The Texas Rural Water Association is set up to immediately send in a wave of seven responders to help with things like waterline breaks during emergencies like Hurricane Harvey

When Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas, a number of water agencies were ready to immediately provide emergency assistance. Among them was the Texas Rural Water Association.

The group’s Rural Water Emergency Cooperative (RWEAC) is just that — a network of water professionals prepared to go into disaster areas as first responders and provide expertise and equipment needed by damaged plants and systems.

“We coordinate our own resources with the resources of our members to help in the recovery effort,” says Allison Kaminsky, the association’s communications director.

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An example was the Holiday Beach Water Corporation in Fulton, Texas, where fallen and leaning power poles had uprooted waterlines, causing numerous line breaks.

“We provided some of our own personnel, while the Special Utility District of Jonah, Texas, provided additional resources, including machinery and equipment,” Kaminsky says.

The response team helped Holiday Beach repair the waterlines and shut off meters in damaged homes.

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In another case, RWEAC provided emergency generators to Mauriceville, Texas, preventing that water system from losing pressure and risking contamination.

Kaminsky says Texas Rural Water is organized to send in a first wave of seven responders in the case of emergencies like Harvey, supported by a second wave of five responders, with three more responders serving as backups. Additional help comes from association members, who sign a mutual aid agreement when they join the RWEAC. There is no fee to sign on.

In the case of Hurricane Harvey, Kaminsky says the association contacted some 200 water and wastewater systems and provided help for 27 of them.

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She says her team found many of the plants and systems much more prepared for this natural disaster than in the past.

“We were pleasantly surprised,” Kaminsky says.

Still, many water and wastewater systems are continuing to feel the effects of Harvey, two weeks after the storm hit. According to the Environmental Protection Agency and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, more than 200 drinking water systems were either shut down or still maintaining a boil-water order for customers as of Saturday. Another 101 systems are being contacted to get updated information on their status. On the wastewater side, 40 treatment plants are inoperable, according to the updated counts.

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