New BWL Manager committed to providing great service

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 14, No. 35            October 14, 2004

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Wade Van Doven is the new General Manager for Belize Water Limited

A self-proclaimed workaholic, Wade Van Doven says he really likes his new job as manager of Belize Water Limited. Doven officially started his new position after training with his parent company, Consolidated Water based out of Grand Cayman.

    Van Doven learned about the position in San Pedro from reading a trade magazine for the American Waterworks Association. At the time, he was working for the water department in Moses Lake, Washington, where he had worked for 24 years. "I had climbed about as far as I could go," says Van Doven. "I felt it was time for a change."

    And a change he has found. Van Doven had never traveled to Belize prior to applying for the position. He says he really likes it here. "In some ways, it reminds me of the way things were 30 years ago with the dirt roads and a slow pace." On the other hand, he marvels at some of the advances available on Ambergris Caye. "I could not get DSL were I lived in the states," he said.

Long "trains" of reverse osmosis membranes in tubes convert salt water into fresh water.
    A single man, Van Doven stated that he works all the time, which, as he says, would not be fair on a family. Although Van Doven has just been recently assigned his post, he assures all residents that he is fully capable of providing Ambergris Caye with the best service available. "We have not been very good about providing water at times in the past," reflects Van Doven. "We will not let those problems happen again we have a total new philosophy for quality management," he stresses.

    Van Doven backs up his claim with a description of the upgrades underway at the water desalinization plant located at the southern part of the island. The upgrades have commenced due to a new 23-year contract, signed on June 1st between BWL and Belize Water Services. Van Doven says the contract is so long-term because of the investment necessary to upgrade the machinery used for water desalinization and to increase storage capacity. "It takes a tremendous amount of energy and specialized equipment to do this," stated Van Doven.

    The upgrades are occurring as the demand for water on Ambergris Caye continues to grow. On average, our community consumes between 290 thousand gallons per day in the slow season, and over 350 thousand gallons during peak season. Currently the water plant can produce just over 400 thousand gallons per day.

    A key upgrade that will prevent water shortages in the future is a new million-gallon storage container. The container has been constructed and is ready to be shipped from Miami. It is scheduled to be installed and in service within a few months. Once the added storage is in place, upgrades on the reverse osmosis equipment can begin.

    Converting sea water to fresh water is a very complicated and expensive process. "Ambergris Caye is lucky to start with extremely clean sea water," says Van Doven.

    Although the BWL desalinization plant is located next to a large lagoon, the water used to provide the island with fresh water is drawn from two eighty feet deep wells. Limestone below the surface is the first step in purifying water.

    Once the water is pumped to the surface it then goes through a series of processes. The most intensive is "reverse-osmosis." Using huge diesel engines, water is pumped through membranes in a series of "trains." The water is pumped at extremely high pressure; 900 pounds per square inch (PSI) using two huge diesel engines. BWL is the largest consumer of diesel fuel on the island consuming over 400 gallons a day. After filtering through a series of membranes, forty percent of the water sent through the system is fresh water, the other sixty percent is pumped back underground.

    Once salt and other elements are removed from the water, some chemicals are added to remove sulfur and other chemicals. A small amount of chlorine is added to make the water safe. It is then sold to Belize Water Services Limited, BWL's only client. "In reality, our client is everyone on the island that uses our water," adds Van Doven.

    Van Doven says the water produced meets and exceeds World Health Drinking Standards, the same standards used in the US.

    Within ten years, Van Doven says the plant will be able to produce a million gallons a day of fresh-drinkable water and will possibly add a second million gallon storage container if the demand is evident.

    The San Pedro Sun extends a warm welcome to Wade Van Doven! Welcome to "La Isla Bonita."
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