Bills OK private wastewater system

Three separate bills that could come before the Cayman Islands Legislative Assembly as early as this week would allow the government to set up a privately run wastewater system on all or part of Grand Cayman.

The proposals give Cabinet members the discretion to determine whether one company is allowed to service the entire Island or whether certain areas will be designated for various providers.

Any licence or ‘concession’ to operate a wastewater system would have to be sought in conjunction with the Water Authority and that contract would be subject to terms of a licence issued by the Water Authority. The authority is generally given a great deal of regulatory power in relation to the concessionaire or concessionaires for the wastewater system.

Those powers include reviewing and approving annual capital investment plans for the private wastewater companies, reviewing the financial records of such companies, and the ability to call any person from the company to verify information provided.

Water Authority-Cayman Director Gelia Frederick van Genderen says, as far as service goes, any areas where sewage services are provided and must be switched over to the private system will be done without cost to those 
property owners.

“All properties that are existing at the time wastewater services are extended into the area will be connected at no cost to the property owner,” Mrs. Frederick-van Genderen said. “New properties will be required to pay a connection fee.”

“The company will charge connected properties for the wastewater service provided…as the Water Authority currently charges its customers on the sewerage system and companies that dispose of septage at the wastewater treatment works.”

The specifics of how any of those new connections occur are left up to whatever entity is providing the new service. Precisely who that might be depends on a bidding process now being conducted by the government.

Premier McKeeva Bush said last month that no fewer than 
eight companies had expressed interest in bidding on the sewage system.

According to bid documents, the successful firm will be required to expand the existing system to meet 
future demands under an exclusive licence. Cayman’s wastewater treatment plant can treat 2.5 million gallons of sewage per day and handles 2 million gallons a day, as well as about 20,000 gallons of partially treated sewage delivered by commercial sewage haulers.

The winning bidder will be required to have more than 10 years’ experience providing wastewater service for public authorities for systems serving at least 60,000 people and must be able to fund operations without financing from the government.

The bid for the sewage system is separate from a proposal to lease the Water Authority, which the government is also considering.

The private company that wins the bid for an area will have the ability to cut off service for nonpayment and to charge for incidental expenses incurred. It also has the ability to employ inspectors that can enter a premises for repairs or adjustments as needed.

However, the government will further regulate the private entity by establishing a Compensation Assessment Tribunal under the Wastewater Collection and Treatment Bill, 2010. The tribunal’s job is to assess and award compensation claimed from the wastewater services provided on Island.

The tribunal will be made up of a lawyer, a person with technical knowledge of the wastewater industry and a layperson. The appointment of members and handling of appeals to the tribunal will be established by Cabinet. Decisions made by the tribunal can be appealed on points of law only, otherwise any award of compensation is enforced as if it were an award made by the Grand Court.

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