Efforts Shift to Alternative Solution for Grindavík Water Leak

The search for a leak in the Grindavík hot water pipeline, buried under lava from a January eruption, has been abandoned. An auxiliary pipeline is being planned, with efforts underway to complete the project as swiftly and efficiently as possible.

Search for leak abandoned

As reported last week, the pressure in the hot water pipeline leading to Grindavík has been low due to significant leaks both in the main conduit to Grindavík and in the town’s distribution system. The pipeline was buried underneath lava originating from an eruption that occurred on January 14. After the leak was discovered, a search for the source of the malfunction began, and efforts were made to repair the pipeline as soon as possible.

The search for the leak has now been abandoned due to difficult conditions, Sigrún Inga Ævarsdóttir, Communications and Marketing Manager with the utility company HS Veitur, told Mbl.is this morning: “We were unable to locate the leak under the lava. The conditions were such that it was impossible to dig down to the pipeline to locate the leak,” Sigrún stated.

Auxiliary pipeline to be installed

Sigrún added that preparations were underway to install an auxiliary pipeline over the lava in consultation with civil defence authorities: “This is essentially the same strategy that was adopted after lava from the eruption on February 8 damaged the so-called Njarðvíkur conduit,” she observed.

When asked, Sigrún could not specify when the pipeline would be ready but mentioned it would take several days. A detailed timeline will be announced in the coming days: “Work is being carried out day and night, with great effort to complete this quickly and efficiently,” Sigrún remarked.

As reported this morning, the Chairman of the Grindavík Workers’ Union has criticised the reopening of Grindavík, citing, among other things, inadequate infrastructure, such as the unsteady flow of hot and cold water into town.

New Water Pipeline Completed, Hot Water Returning to Reykjanes

lava, hraun, eruption, eldgos, hot water pipe

Residents of the Reykjanes peninsula, who have been without hot water since an eruption damaged a pipeline last Thursday, may finally be able to take a hot shower later today, RÚV reports. A new pipeline was completed around 1:00 AM last night and has been successfully transporting water to reserve tanks since around 3:00 AM this morning. Some 30,000 residents on the peninsula have been without hot water and heating since lava flowed across the main hot water pipeline from Svartsengi Power Station.

Using plug-in heaters to heat homes

The vast majority of homes on the Reykjanes peninsula are heated with hot water from Svartsengi, a geothermal power plant. The hot water outage began shortly after noon on Thursday, when the hot water pipeline serving the peninsula was damaged. Residents were urged to lower the temperature in their homes to extend the availability of hot water as long as possible, but by Thursday evening, reserves were depleted. Many rushed to buy electric radiators, gas tanks, and heater fans to keep their homes warm. Several schools in the area were closed as a result of the outage.

Construction completed ahead of schedule

Construction on the new pipeline had begun before the eruption, but when the outage occurred, it was put in full swing. Welders, plumbers, excavation workers, and others worked throughout the weekend to get the new pipeline completed and did so ahead of schedule. Hot water is now filling the tanks, and could reach homes as early as tonight, though it may still take up to a few days. Authorities ask residents to continue limiting their electricity use to 3 KW per home in order to avoid outages, particularly in the evening when strain on the system increases.

Further eruptions expected

The eruption that occurred last Thursday is the third in the area in three months. While it appears to already be over, further eruptions are expected. Geological activity, including land rise at Svartsengi, indicates that magma is once again collecting below the surface of the Reykjanes peninsula.

Read more about the series of eruptions that began on the Reykjanes peninsula in 2021.

Emergency Efforts Underway to Restore Heat in Suðurnes

eruption, eldgos, civil protection dept. almannavarnir, Sundhnjúkargígjarröð

The Reykjanes peninsula experienced a volcanic eruption that led to a hot water outage across Suðurnes since noon yesterday. Efforts are underway to establish an auxiliary water pipeline to restore hot water, with residents and critical facilities like nursing homes receiving emergency heaters in the meantime.

Suðurnes without hot water since noon yesterday

Following a volcanic eruption that began on the Reykjanes peninsula at 6 AM yesterday, lava eventually flowed over and breached the so-called Njarðvíkur conduit, a pipeline that transports hot water from the Svartsengi geothermal power plant to the towns in Suðurnes: Vogar, Reykjanesbær, Garður, Sandgerði, and Grindavík.

Shortly after noon, the utility company HS Veitur reported that a hot-water outage had occurred in the upper areas of the Reykjanesbær municipality and the towns of Sandgerði and Garður. The rest of Suðurnes soon followed. Residents were urged to lower the temperature in their homes to extend the availability of hot water as long as possible. 

In response to the hot-water outage, many also waited in long lines to buy electric radiators, gas tanks, and heater fans. Several schools in the area were closed, and the Keflavík International Airport was likewise without hot water. 

Working to connect an auxiliary pipeline

As soon as it was clear that the pipeline had been damaged, a group of workers began working on welding bypass connections to a new auxiliary water pipeline to compensate for the old Njarðvík conduit. This group of workers included welders, plumbers, excavation workers, and more. Although the night was uneventful regarding the eruption itself — it could conclude as early as today or the weekend — efforts to connect the new auxiliary pipeline were in full swing.

In an interview with RÚV this morning, Hjördís Guðmundsdóttir, Communication Manager with the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management, stated that work on the new pipeline was progressing well. 

As noted by RÚV, the civil protection authorities purchased heaters for those who couldn’t do so themselves, such as for nursing homes and hospitals: “The approximately 100 heaters that were purchased were delivered to operation control in Suðurnes to be distributed to those who could not secure such items for themselves,” Hjördís remarked. “They have been very useful, especially at the Nesvellir and Hlíðarvangur nursing homes. We have also ordered a large quantity of heaters, which will arrive in the country today.”

The foremost priority of the civil protection authorities is to restore heat. Hjördís emphasised, however, that this process could take some time, assuring residents that the authorities would continually update residents on the progress: “As we have already noted, even though the auxiliary pipeline is connected, it will take time to restore heat to the system. So, it will remain cold today, but we hope that the process will proceed quickly and securely.”

Westman Islands Company Turns to Seawater Purifiers Amid Crisis

Heimaklettur

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.