Grand Cayman will not be able to offer volcanic hot springs as a tourist attraction after all.
The mystery of the Cayman Kai drain well with water temperatures over 170 degrees Fahrenheit was solved Wednesday afternoon.
The hot water was created the same way most water is heated on Grand Cayman: by electricity.
‘It was caused by a damaged power cable,’ said the Water Authority’s water resources engineer Hendrik van Genderen.
It was originally surmised the hot water could have been created by a chemical reaction of acid with limestone.
However, such a reaction would have fizzled out once the acid was used up, and it did not, which deepened the mystery.
Mr. van Genderen visited the site at the Kaibo Condominiums and tested the temperature of other wells nearby.
‘There were several other wells in the vicinity and they all were the ambient temperature,’ he said. ‘There was only the one well that was hot.’
Mr. van Genderen then did temperature readings of that well at various depths.
‘I discovered the layer of hot water was very shallow and localised on the top of the well,’ he said, noting that temperatures below the hot water layer were normal.
Needing to investigate the area beyond the well casing, Mr. van Genderen discussed the problem with Kaibo Condos developer Bunny Foster, who volunteered to have a backhoe excavate the area around the well.
‘After digging some of the dirt, we could see the ground steaming,’ said Mr. van Genderen.
Mr. Foster mentioned there was an underground power line feeding one of the condominium buildings nearby.
‘When he switched off the breaker, the ground stopped steaming,’ said Mr. van Genderen.
Mr. Foster said the damage probably occurred when the drain well was being drilled.
‘It was an oversight on my part. I gave (the drillers) site drawings which showed the electric cables, but I should have shown them exactly where to put the well. They probably rubbed up against the cable when they were drilling.’
Mr. Foster said the parking lot where the drain well was located was scheduled for paving two weeks ago.
‘It’s a good thing it didn’t happen yet because I would have had to dig it up,’ he said.
Mr. van Genderen said he was glad the mystery was solved. ‘I’m very relieved,’ he said. ‘Now I can get back to my other work.’
Mr. Foster also said he was also happy the mystery was solved, although he would now have to heat the development’s hot tubs the normal way instead of using natural hot springs.