E.H. Wachs Utility on the frontline when disaster interrupts water services
As the events of this hurricane season have shown us, one of the prime factors for restoring civil order is the supply of water. Immediately following these disasters it’s apparent who has taken system readiness seriously (i.e. exercised their valves) and who hasn’t.
At E.H. Wachs, we experienced this firsthand following both Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.
In Beaumont, Texas, Hurricane Harvey flooded out the downtown with 3 to 4 feet of water and as a result supplies of diesel to power the generators quickly ran out. Once the pumps supplying water to the infrastructure shut down, the entire system becomes contaminated. Beaumont had to systematically bring its supply back online, which meant opening and closing valves to isolate portions of the grid. At one point in time, Beaumont was committed to the process and bought a Wachs Grand LX valve maintenance trailer in 2009. However, a lack of focus meant the trailer sat and the personnel forgot their training. The city was without water for eight days following the disaster, which evoked a phone call from the governor for assistance. Wachs responded by sending one of our demonstration units to be used by a third party while our personnel serviced Beaumont’s trailer and trained the operators again.
In Jacksonville, Florida, Hurricane Irma caused widespread flooding and wind damage. The city of Jacksonville has some older truck-mounted valve machines, but these trucks were out of service due to their age which meant the valve equipment was also out of service. The massive flooding compromised the infrastructure, and the high water caused valve boxes to fill with sand. Jacksonville needed to get zones isolated and flushed, which required each box to first be vacuumed before the valve equipment could even be utilized (a feature their old valve trucks lacked). Wachs once again responded by sending in our people and our demonstration equipment to assist in getting their system back online.
Our systems are invaluable following a disaster, whether it be fire, flood, tornado, earthquake or hurricane. However, micro events and trends (climate change) also happen every day and our equipment and the techniques we preach go a long way toward minimizing the impact of these trigger events and make cities more resilient when they do happen.
About the Author
Jeff Swiatowy is the business unit manager for the E.H. Wachs Utility Products Division.