Shelter From the Storm

Be thankful if you’re safe and dry, and your systems are running smoothly.

Shelter From the Storm

We’ve all said things that are regrettable.

Last month in this space I talked about stormwater and the way it impacts everyone, no matter where you live. While that is certainly true — it’s an issue most of you deal with — I went on in that column to whine about how heavy rains occasionally cause minor problems at my house.

At the time, my local area was under a flood watch. There was no flooding around me; my house suffered no ill effects of the weather. But other parts of Wisconsin did. And shortly after I wrote that column, Hurricane Florence unleashed hell on North Carolina and South Carolina.

I was sitting at home watching the news reports, perfectly comfortable and dry, the night Florence made landfall. As I watched video of the storm surge taking over towns, people and pets being rescued, and lives being washed away, that column came to mind. I immediately wished I hadn’t in any way compared my situation to real stormwater issues.

In North Carolina, there were many releases of wastewater from overflowing sewer systems. A wastewater plant in Onslow County experienced a catastrophic failure. The city of Wilmington’s wastewater system released 5.25 million gallons of wastewater into the Cape Fear River. And these are just a couple examples. Places that hadn’t flooded in decades, if ever, were inundated with water from the storm surge and heavy rains.

In many ways, it drives home the point of last month’s column. You can’t escape Mother Nature, and even the best systems can suffer her wrath. Nonetheless, I’m embarrassed to have even brought up my own extremely minor issues.

We were set to profile the Lumberton (North Carolina) Municipal Utility District before Florence flooded the community for the second time in two years. Hurricane Matthew hit the city hard in 2016, destroying homes and displacing residents, in addition to knocking out the water treatment plant for almost a week. Florence brought more of the same, but while the city’s water and wastewater systems weren’t spared from the storm’s impact, they continued running.

In the months ahead, the city — like many in the region — will face a daunting cleanup effort. Some things will likely never be the same, but the city will rebound, utilities will get back up to speed, and residents will move back in. I’m hoping we get to tell their story when things begin to return to normal. And for the sake of everyone in that area, I hope that’s sooner than later.

Until then, there are some great stories in the magazine this month on the Marin (California) Municipal Water District, Bremerton (Washington) Water Department and Johnson County (Kansas) Wastewater. I hope they provide some insight and inspiration for your own operations.

Enjoy this month’s issue.


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