Solomon Water over the past few weeks has been forced to shut down the water supply to customers in Honiara due to the high turbidity (dirt and silt) experienced during heavy rain.
With no Water Treatment Plant in place, every time there is prolonged heavy rain, Solomon Water will be forced to shut down production and supply from its three surface water sources, Solomon Water said in a statement.
The incidences of high turbid water during rain time have become more intense and severe in the last four months, it was revealed.
But recent investigations by Solomon Water into the cause of this have discovered a large saw-milling operation using heavy machinery working without the required government approvals and consent in the Kongulai water catchment area, the statement added.
Solomon Water Chief Executive Officer Ian Gooden said, “Despite knowing the impact of saw-milling and the need to have licenses and development consents for this activity, we believe the operators have ignored the law and health risks to tens of thousands of people in Honiara.
“Satellite photographs suggest they began sawmilling in upper Tamuni above Kongulai about August 2020 and we first started noticing a change in the water coming to Kongulai in December.
“The recent heavy and continuous rains however made this a major priority for us to investigate more fully,” he said.
Solomon Water notes that even though the sawmilling may stop, the damage caused to the environment by the removal of many trees and associated earthworks will take many months if not years to recover.
Meanwhile, Solomon Water said there will be ongoing shutdowns to the water supply as the silt gets washed down by rain.
“The cash impact to Solomon Water over the past 2 years from logging and sawmilling in the Kongulai and Kohove water catchments are nearing $30 million, and all customers of Solomon Water are impacted by having to pay these costs through the water tariff,” the statement said.
Solomon Water said, it sincerely regrets the inconvenience caused to its customers and treats this issue seriously.
The construction of Kongulai water treatment plant is in its final tender stage and the construction contract should be awarded in April.
The construction will take up to 20 months and the plant should be operational by early 2023.
Even though the plant will be able to treat most dirty water, the catchment area still needs to be properly managed and Solomon Water is working on projects and initiatives to support landowners to protect and preserve the water catchment area.
Solomon Water is also working with the Police and ministries of Environment and Forestry to stop this illegal activity and hold the offenders accountable. “These operators clearly have a total disregard for the law and the people of Honiara who have been severely inconvenienced by their activities.
“We believe that there are breaches of the Environment, Forestry, and SIWA Act through this indiscriminate milling,” the statement from Solomon Water said.