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Algae blamed for Desalcott problem

Saturday, February 22 2014

AN UNUSUALLY high algae content in the seawater is being blamed for decreased water output by the Desalination Company (Desalcott) to the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) which led to areas in central and south Trinidad receiving a reduced water supply.

Desalcott officials yesterday said that from February to April 2013 and also this month, intake of seawater to the plant, included an unusually high algae content. This must be removed before passing the seawater through the reverse osmosis membrane system which removes the dissolved solids in the seawater such as salt.

“Removal of the algae was time consuming and the plant is currently restricted to a capacity of 27 million gallons per day (MGD). In other countries, desalination plants are completely shut down when algal blooms occur,” revealed a Desalcott statement

An algal bloom is a rapid increase or accumulation in the population of algae (typically microscopic) in an aquatic system. Although there is no officially recognised threshold level, algae can be considered blooming at concentrations of hundreds to thousands of cells per millilitre, depending on the severity while algal bloom concentrations may reach millions of cells per millilitre.

The company also pointed out that it was working with both WASA and the Institute of Marine Affairs (IMA) to overcome the problem and noted that the plant was also undergoing major expansion from 24 MGD to 40 MGD.

“The plant is currently in a semi-expanded state and when possible additional deliveries of purified water above 24 MGD are being provided to WASA,” Desalcott added.

However, the company also expressed regret to both WASA and its customers saying, “we are striving to complete the expansion to 40 MGD as soon as possible.”

In a media statement, WASA observed that Desalcott’s average 32 million gallons of water per day (mgd), had been cutback to 27 mgd, for the next fourteen (14) days saying, “this situation has had an adverse effect on WASA’s overall supply position” and that a temporary water scheduling system had been put into place for the affected areas.

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