In addition to the cost of water, government is dishing out nearly $1 million per month to Seven Seas Water for operations and maintenance at the Paraquita Bay desalination plant, according to Communications and Works Minister Kye Rymer.
“We pay Seven Seas for the possibility of producing up to 2.3 million gallons of water daily, which is just shy of $1 million per month, and then we pay them the going rate for the water they actually produce and sell to us; plus, we have to pay BVI Electricity Corporation for the electricity to the plant,” Mr. Rymer said during an Oct. 31 House of Assembly meeting. “There are times I wish I was there to negotiate this contract, for I can assure you that I would have had greater consideration for the taxpayers of this territory.”
The details emerged during a statement where Mr. Rymer attempted to “debunk” some “public misconceptions” about the Paraquita Bay water plant.
“There is a misconception that the government is obligated to pay Seven Seas, the company that bought the plant from Biwater in 2015, for 2.3 million gallons of water daily, whether the government takes the water or not,” he said. “It is important to note that this contract has three payment cost components: there is a capacity charge, a consumption charge, and an electricity charge.”
The three components
According to Mr. Rymer, the capacity charge is just under $1 million per month and covers the cost of plant operations and maintenance.
“The capacity, in this case, is at a base flow of 2.3 million gallons of water per day,” he added. “This means the plant is constructed with the ability to produce a minimum of 2.3 million gallons of water per day.”
Mr. Rymer went on to say that the consumption charge includes the amount of water taken from the plant, which is monitored by monthly meter readings.
“Therefore, in addition to the capacity charge to maintain the plant to produce the 2.3 million gallons daily, the government then pays for the water it receives,” he said. “The electricity charge is also paid by the government.”
‘Current’ with bills
The minister didn’t give figures for how much the contract costs the government each year in total, but when the opposition asked him last month whether any money was owed, he said government was “current” with its bills.
At the time, he added that the full 2.3 million gallons of water were not being produced or used daily, but he didn’t offer more details.
Mr. Rymer also said on Oct. 31 that government is working toward a situation report on the infrastructure for water distribution in the territory. He described the water distribution network as “failing infrastructure” in need of an “urgent upgrade.”
“In most cases, the pipes are old, undersized and in areas where they are vulnerable to vehicular impact,” he said. “The reality is all [the Water and Sewage Department is] doing is putting Band-Aids on the sores until we complete a full assessment, diagnosis and rehabilitation of the entire water infrastructure.”