To the untrained eye, it appears that the BiWater desalination plant at Paraquita Bay is ready to be switched on, but the company is awaiting approval for a seabed lease which will allow for direct sea intake.
A water source is needed, but BiWater's Project Director, Richard Smith is confident that the National Democratic Party (NDP), whose members have been opposed to the project, will approve the company's proposal to source water directly from the sea at Paraquita Bay.
"We don't like to get drawn into politics; we are here to serve the people and I am not condescending to any person by saying that, but we are here to do a job," Smith stated during a site visit to the Paraquita Bay plant last Friday, January 11.
While BiWater was still setting up its plant, 2011 brought a change of Government and the Virgin Islands Party which inked the contract with Biwater was voted out of office.
"Elections do frustrate processes," Smith stated.
"Because of election, people change and establish new relationships and I have to say that we have had equal relationships with both Ministers, but I wouldn't get drawn into the politics because I think that is what it is and I really want this island to get its supply, because some of my engineers don't get the water in the evenings, same as the population here," Smith said.
He added, "At this day and age, the demand for water and the opportunity to bring the system up to the standard of 24/7 supply is there and also the ability for growth, that is the point and the future, and the Ministry and Water and Sewerage Department to have a commercial trade with the cruise ships as well in the future because that is income in the future."
Impact Assessments Done
Smith indicated that a full environmental impact assessment on the sea intake was done on at Paraquita and Brandywine Bay and submitted to Government for approval.
He said that the company also conducted a social impact assessment report and engaged with all parties concerned with the lagoon.
Minister for Communications and Works, Hon. Mark Vanterpool (right) with Ministry officials speaking with BiWater's Mr. Richard Smith (left) during a visit to the Paraquita Bay plant last Friday, January 11.
Photo Credit: Melissa Edwards/BVI Platinum News
According to Smith, the company engaged fishermen, the H. Lavity Stoutt College, restaurants and bar owners along with the marine society.
"It was a very detailed terms of reference which was favourable. During the process we consulted with Conservation and Fisheries and the National Parks Trust. We had very good meetings with both parties. They cooperated with us to find a route through the lagoon that minimizes impact. In fact, it reduces any impact on the mangroves; that was the findings of that," Smith stated.
He added that with the help of the Conservation Department they were able to locate the old channel that went through the lagoon and identify a gap in the mangroves that their sea intake pipes can go through.
Smith stated that the findings were submitted in November and the company continues to hold discussions with Government. He explained that once Cabinet approves the sea intake the proposal will then go to the Town and Country Planning Department for final approval.
"At the same time that environmental report is assisting us in the UK with our banks, because they have an environmental section, so it was a double edge task. So whatever we did here would assist us in the UK...So no we cannot do anything [in the pond area]. We have all the equipment here awaiting the approval of cabinet for the use of the seabed," Smith explained.
He noted that the pipeline to connect the Paraquita Bay plant to the reservoirs at Sabbath Hill is 90 percent completed, the pump station is installed and ready, and the additional reservoir built by the company at Sabbath Hill is in use.
According to Smith, the company has also taken away all the leakage problems associated with the old government-owned reservoir at Sabbath Hill.
He also reminded that the company still has to fulfill the sewerage obligations under the contract with Government. Smith noted that the company has invested $25M to date into the project.
"The aim of the contract is to provide 24/7 potable water supply to latest water health standards and that is what we have been aiming for. And on top of that a sewerage treatment plant system that is sympathetic with its surroundings to service Road Town, and to cure the issue of marine discharge of sewerage which currently occur," Smith stated.