they became aware of the problem just before the Easter break, they advised consumers of a possible reduction and rationing of water. But the real problem is not only the lack of water, it is also how long it will last. As News Five’s Marion Ali discovered, that answer is as scarce as the potable water on the island.
Marion Ali, Reporting
According to Chief Executive Officer of the Belize Water Services, Alvan Haynes, the shortage of tap water in San Pedro has nothing to do with the operations of the Belize Water Services. In fact, Haynes said the shortage is the result of insufficient supply from their source, Consolidated Water Belize Limited. This is the company that operates the reverse osmosis water treatment plant in San Pedro. The problem happens to be clogged filter membranes at the plant.
Alvan Haynes, C.E.O., BWS
“Their production cannot meet the normal capacity because their membranes are being fouled. They are doing some extensive tests with laboratories in the states to determine exactly what the matter is, what type of material it is that’s fouling the membranes. We have no doubt about it, our guys have been in their plant, we have seen the membranes, we picked it up a couple days before we put out the release that the large one million gallon tank that’s there compound had reduced to less than half of the storage capacity.”
Haynes says the dilemma is not new, since it happens while the engines and membranes are being serviced. But what was unexpected was the timing of it.
“They have changed membranes twice and they are saying that they cannot get the membranes cleaned. These membranes usually last for years. They’re cleaned occasionally, flushed out occasionally and then put back in service. So it’s a serious concern for them because of the cost. It’s a more serious concern for us because we need to make sure that we have adequate production to continue to meet the daily demand for water in San Pedro. It’s no secret that there’s been some developmental works going on in the back there. As to whether that is the direct cause of the problem, will have to be determined.”
What is causing the clogging will be determined when tests results return from abroad, but many people have blamed an investment company called Sugar Caye Housing Project for the problem. The project consists of four hundred and twenty-five house lots right next to BWS’ property.
“BWS only became aware of this development last year when they started cutting a road adjacent to our elevated camp, to our property, which we felt actually impinged on our property. That’s when we became aware of the development. We were not involved in any EIA or we were not asked to submit an opinion at any phase of that. So our knowledge of the project was when it started.”
But the real problem facing San Pedranos and hoteliers will not be a welcomed one – the water shortage could last for months.
“In discussion with Consolidated Water, even up to this morning, we have been exploring the thought of drilling additional wells nearby to see if we can locate alternate water and determine if the problem would lie in those wells. We then realized that we ourselves had drilled a few wells some years ago in our compound which is adjacent to theirs so we’re looking now at doing some pump testing, taking water out those wells and doing some tests on those to see what it indicates. The real problem for us is that if this not something that has a short term solution, it implies that there will be a bit of cost into providing a long term solution.”
Until that solution is in sight, Sugar Caye Development says it is prepared to help fix the problem
Francisco Alvarado, Managing Consultant, Sugar Caye Project
“We have been contacting them in Cayman Islands and looking at how we can assist them with our hydrology engineer that we have on staff, Mr. Panton, and any other assistance that we can give them in terms of it and to get to the bottom of this situation and solve the problem. That is what we want, that is what we’re looking at.”
“If the investigations do determine that it is as a result of the project that is ongoing, Sugar Caye Project, what is the company prepared and willing to do to reverse the situation because the entire island, especially the big businesses and hotels, are losing business because of the problem?”
“Again, as I mentioned, we would work with them as much as we can. They would need to tell us where to start really and work along with Mr. Panton who is the hydrology engineer in this case.”
“But that’s the typical standpoint, I mean more from the revenue losses that they’re experiencing.”
“Well, that again that would need to come from them and for them to let us know where we can help and where we can come in. At this point, we have talked with them and we have gotten a response that they cannot really say it’s our project at this point. That is what their response is and this is quoting them from when we spoke to them in Cayman Island.”
Sugar Caye’s Managing Consultant, Francisco Alvarado says they did conduct an Environmental Impact Assessment and copies of that are available at the San Pedro Town Council. Marion Ali for News Five.
Until the test results are in, BWS has recommended that work on the project be halted. Consolidated Water is providing seventy-five thousand gallons of water a day, but the required amount is half a million gallons. What this means is that water pressure will be low in the morning and evening until the problem is permanently corrected. BWS invited a representative to the press conference but that person is in the Cayman Islands. While on the island we approached Area Representative for Belize Rural South and Minister of Tourism, Manuel Heredia Junior to get his input in this and other issues affecting the island. He told us that he was too busy to talk. This was as he chatted with a fellow resident in a golf cart.