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HomeNewsArchivesSt. Thomas Water Woes Continue, But End In Sight

St. Thomas Water Woes Continue, But End In Sight

After cutting off water service to all of St. Thomas all day Wednesday to build up water storage and pressure, the V.I. Water and Power Authority will try Thursday to get some water to all parts of the system on a rotating basis, according to WAPA officials.

"We needed to build up reserves so we can pump to all areas of St. Thomas, especially to the east end, where they have had no service since last week," WAPA spokeswoman Cassandra Dunn said Wednesday.

WAPA hopes to have repairs completed by the weekend on a waste-heat recovery generator that failed, shutting down much of St. Thomas’ water production, WAPA spokeswoman Cassandra Dunn said Wednesday afternoon. Meanwhile, the utility has brought on three temporary reverse osmosis purification units, has three more on the way, and WAPA’s governing board is meeting Thursday morning to decide whether to add two more units right away.

When will full water service resume?

"The best case scenario would be this weekend and the worst would be a week to 10 days for everything to be installed, for us to build storage and be able to give full water service to every part of the island," Dunn said Wednesday afternoon.

St. Thomas has been suffering with serious water shortages since Nov. 15, when the St. Thomas power plant’s waste heat recovery generator malfunctioned and stopped performing its secondary function of generating drinking water. As a result, schools, businesses, and government agencies have closed early on several recent occasions due to a lack of water for drinking and washing.

While all St. Thomians have been hit with rotating outages, those on the island’s east end – furthest away from the power plant – have suffered the most because of the difficulty in pumping water the entire distance. WAPA has been pumping or gravity feeding most of that water to customers in the lower lying areas on a daily basis.

Repairs to the plant were slowed because the feed water pump shaft needed to complete repairs to the waste heat recovery boiler has been difficult to locate, and WAPA engineers searched over the Christmas holiday weekend for the special metal materials needed to fabricate the part.

Calls have been made to more than 25 suppliers across the country, WAPA Executive Director Hugo Hodge Jr. said in a statement earlier this week. The Christmas holidays made the search take longer, but materials have been located and are expected to arrive before the end of the week, according to Hodge.

To meet the critical need for water on St. Thomas, WAPA leased six temporary reverse osmosis plants last month from Seven Seas Corporation. Three of the units, which filter ocean water to make drinking water, have been on line since last Friday, Dunn said. WAPA has arranged with Seven Seas to speed-up installation of three additional RO plants, originally scheduled for operation in mid-January. Seven Seas workers will be skipping holiday vacations to help finish the work, which should be completed in a week, according to WAPA.

"Three plants are online now, producing 750,000 gallons per day now, and there are three more being installed, which should be online in a couple of days," Dunn said Wednesday. WAPA is looking to add two more plants that will generate another 500,000 gallons. At that point, WAPA will be able to produce 2 million gallons per day on St. Thomas – more than the 1.8 million daily demand, Dunn said.

WAPA had already made plans to switch over to reverse osmosis next year, because it uses much less energy, and because the Authority’s existing equipment was aging, Dunn said. "We had already executed contracts for the permanent RO system, and anticipated having it online in nine to ten months. We had hoped the boiler system would hold on until then."

If boiler repairs are complete by this weekend, water generation will quickly return to sufficient levels and shortages will end, but if there are any problems with the repairs, water service will largely be restored when the second set of three RO units are in place in about a week, Dunn said.

Meanwhile, rotating water outages will continue at least until the weekend. Some businesses and government agencies may close as a result. V.I. Fire Services has revoked all previously issued fire permits for the time being.

WAPA’s projected schedule for water service is as follows:


  • 6 to 8 a.m. – Altona, Annas Fancy, Savan, Veste Gade, Garden St., Bunker Hill, Main St. Hospital Ground, Ross Taananberg, Havensight, Upper Contant (Contant Knolls)
  • 8 to 10 a.m. – Subbase, Frenchtown, Contant, Lindbergh Bay
  • 4 to 6 p.m. – Sugar Estate, Estate Thomas
  • 7 to 9 p.m. – Annas Retreat (Old Tutu) & Tutu Housing Community, Annas Retreat (New Tutu) and Bovoni Housing Community

Beginning Friday, Dec. 30, until further notice:

  • 6 to 8 a.m. – Altona, Annas Fancy, Savan, Veste Gade, Garden St., Bunker Hill, Main St.Hospital Ground, Ross Taananberg, Havensight, Upper Contant (Contant Knolls);
  • 7 to 9 a.m. – Annas Retreat (New Tutu) and Bovoni Housing Community;
  • 8 to 10 a.m. – Subbase, Frenchtown, Contant, Lindbergh Bay;
  • 4 to 6 p.m. – Sugar Estate, Estate Thomas;
  • 7 to 9 p.m. – Annas Retreat (Old Tutu) and Tutu Housing Community
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