With planning and high-quality equipment, Seven Seas leads water and wastewater treatment plants through storms unharmed
After a natural disaster, it’s common for survivors to take an inventory of what’s important. Since Hurricane Fiona lashed the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) in late September as a Category 3 storm, we’ve been reflecting on the vital importance of climate-resilient infrastructure.
If critical infrastructure for water treatment and wastewater treatment goes down, the economic and public health implications can be profound.
Turks and Caicos is home to the Leeward Estates residential, resort, and mega-yacht marina complex, which is served by a Seven Seas Water Group desalination plant and wastewater treatment plant. We’re pleased to say that apart from a minor loss of power, the storm had little effect on the plants.
Hurricane Fiona went on to slam Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, leaving three dead and disrupting water service for more than 837,000 customers. Power was unavailable for filtration systems and pumps to deliver water to homes, leaving residents without drinking water and unable to bathe or flush toilets.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency stepped in under the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers assess Puerto Rico’s drinking water and wastewater infrastructure.
Components of Hurricane-Resilience
While Fiona was a significant storm, Seven Seas plants have weathered more powerful ones in the past, and the company has made sure to learn from them. Storm-readiness planning begins at the start of every hurricane season, June 1. Each site has a plant-specific emergency action plan with protocols specifically for hurricanes, including an exhaustive list of physical preparations, a timeline, and communications directives.
All of these plans were updated after two Category 5 hurricanes, Irma and Maria, hit our U.S. Virgin Islands plants in 2017. While damage to the islands was severe, the sites on St. Thomas and St. Croix performed well, although there was some minor building damage. The plants’ workings, however, remained unscathed and they went back online, producing water as soon as power was restored.
Hurricanes Irma and Maria tested metal buildings at the V.I. Water and Power Authority (WAPA) Richmond and Harley sites. Although designed to weather 120 MPH winds, it is likely that they withstood higher winds during the two storms, and the decentralized container plants have similarly rugged construction. The storms also tested the resilience of our operations groups, whose members mobilize to restore water production. Both the sites and groups performed admirably.
The company subsequently corrected failure points and provided the operations group with new tools for future storms. For instance, due to cellular tower damage, some plants were unable to contact Seven Seas headquarters in Tampa, Florida. After the storm, each island site was provided with a satellite phone, and the phones are to be checked monthly. Storms are monitored as they form, and as they approach, the plants interface constantly with Tampa headquarters.
Our Water-as-a-Service® clients receive the most reliable water and wastewater treatment service in the business, with all long-term operations and maintenance included. They know their service is watched over by our experienced operations groups that spring into action as hurricanes approach. Contact Seven Seas to get on the fast track to hurricane-resilience.
Image Credit: nasaimages/123RF