City relieved as water supply restored - Saturday's storm in Guyana caused major damage

Georgetown, Guyana, July 10, 2007 (Stabroek News) - The city's water supply was disrupted after a storm damaged a transformer at the Shelter Belt Water Treatment Plant on Saturday afternoon.

More than 24 hours of low water, and in some cases, absolutely no water supply ended yesterday around 5 pm. City residents, who were seen scouring around with buckets and buying bottles of water on Sunday, were able to breathe a sigh of relief.

Water supply to the city was disrupted on Saturday afternoon after a freak storm, which uprooted trees and damaged roofs in some areas, disabled a transformer at the Guyana Water Incorporated (GWI) Shelter Belt Water Treatment Plant at Vlissengen Road.

However, a specialized team from Guyana Power and Light (GPL) was yesterday midday able to restore the power supply to the Shelter Belt and several hours later residents in the city were receiving full water supply.

Areas furthest from the plant were the worst affected. However, many residents to whom this newspaper spoke, though disgruntled, seemed to have taken it in stride, noting that there could have been no prior warning.

Yesterday water supply companies did brisk business, as many persons and firms that would have used all they had stored in tanks sought to replenish them.

A press release from Guyana Water Incorporated (GWI) around 4.50 pm yesterday said GPL had rectified the electrical problem, which affected the normal water distribution. It said the GWI anticipated a return to normal water supply from 5 pm yesterday following the replenishing of the Shelter-Belt reservoir.

Checks by this newspaper revealed that residents in several of the affected areas were indeed receiving water at the normal pressure around 5 pm.

Meanwhile, at a press conference held earlier, Sizwe Jackson, acting managing director of GWI said the company depended on power from GPL to run the facility. He said mechanical pumps at Shelter Belt were being used following the damage to the transformer on Saturday but the water pressure was at 5 PSI (pounds per square inch).

"All our reservoirs were filled from the pumps working through much of the night and that is how come around 7.30 this morning we were able to deliver water," he said.

He added that some time back the water company experienced this same situation when there was a power shortage and since then two generators were acquired, but the cables that are to supply them with power were stolen.

The Inter-American Deve-lopment Bank (IDB), he said, made US$40,000 available to GWI to replace the cables and this could be accomplished in another two to three weeks.

In addition to the generator, Jackson said, some work was also being done to improve the treatment plant at Shelter Belt, which has been in existence since 1950.

Meanwhile the Public Relations Officer (PRO) Timothy Austin noted that there had been reports about persons breaking pipes and mains to get water but these were insignificant.

In a release issued at the press conference, GWI said that following the storm on Saturday afternoon a transformer supplying GWI'S Shelter Belt Water Treatment Plant experienced a malfunction. A further investigation revealed that internal electrical components of the Treatment Plant were also damaged.

GPL responded promptly on Sunday morning and rectified the damage transformer, which is now fully functional. However, a specialist team was required to repair the internal electrical components. That team arrived promptly yesterday morning to effect repairs.

Meanwhile, GWI mobilized stand-by generators and had begun assisting key institutions such as Woodlands Hospital and the Amerindian Hostel; using a 5000-gallon water tanker from the Civil Defence Commission (CDC), it began delivering water to areas in South Georgetown such as D'Urban Street and Albouystown. This was because customers in proximity to Shelter Belt were more likely to receive water at standpipe level.

Meanwhile, GPL said in a press release that the furious windstorm which hit Guyana's coastline on Saturday afternoon left in its wake major damage to GPL's transmission and distribution networks in all three counties.

Berbice, the press release said, was the hardest hit and the entire system went down for a brief period on Saturday.

When the storm abated, reports of power outages from the network damage began to come in and by Sunday evening, control/emergency centres had accumulated more than 150 reports, which were being rectified as they came in. It added that on Saturday, the priority areas were identified and all the main feeders were quickly put back in service.

However, the sheer magnitude of the network incidents prevented GPL from restoring power to every affected consumer right away.

Yesterday, technicians were able to complete more than 90 percent of the network repairs. Most of the remaining areas have been repowered but work in South Ruimveldt, Meadow Brook and Tucville was slowed down by the dense vegetations in the alleyways were the power structures are located.

Technicians were expected to complete the remaining repairs on the East Coast, West Coast Demerara and in East and West Berbice by yesterday evening, the release added.

CDEMA Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency. Resilience Way, Lower Estate, St. Michael Tel: (246) 434-4880, Fax: (246) 271-3660
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