June 17, 2013

By Bill Jaynes
The Kaselehlie Press

June 10, 2013 Pohnpei, FSM - On Friday, June 7, Pohnpei Utilities Corporation celebrated the opening of the Sekere to COM water extension project when it turned on the well in Uhkalek, Palikir. The U.S. Government funded the project which includes a new two and half mile run of 8 inch water pipe. The pipeline originates in Sekere and ends at the College of Micronesia FSM National Campus.

The project cost approximately $1.5 million and will service the customers along the route including the COM National Campus. The pipeline also services new fire hydrants positioned at approximately every 1000 feet along the stretch of the pipe.

A spokesperson at the FSM's Project Management Unit (PMU) says that the project is phase one of a much larger project. During phase two, an additional run of pipe carrying clean drinking water will be laid from COM and will terminate approximately eight miles further down the circumferential road near the bridge at the Lehnmesi River.

Phase two of the project has not yet been put out to bid. Though the PMU does have a cost projection for that phase of the project they asked that we not print that information so that it does not influence the bidding process.

According to Robert Hadley who is in charge of all of PUC's water and sewage projects, in 2007 the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers drilled three more wells that have not yet been put into service. Phase one of the water project provided additional security for the wells including new fencing and plumbing to connect the wells to the pipe. However, the electrical components to get the wells online were relegated to phase two of the project.

Hadley said that PUC is not waiting around for phase two to start. "We've ordered the electrical components at our own [PUC's] expense to get those wells on line," he told us.

He said that the new water line is not yet able to provide a redundant water source to the rest of the system. For that he said that a booster pump is needed. He indicated that the pump is part of phase two of the water project. The PMU representative was not aware of that but said that it is something that would be worked out with PUC.

"One of the critical justifications for the expansion of the treated water was the outbreak of cholera in year 2000, which killed 15 people and impacted over 2,000," Lt. Governor Marcelo Peterson said in a prepared speech during the ceremony. "Treated water is the best prevention of cholera and it connects people through the use of water resources from various municipalities of Pohnpei State."

"The Center for Disease Control Report of 2000 states that, 'With the right conditions, a cholera epidemic can occur again,'" he continued. "The best prevention is treated water. There is still a need for more water line extension with the Compact Infrastructure Grant Fund."

"We would like to formally invite the U.S. Military Humanitarian Assistance Program to join PUC to develop 2- or more wells to continue moving PUC water system from surface water source to well water source. The Nanpil Dam will then be 100% dedicated to hydro power production," he boldly stated. "Our invitation will of course need the blessing of U.S. and Micronesian Governments who are present here today."

Currently, the Nanpil Dam provides 2.2 million gallons of water a day. All of the other wells currently in service combined generate a total of 1.7 million gallons of water a day to serve approximate 3500 water users. The wells require electricity in order to pump water.

"With the need for a large investment in power system and revenue generation, we are seeking FSM Congress at this session to move on appropriating $2 million for PUC at the same time I request the joint support of ADB and OIA to approve the allocation of the unobligated funds of about $2.5 million from the PUC Sewer Rehabilitation Loan to be used for power crisis mitigation," he said "It has been done for Chuuk Public Utilities Corporation Emergency Generators Purchase and Operation, Maintenance and Management."

He closed by saying that the day's turnover ceremony is a prime example of the kind of collaboration that can make big things happen.