Hi-tech water mains upgrade

Barbados’ century-old water mains are in line for major upgrades.

With technology that has never been used in Barbados or elsewhere in the Caribbean, the Barbados Water Authority (BWA) will replace the water systems using pipe bursting and horizontal directional drilling.

The BWA’s water and sanitation project, which began in January, is a US$50 million initiative funded by the Inter-American Development Bank.

BWA project engineer Shelley Parris told a Press briefing yesterday at Mount Pleasant, St Philip, that the mains’ replacement would cover a distance of 49 lilometres across the country, and would be carried out in three packages.

From left, Jake Belgrave, BWA engineering assistant; Chad Blanchard, Direct Tech Drilling construction manager; Scott Kiah, AMEC construction manager; BWA project engineer Shelley Parris; Roger Gill, INFRA Inc. project manager; Sherwyn Grogan, INFRA Inc. site clerk, observing the areas where Package B of the project will be implemented.
From left, Jake Belgrave, BWA engineering assistant; Chad Blanchard, Direct Tech Drilling construction manager; Scott Kiah, AMEC construction manager; BWA project engineer Shelley Parris; Roger Gill, INFRA Inc. project manager; Sherwyn Grogan, INFRA Inc. site clerk, observing the areas where Package B of the project will be implemented.

“Package A’s set of works is concentrated primarily in the Christ Church and St Philip areas, whereas Package B’s is primarily in St John and St Joseph. Package C’s is taking basically the rest of the island; that is, St George, St Michael and St Lucy.

“At this point some of the works have started; there are three sites active: Stewart Hill which encompasses Massiah Street to Moncrieff; the second site, Applewaites/Bibby’s Lane, St Michael; and the third site, St Lucy where we are going from around Content, St Lucy, through Selah, Greenidge’s, Bright Hall [and] Conell Town. It’s approximately eight kilometres going in a ring around St Lucy,” Parris explained.

This process, the BWA engineer said, will replace the oldest main in the country “known loosely in the BWA as the Springs Main, and its sources take in the Cordrington College Springs, as well as Ben’s Spring in St John”.

“This replacement is significant . . . ,” Parris stated. It is one of the mains that have been having significant issues because of its location in the Scotland District with the slipping soils.”

It’s a move that partners in the project, JADA Builders Inc./INFRA Inc. Construction and American firm Direct Tech Drilling, say would benefit the country, especially its environment.

From left, Roger Gill, INFRA Inc. project manger; Sherwyn Grogan, INFRA Inc. site clerk; Chad Blanchard, Direct Tech Drilling construction manager; and Shelley Parris, BWA project engineer, examining the pipes to be laid in the St John area.
From left, Roger Gill, INFRA Inc. project manger; Sherwyn Grogan, INFRA Inc. site clerk; Chad Blanchard, Direct Tech Drilling construction manager; and Shelley Parris, BWA project engineer, examining the pipes to be laid in the St John area.

“With the directional drilling you don’t actually cut an open trench, as you have seen throughout Barbados before. You open a trench on the East Coast and there is excessive water. All the lands uphill are prone to slippage.

“When we use the directional drilling we don’t actually cut a trench; so we don’t disturb the soil. So this technology will not encourage slippage of the soils.

“These technologies are useful in areas where the soil is unstable; and everybody knows that the East Coast has clay soils and they are unstable; and doing open trenching can cause some issues. So that’s why we are employing these technologies,” Roger Gill, project manager of INFRA Inc., explained.

Chad Blanchard is the construction manager of Direct Tech Drilling out of Louisiana, and helping officials with the project. He said the technology was widely used “all across the United States. We have used it in other countries as well, [and] down in Africa”.

The pipe bursting “allows you to be able to run pipe through the existing pipe and not disrupt sidewalks, streets, tear up trees, tear up lawns, stuff like that. [With] the drilling technology the only water outage you will have is once the drilling is completed, when we tie it to the existing main. So you are probably looking at one day to coordinate all that; maybe four hours”.

“With the drilling technology we can drill up to a mile long without disturbing the environment, which is critical . . . ,” Blanchard said.

The officials say the project, which is scheduled to be completed by March, 2016, would also see water outages around the island cut dramatically.

The new pipes are expected to last up to 100 years.

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