Westman Islands Company Turns to Seawater Purifiers Amid Crisis Skip to content

Westman Islands Company Turns to Seawater Purifiers Amid Crisis

By Ragnar Tómas

Photo: Vestmannaeyjar town with Heimaklettur mountain in the background.

After an Emergency Phase was declared in the Westman Islands due to a damaged drinking water pipeline, VSV, a local fishing company, has purchased three containers for seawater purification. VSV plans to use one container for its needs and has offered the others to another local company and the municipality of the Westman Islands.

Emergency Phase declared

At the end of last month, the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management declared an Emergency Phase in the Westman Islands after the only drinking water pipeline that runs from the mainland to the Westman Islands was damaged beyond repair. While the pipe is still fully functional, it could break at any moment, leaving Heimaey island’s 4,523 inhabitants without water. The pipe was damaged on November 17 when the trawler Huginn VE unintentionally dropped an anchor on it, which then got stuck on the pipe.

As noted on VSV’s website yesterday, the fishing company has secured the purchase of three containers capable of converting seawater into drinking water. The first container is expected to arrive in the country between Christmas and New Year, with the remaining two arriving early next year.

The press release further notes that since the company only needs one container to meet its own needs, Ísfélagið, another fishing company based in the Westman Islands, and the municipality of the Westman Islands have been offered to buy the other two. Each container and its equipment cost approximately ISK 100 million [$718,000 / €666,000], and it is relatively simple to connect the equipment to the municipal or company water systems.

Green light from Africa

Willum Andersen, VSV’s Technical Operations Manager, revealed that their quest for water purification equipment began after the pipeline was damaged. “We initiated an extensive search for seawater filtration technology, a method prevalent in Florida, USA, the Arabian Peninsula, and many African countries. Despite contacting about 40 global manufacturers, production times ranged from 20 to 40 weeks, too long for our urgent needs,” Willum is quoted as saying on the company’s website. 

In a fortunate turn of events, VSV discovered a Dutch company ready to ship three containers to an African client. These clients were amenable to postponing their order, allowing VSV to step in. “We received approval from the African party midweek, leading to our signing purchase agreements today. Each container, including equipment and delivery to our location, costs between ISK 90-100 million [$718,000 / €666,000], plus installation expenses. Setting up the necessary connections for water production is a quick process,” Willum confirmed. 

VSV’s website details the technology: seawater, drawn from boreholes, undergoes intensive filtration, producing crystal clear, contaminant-free water. Each container can generate approximately 600 tonnes of water daily, totalling 1,800 tonnes if all are used together. This capacity can largely meet the water demands of the Westman Islands’ households and businesses. Additionally, the container’s electric pumps are energy-efficient and cost-effective to operate, VSV maintains.

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