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    WAPA problems cause rolling blackouts in St. Thomas-St. John


    August 10, 2022 - Suzanne Carlson, The Virgin Islands Daily News, St. Thomas

     

      Aug. 10—ST. THOMAS — A fuel leak at the Harley Power Plant caused a series of rolling blackouts Tuesday on St. Thomas and St. John, disrupting life for residents and customers across the district.

      The V.I. Water and Power Authority was unable to generate enough electricity to meet the district's needs, and published a "power rotation schedule" online and issued alerts. But at least one of those notifications came after power had already been cut to certain feeders, leaving customers without any reliable way to know when the electricity to their homes and businesses might come or go.

      "We deeply apologize for the repeated outages and recognize that this is a burden on the community. Unfortunately, our generators are dated and in dire need of maintenance. Today our plant personnel identified a fuel leak impacting one of our generation units, which required immediate repair and was the cause of today's power rotation," according to an email from Nyomi Gumbs, WAPA's interim director of corporate communications, in response to questions from The Daily News.

      Following a brief outage at around 5 p.m. Monday, and another loss of generation capacity around 3 a.m. Tuesday, the plant went down again around 6 a.m.

      "Fortunately, we were able to get a welding team onsite to quickly repair the unit's damaged supply pipe and the rotation schedule has since been discontinued. All feeders are currently online," Gumbs said in the message sent just before 5 p.m. Tuesday.

      Customers ran their own generators for hours to make up the shortfall at WAPA, and government business was affected by the blackouts.

      Just after 11 a.m. Tuesday, the Human Services Department announced that they had temporarily closed the Knud Hansen Complex on St. Thomas "due to a WAPA electrical service interruption affecting the building and surrounding areas. A fuse malfunction caused the building's generator to trip and power down, thus supplemental electricity could not be restored to the complex as well," according to a press release. "The VI Department of Human Services apologizes for any inconvenience. The St. Thomas Knud Hansen Complex will reopen once power is fully restored."

      The shed housing the emergency generator at Queen Louise Home for the Aged also caught fire at approximately 11 a.m. Tuesday, "creating a potentially hazardous situation. As a precaution, the Virgin Islands Fire Service was called to assess the situation and did so expeditiously. The small fire was extinguished, and VIFS personnel verified that no other hazards existed," according to a news release.

      "Due to the quick action of the Queen Louise Home for the Aged employees and the Virgin Islands Fire Service, no staff or residents were affected by the incident. Our DHS Operations team developed a plan of action to ensure this does not happen in the future," Commissioner Kimberley Causey-Gomez said in the statement.

      The Economic Development Authority board also met virtually via Zoom on Tuesday, but participants struggled to stay connected to the meeting due to the rolling blackouts throughout the district.

      — Contact Suzanne Carlson at 340-714-9122 or email scarlson@dailynews.vi.

      ___

      (c)2022 The Virgin Islands Daily News (St. Thomas, VIR)

      Visit The Virgin Islands Daily News (St. Thomas, VIR) at www.virginislandsdailynews.com

      Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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