Nedburn Thaffe, Gleaner Writer
The waters of the Kingston Harbour are considered one of the most highly polluted in the Caribbean, but with the right touch of human ingenuity and technology, it is already proving to be a refreshing treat for those who dare to take a sip.
Considering that the National Environment and Planning Agency has listed improper sewage treatment and disposal as the main contributor to the pollution of the harbour, it is easily understood why many would want to steer clear of tasting its waters.
However, director of the School of Advanced Skills at the Caribbean Maritime Institute (CMI), Osric Forrest, and his students are working to turn things around, and pretty soon, Jamaicans could be stocking up on water from the dreaded harbour.
"It is polluted, but if you travel internationally, most of the best spots you go to, the water is actually treated water - sewage. So the water produced here is still top of the game. This is one of the few projects we have where we actually utilise the Kingston Harbour in creating ways to satisfy our need, which is drinking water, a typical need," Forrest told The Gleaner.
Strategy to be different
He said the initiative began as one of CMI's major projects with the "whole concept of climate change and mitigation" in mind. It is also part of CMI's strategy to be different.
"We are actually using a typical process, which is reverse osmosis. What is new is that we have used solar energy to drive the system, so there is no immediate cost in terms of energy fossil fuels," Forrest said.
The technology to purify and package the water, he said, costs between US$5,000 and US$10,000.
Currently, the treated water is also packaged at the same plant on the institution's compound, and Forrest said he is looking to market both the plant and the treated water.
According to him, Pedro Cays might just be one of the first areas to benefit.
"We are planning to roll it out [for] the fisherfolks around the island who have problems with water for sanitation purposes ... . We are looking at the Pedro Cays where we could have this portable, renewable energy system that can be set up in a small area to provide the drinking water."
He said the institution is currently seeking funding and assistance from support agencies to buy into the project.
"We are a training institution. We don't have the resources, but once anybody comes on-board, we will open the doors to the technology. We also will improve it, customise it based on where it is going, and we can do the training of the staff and offer support services in terms of technical assistance."