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#372730 04/07/10 11:08 AM
Joined: Apr 2010
Posts: 57
Ecoman Offline OP
OP Offline
I think that it is time we push the Town Council and the Minister of Tourism to "dig" for some answers about our water shortage. We can all make our individual assumptions about what is the "real" cause of the water shortage. The point is that our Local and Central Governement needs to be responsible and get to the bottom of the issue immediately.
My suggestion is that all have us that are concerned about the water, the orad and anything else need to start calling the Town Board and voicing it to the Mayor....maybe we even need to organize and visit the town board.
Here are some of the points we need to ask them to address..
1) What has couased the filtration problem.
2) Has our dimished water supply been contaminated?
3) When will the water shortage be resolved?
4) What measures will be put in place to insure that this will not happen again.

Also....We need to remind Local and Central Government that all individuals and developers must adhere to ALL the laws of Belize. There is a strong possiblity that had the laws been followed and EIA's done we might not be having these issues.

Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 84,398

Water restrictions cause major problems over Easter weekend

    A press release issued on March 31st, 2010 by Belize Water Services Limited (BWS) spoke of the possibility of restricting or rationing the water supply on San Pedro, Ambergris Caye: BWS hereby informs residents and visitors to San Pedro that, should the available supply continue to diminish, the company will have no choice but to restrict or ration water over the Easter Weekend. Easter is one of the biggest tourism weekends on Ambergris Caye. On Tuesday, when the four day holiday was all over, hotels, restaurants, local residents and tourists could not believe that throughout the weekend, the island had to experience a shortage of water caused because, according to the BWS release, BWS has not been receiving adequate supplies of water from Consolidated Water Belize Ltd (CWBL), the private company that operates the Reverse Osmosis Water Treatment Plant on San Pedro, Ambergris Caye.

    As stated in their release, the underlying issue was that BWS was not receiving adequate supplies of water from CWBL. An interview with Jon Kiss, Overseas Operations Engineer for the company, revealed that CWBL did indeed deliver and met the water demand by BWSL. The issue discussed in the press release is a problem that stemmed from the fact that CWBL has been experiencing unusual matter clogging the filter membranes of the plant. He explained that, "something is fouling [tainting] our feed water causing the plant to run at a reduced capacity. It is an issue that has happened over the past few months and we have tried to get an idea as to what has been occurring." In order to get an idea as to what has been occurring Kiss stated that the membranes and water samples have been sent out for analysis. Once the results are returned, CWBL hopes to ascertain the source of the matter that is clogging their filter membranes. Kiss explained that it has been a big issue for the company since membranes generally have a life span of at least five years. When asked the frequency with which CWBL has had to change their clogged membranes within the span of these few months he said, "too often." As to the situation which occurred over the weekend, Kiss explained "We had new membranes and did install them just over a week ago but they fouled shortly after. We have just received another set of new membranes but need to address the fouling before installing." Once more membrane filters arrived on the island, Kiss says, "even if we had changed the membranes we would have had to back flush and clean the system properly and we would not have gained enough capacity to catch up with the necessary production. However, we did manage to meet our obligations with BWSL based on our contract." Kiss ended by stating, "There are no issues with the plant equipment and we are usually able to run at full capacity, but the fouling has caused a reduction that has been noticeable since sometime around the end of last year."

    If CWBL was able to meet their obligations with BWSL, why the need to restrict or ration the water supply to the community? Attempts to contact Haydon Brown at BWSL were futile. However, we were informed that the water company is preparing to hold a press conference on Friday, April 9th, 2010 at the Sunbreeze Hotel where they will explain the situation.

    A letter issued by the San Pedro Business Association explains the extent of damage that the shortage of water caused to the island's tourism industry: This ruined the stay of thousands of tourists during this critical holiday and many will (A) not return to our island and (B) will spread the word that we're so backward here on Ambergris Caye that it's hard to even take a shower. Interviews with several hotels reveal that guests were referred to other hotels, others spoke of the unsanitary conditions that the lack of water caused, while some explained that guests actually cut their vacation short because of the shortage of water. As the SPBA letter states, "We're all 100% dependent on the tourism on the island."

    The island might have experienced a shortage of water over the weekend however water rates did go up on the same day that BWS issued their press release. Effective March 31st, water rates increased by 12.1%. According to the Public Utilities Commission the three reasons for the increase are a deteriorating infrastructure, maintaining BWS's viability and the reaching out to the small shareholders of a major utility company. As of the next billing period, consumers should expect to see a jump in their monthly water bill. According to Director of Admin and Tariffs Leroy Almendarez, "It is not a 12.1% increase on the dollar, it is basically based on what your consumption level is since it is applied across all bands." The PUC says the measured increase comes after a revised look at what the commission felt was the minimum investment capital needed by BWS to address those critical expansions and necessary maintenance needed to ensure the effective and reliable distribution of water and sewerage services to its consumers. Director of Water and Waste, Eugene Cleland stated, "You have fees like reconnection fee, transfer fee, water connection fees. Those fees never did change."

    As mentioned above, BWS is scheduled to have a press conference today. The San Pedro Sun will have an update in next week's issue.

San Pedro Sun

Marty #372953 04/09/10 12:25 AM
Joined: Nov 2000
Posts: 8,880
Has there been any change in staff or staff experience levels at the plant, since this problem began to emerge?

A fish and a bird can fall in love, but where will they build their nest?

Joined: Oct 2009
Posts: 174
Perhaps improper cleaning of the membranes or just a case of they have to upgrade to increase capacity.

Joined: Oct 2001
Posts: 6,267
According to Consolidated Water, the capacity of the plant was/is considerably higher than the demand. In fact we were told (a while back) that the water company was attempting to expand supply lines to new neighborhoods because they had plenty of capacity and not enough customers.
The recent events seem to signal a new variable. Folks on Ambergris Caye are demanding to know what caused these events. The public is asking hard questions & requesting impartial/professional expert opinions.
That is the beginning of a solution. I'd suggest that we amateurs hold our tongues about the culprit and the solution until all the reports are in.
There may be more than one cause - ALL problems need to be addressed.

Joined: May 2000
Posts: 3,281
Has it been resolved or is the water still restricted/rationed?

Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 84,398

Island residents upset about water crisis caused by development

April8-2La Isla Bonita is experiencing hardships from a low tourism season. Aside from the economic downturn which has reduced the number of visitors, the island is now hit with a water crisis. This means that while San Pedro has enough water in its environs, potable water is a commodity that is not available on demand causing further cancellations from visitors. The San Pedro Business community is not taking it lightly. Today, they held a meeting with their membership to hold a developer and the Town Council accountable over a project they feel has acerbated the crisis. The development consists of four hundred and twenty-five house lots that are being sold at a cost of fourteen thousand seven hundred and fifty dollars each. News Five's Reporter Marion Ali and cameraman George Tillett were in the island today where they found the business community up in arms.

Marion Ali, Reporting

This housing area two miles south of San Pedro Town is called Sugar Caye. It is a development investment by Canadian businessman, David Mitchell, but there is nothing sweet about the development - at least not for the populace. Major crisis with running water since last Thursday was what prompted the San Pedro business community to take action. They are concerned that because certain protocols were circumvented they are experiencing the first of major environmental impacts.

Elito Arceo, President, Ambergris Caye Citizens for Sustainable Dev.

Elito Arceo

Elito Arceo

"What we found out over the past Easter holidays that for the business owners point of view, mostly hotel owners, is the shortage or lack of supply of water. And while they have guests on the islands, of course tourists or locals visiting, they have no water. Of course, I’m a business owner, a tour operator and it take people and we've heard the concerns from the people on our trips saying that when they get back home to the island hopefully they can take a shower and of course that hasn't been happening. Of course they are spending their hard earned dollars in our country and it's kinda sad that they have no water to bathe or to flush their toilets and stuff and I know some of the hotels have a bucket brigade taking water back and forth. We've had some cancellations and two property owners said they had to return some money to some guests. A friend of mine that came to visit, and this is personal now, he left four days prior to his duty because they had no water so they had to go back."

Miguel Alamilla, Biologist

"As concerned citizens we have always requested that before this development took place that an environmental impact assessment be done because it is a very sensitive area, it's close to a sewer pond and this was not done."

But aside from the EIA, biologist, Miguel Alamilla says there continues to be gross negligence as the project progresses.

Miguel Alamilla

Miguel Alamilla

Miguel Alamilla

"There was supposed to be a buffer zone around the sewer treatment ponds because it only goes up to secondary treatment and then the waste is disposed of into the mangrove wetlands and the mangroves should provide another stage of treatment. However, a lot of that mangrove has been destroyed by the development. They have been cut down, canals have been opened and that facilitates the movement of water. During tidal changes, there’s a lot of water movement. Friction has reduced and there’s a more water exchange from the sewage pond area where the water is disposed of to the open Corozal Bay."

[Footage from video clip...]

And it is because of these practices that the San Pedro Business Association and the Ambergris Caye Citizens for Sustainable Development produced this video clip. The production shows the scope of the work and events that have occurred since dredging and clearing of mangroves at the project site started.

[Footage from video clip...]April8-6

Some residents feel that the dredging taking place at the location will be so detrimental that it will affect the future of the marine eco-system.

[Footage from video clip...]

Reporting for News Five, I am Marion Ali.

The Belize Water Services will hold a press conference on Friday morning on the island to explain the water problems currently facing island residents. Meanwhile the San Pedro business community passed a resolution today, demanding that the work at the Sugar Caye project site cease until a determination can be made that the site is not the cause of the environmental problems.

Channel 5

Marty #373044 04/10/10 09:21 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 84,398

Water ration on La Isla Bonita may be prolonged

April8-58In 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

Alvan Haynes

Alvan Haynes

"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.

Alvan Haynes

"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."

April8-57What 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.

Alvan Haynes

"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.

Alvan HaynesApril8-59

"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."

Francisco Alvarado

Francisco Alvarado

Marion Ali

"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?"

Francisco Alvarado

"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."

Marion Ali

"But that's the typical standpoint, I mean more from the revenue losses that they’re experiencing."

Francisco Alvarado

"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.

News 5

Marty #373049 04/10/10 09:24 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 84,398

BWSL holds press conference

Belize Water Services Limited (BWSL) held a press conference today at 11:00 a.m. at the Conference Room at the Sunbreeze Hotel. Present for the meeting was the top brass of the utility company willing to answer questions based on the low pressure or lack of water that the island has been experiencing since the Easter holiday.

Chief Executive Officer for BWSL Alvan Haynes explained the situation. He stated that the underlying issue is the fact that BWSL has not been receiving their water quota from Consolidated Water Services Limited (CWSL), the company hired to supply BWSL with enough water supply to meet the needs of Ambergris Caye. However, according to Mr. Haynes, Consolidated has faced issues based on the fact that their membranes and filters have been fouled not allowing the utmost production of water for the island. Haynes went on to explain that because BWSL has not been receiving the adequate water supply they have had to ration the water to the island. During the press conference, BWSL explained that for the moment, and indefinitely, water will be distributed the best way that they can. Today, Friday BWSL started delivering water for four hours in the morning and will do the same for four hours in the afternoon/evening. If this system works, this is what they will be operating from now on until the near future.
The root of the problem is still to be identified and for the moment, Consolidated Waters has sent a water sample and their damaged membranes to a laboratory for assessment. In the meantime, based on their and BWSL speculations, BWSL has sent in a formal request to the Department of Environment to halt dredging and development in the area near BWSL's plant.

Marty #373063 04/10/10 10:18 AM
Joined: Apr 2009
Posts: 515
This is a real tragedy for the island and I certainly hope that whomever is responsible for this ends up paying at least some of the losses that are being incurred by the responsible business owners on the island. I am quite surprised that there is not more about this on this and the other boards.

Captain One Iron
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