Work starting on new Brac water plant

Water Authority crewmembers work on the Cayman Brac piped water expansion project earlier this year. - Photo: Ken Silva

The Water Authority is kicking off preliminary work on constructing a new water plant on the Cayman Brac Bluff, a major component of its $35 million piped-water project on the sister island.

According to the latest public minutes from the Water Authority board meeting, tender documents have been issued to four bidders to conduct exploratory drilling on the Bluff. The purpose of the work is to obtain geological information necessary for the design of the extraction and disposal wells for the planned reverse osmosis plant on the Bluff.

Additionally, drilling will be conducted on Little Cayman, where the current Brac reverse osmosis plant will be moved to once the new one is constructed, the Sept. 26 meeting minutes state.

The Water Authority did not immediately respond to inquiries about when the drilling work is expected to start, or whether a contractor has been selected for the project.

The future Bluff plant is a part of the Water Authority’s plan to provide piped water to 80 percent of the Brac’s roughly 2,000 residents. According to Economics and Statistics Office data, only a little more than 14 percent of Sister Islands households have access to piped water, with the rest of them having water trucked in or relying on well water.

Along with laying some 80 miles of pipe throughout the Brac, the Water Authority is also planning on constructing the Bluff plant to increase capacity to the island.

“A key component of the infrastructure expansion plans is the construction, within the next two years, of a new water production, storage and pumping facility located on the Bluff at a higher elevation to ensure its reliable long-term operation and improve security of the island’s water supply,” the Water Authority told the Compass in July. “Additionally, this new site is centrally located within the entire Cayman Brac water distribution system (when completed).”

The Water Authority stated that the existing water production plant is located on a site that is susceptible to flooding, which makes it especially vulnerable during hurricanes and tropical storms.

Once the new water plant is built, an existing containerized reverse osmosis plant installed in 2015 will be transferred to Little Cayman to begin water production there, the Water Authority added.

Most of the work being done now is the laying of pipe along the north side of the island. The Water Authority has spent more than $4.5 million and has made more than 180 new connections since 2013, but in recent months the pipelaying crew has had to deal with damage to old pipes that were installed in 1991.

The Water Authority’s minutes state that a “major leak” was reported in the pipelines in West End Road on July 27, the third time this year that a leak has occurred. After that latest leak, the pipelaying crew started work to replace the nearly 30-year-old pipeline – a job that was expected to take about three months. Additionally, the Water Authority conducted soundness tests on other old pipelines to determine the presence of any suspect areas.

“In total six separate sections were tested. Almost all individual pipeline sections indicated some leakage, varying between 4 and 11 gpm,” the Water Authority stated in its minutes. “But a major leak (or leaks), totalling around 35 gpm, was found in the 100mm (4-inch) pipeline in West End Road West, between Church Close (road to CYB airport) and Community Road.”

The Water Authority said these repairs will be made as a matter of urgency, and that old pipes in other areas will be replaced with larger ones.