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Protecting Wastewater Treatment Equipment During Extreme Weather

With Hurricane Season Underway, Protecting Wastewater Treatment Equipment Becomes Even More Important

Harsh Weather Patterns

Hurricane season is well underway, we have already had the 3 named storms this season. Reports from experts indicate that natural disasters and other extreme weather incidents are expected to increase in intensity not only throughout 2018, but in the future as well. The 2018 Global Risk Report issued by the World Economics Forums indicates that environmental disasters are one of the largest risks facing every major industry this year.

The 2017 hurricane season is a great example on how natural disasters can affect communities and the utilities they are accustomed to having. Following Hurricane Irma millions of people throughout the U.S., and Caribbean were left without power, and thousands were left with out access to safe drinking water. Wastewater treatment centers in both Florida & Texas saw significant damage after hurricanes Harvey, and Irma. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says that at least 40 of the 1,219 wastewater treatment centers in the area surrounding Houston were temporarily out of commission in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.

Without proper treatment, wastewater can carry all sorts of bacteria that can lead to illnesses. Combined with flooding and storm surges the influx in untreated water creates potentials for deadly outbreaks. The New York Times reported an E.Coli outbreak near Houston following Hurricane Harvey, and similar reports have come from places like Florida, and Puerto Rico.

Preparing and Protecting Treatment Facilities

As extreme weather continues to become more frequent, it is prudent for water and wastewater treatment management teams to prepare to ensure as little downtime as possible when these natural disasters do occur.  One of the most common issues at treatment plants after natural disasters is the loss of power, and this forces them to rely on back up generators. Power outages after Hurricane Irma caused millions of gallons of untreated or partially treated to overflow at utility plants across Florida.

To avoid these types of incidents water treatment facilizes should be equipped with upgrades and protection so they can function during, and after these extreme weather events. As storms are increasing in intensity and frequency, infrastructure and planning must improve accordingly. Plans for flooding, damages, and power outages must be revisited and updated to be better prepared when needed.

During times of natural disasters fuel becomes a scarce resource.  It is important for facilities managers to check fuel levels frequently. To avoid any downtime when using backup generators, managers should plan to have enough fuel to last an extended period.

Communication is key during extreme weather events, and it is imperative to have an emergency communication plan prior to an emergency. All water and wastewater treatment personnel should be aware of the plans in place for when an extreme weather event does occur. Staff members should go over their responsibilities, and contingency plans when making final preparation for extreme weather.

Taking time to ensure a wastewater facility is properly equipped to withstand extreme weather is must. As weather patterns continue to indicate more frequent and intense storms facilities managers must take appropriate action to ensure equipment upkeep, and public health. Proper planning could prevent a catastrophe.

Category: Water Trends Posted: 08/07/18 Author: Stephen
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