Sunday, October 22, 2017

About 140,000 Puerto Rico water utility customers get service restored

By on October 9, 2017

SAN JUAN – Thousands of Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority (Prasa) customers finally got water service Monday after the La Plata reservoir got power back.

“Today I announce that we will power La Plata. This is very positive news because it represents possibly the largest customer increase we have had in a one-day period. This represents about 140,000 customers who will have water,” the governor said in a press conference earlier in the day.

Gov. Ricardo Rosselló speaks at the podium during a press conference. (Jaime Rivera/CB)

About 59.5% of Prasa clients already had service Monday, but mostly from thousands of portable generators used at the public water utility’s 4,000 facilities that have yet to be provided electricity directly from the electric grid. In the case of the La Plata Reservoir, the delay to perform electrical repairs were due to poor weather preventing the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (Prepa) from powering a tower at the reservoir.

During a press conference with Alejandro De la Campa, the local director for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and Security Commissioner Héctor Pesquera, the government reiterated that the administration’s priority is to provide power to the island’s hospitals either by generator or direct Prepa service, as well as to restore communications, power, water and cargo at the ports.

He emphasized that he wants to take advantage of the collapse of the electric grid to transform it in collaboration with FEMA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Over the weekend, a substation at the San Juan Central power complex collapsed, leaving the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport, the Río Piedras Medical Center and thousands of customers in the San Juan metropolitan area without power again.

“This shows the fragility of our system…. We cannot invest a lot of money and then be at the [mercy] of a storm…. We have to build a robust system…. Our goal is to evaluate and see what is the best system we can have in Puerto Rico, that is modern; that allows us a real opportunity to see transformative changes with the distribution system,” he said.

Puerto Rico water utility: services to be restored despite looming gov’t insolvency

The governor is exploring the possibility of transforming the power grid to one comprised by independent microgrids to prevent total power outages on the island during a disaster.

In fact, over the weekend Tesla CEO Elon Musk offered via Twitter to help rebuild the electric grid using solar power technology. The governor challenged him via Twitter to use Puerto Rico to demonstrate the capabilities of his technology. “Let’s talk,” Rosselló tweeted back.

Regarding the reasons why he did not accept help from private brigades to restore the electric system, Rosselló said some of the firms that approached the public utility before Hurricane María raked the island required a down payment and the alternative of federal assistance from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was available.

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