GE contracted to repair Palo Seco powerplant for $4.7 million
SAN JUAN – The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (Prepa) has contracted General Electric to repair the “structural problems” of the Palo Seco powerplant in Toa Baja for $4.7 million, according to a report prepared by Island Structures Engineering, Public Affairs and Public Policy Secretary Ramón Rosario announced.
The report noted that some of the plant’s structures are at risk of imminent collapse, resulting in Prepa Executive Director Ricardo Ramos prohibiting its use to generate power despite the utility needing to generate 83% more than it currently is to provide service to Puerto Rico, which has been without electricity due to the destruction wrought by Hurricane María four weeks ago.
Others believe the report does not say Palo Seco should not be fired up and are demanding it be used because it is one of the few powerplants on the northern part of the island.
“The contract was awarded earlier this week. It was being negotiated since the report came out before [Hurricane María]. The number fell from $7 million to $4.7 million. Why General Electric? Because it’s the company that made the plant,” Rosario explained in a press conference in which he updated data related to the hurricane’s aftermath.
The official said the repair process could “take some time,” thus before Palo Seco is used “we will have solutions.” Among these is the placement of generators at the Palo Seco site by Weston Solutions, which was contracted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), and the connection of power from the island’s southern region to the north.
“We’ll see along the way” if, while being repaired, Palo Seco can be turned on to produce power and finally give a boost to the weakened Puerto Rican electric grid, he added.
More Prepa brigades
The public affairs Secretary stressed that the government plans to have a total of 966 Prepa repair brigades so 95% of the utility’s customers enjoy service by the end of December, as promised by Gov. Ricardo Rosselló.
At the moment, Prepa has 231 brigades, but the contracts granted to private companies have raised the number to “close to 300.” Specifically, the government has hired two companies, Whitefish Energy and Power Secure, but the contract amounts has not been revealed.
Regarding Power Secure, Rosario explained that, although he called it a contract, it is not a document “with a number” because the company is evaluating the work it will perform, “but they have already been given instructions to come to Puerto Rico to add additional brigades,” he said.
Water utility serving fewer customers
Rosario also acknowledged that the number of customers with water service dropped from 72% to 65.43% in the past two days, which affected mainly parts of the metropolitan area.
The executive president of the Aqueduct and Sewer Authority (Prasa), Elí Díaz, explained the change came about after two Carraízo reservoir pumps had to be turned off due to a high presence of sediment and turbidity in the water, which will continue to be the case while the rains continue.
“There was a lot of rain during the day yesterday [Monday]. This brings a lot of sediment. You have to control water production a bit. Two of the pumps that pump water from Carraízo to the Sergio Cuevas plant [in Trujillo Alto] were turned off. For Prasa employees, quality and compliance with water quality standards is the priority,” Díaz said.
Thirty percent of the potable water production was affected by this situation.
Prasa’s chief added that one of those pumps has since been turned on and therefore expects customers will again have water service restored.
As of Tuesday, 77% of Prasa’s metro area customers have water. In the northern part of the island the figure is lower, at 39%; in the west, 49%, in the south, 80%; and 71% in the east.