Aqua employees demonstrate extraordinary dedication during Hurricane Harvey

 

By Aqua Texas President and Houston resident Bob Laughman

As Hurricane Harvey wreaked havoc throughout southeast Texas with catastrophic flooding, Aqua employees worked long hours in challenging conditions to maintain and restore service to our customers. 

Aqua serves about 76,000 people through 146 water systems throughout southeast Texas. Although we had standby generators ready to deploy after the hurricane hit, many systems remained powered and in full operation during Harvey. However, devastating flood conditions impeded employees from safely traveling to some communities to determine if water quality had been compromised by the storm. We issued a precautionary boil advisory to 121 systems and lifted these advisories as our operators confirmed the safety of each system’s water.

 

Area Manager Chris Garcia and his team delivered extraordinary service as they personally dealt with the horrendous flooding you saw on TV. They truly exemplify Aqua’s mission and core values, and I thank them for their commitment to the communities we serve.

Aqua employees Gary Douglas and Scott Verret distributing water in Beaumont.

As my employees worked tirelessly to restore service for our own customers in southeast Texas, they also reached out to help other communities who needed it. The City of Beaumont lost its water supply for nearly 120,000 people as a result of the storm. On September 1 — after driving more than 500 miles from our Fort Worth and Palestine offices through Louisiana and along coastal roads to avoid flooded areas — Aqua employees Gary Douglas, Scott Verret, J.Don Dewveall, Tim Goforth, Ben Clark and Nathan Sweeney arrived in Beaumont with two drinking water tankers. The crew provided bulk clean water to a mobile hospital unit, three churches, local residents and a ship — the Liberty Peace — that could not leave the harbor without clean drinking water. Our tankers also provided an invaluable clean water supply to the Jefferson County emergency operations center, the main center that coordinated regional disaster rescue and response.

 

Aqua delivered water to various locations including a court house and mobile hospital unit.

Mike Kirkpatrick, Jefferson County emergency management coordinator, conveyed his and the community’s deep appreciation for everything that Aqua Texas did on their behalf. Kirkpatrick said Aqua Texas was the reason the emergency operations center was able to stay open during the worst of the crisis. 

I extend my sincere thanks and appreciation to my co-workers throughout Texas and our Aqua America family nationwide for their inspiring teamwork and extraordinary efforts to serve our customers throughout the hurricane and its aftermath.

Nathan Sweeney and Ben Clark were among the Aqua employees who arrived in Beaumont with two drinking water tankers. 

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Stay prepared, and stay safe

By Aqua Texas President (and resident of Houston) Bob Laughman

The devastation of Hurricane Harvey is a grim reminder that mid-August through mid-October comprises the peak hurricane season, and my heart goes out to everyone suffering in the aftermath of the storm, especially the loved ones of those who lost their lives. September marks National Preparedness Month, an opportunity for everyone to think about how to make sure you and your family are ready to weather a harsh storm or other emergency.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecasters say this hurricane season could be the most active in years. Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Brock Long said the “updated outlook underscores the need for everyone to know their true vulnerabilities to storms and storm surge. As we enter the height of hurricane season, it’s important for everyone to know who issues evacuation orders in their community, heed the warnings, update their insurance and have a preparedness plan.”

I couldn’t agree more: You have to have a plan. Aqua provides water and wastewater service to customers in coastal areas of Texas, New Jersey, North Carolina and Virginia, and a major storm can cause heavy rain and flooding anywhere. That’s why we invest in training and equipment to maintain water service or restore service as quickly as possible for our customers during a major storm. This training involves much more than how to get the water back on; it emphasizes the safest ways for our employees to do their jobs as they deal with flooding, high winds, downed electrical lines and uprooted trees.

Although many of our systems remained powered and in full operation during Harvey, power outages can disrupt the routine operations of delivering clean, safe drinking water and our ability to treat and pump wastewater. Aqua has a network of mobile power generators that we can deploy where we need them to keep our customers’ tap water flowing when power is disrupted. We’ve also taken steps to ensure a reliable fuel supply for this equipment during periods of peak weather challenges. These generators aren’t just your average portable unit that sits in a truck bed. They’re some of the industry’s most modern, adaptable equipment with quick connection features that work in a variety of situations and locations.

During Harvey, I’ve seen some inspiring teamwork by the Aqua family. We’ve got folks for whom getting to work is literally impossible, and that’s when other employees stepped up to make sure they were covering for their teammates to ensure continued service. I thank them for their dedication.

Aqua is an active participant in TXWARN, the Texas Water/Wastewater Agency Response Network. This network’s database enables Aqua and other water utilities to find and share equipment and personnel to help each other continue to provide service during emergencies.

We also prepare by knowing in advance how we can contact our customers quickly during a water service emergency. Aqua customers everywhere should sign up for WaterSmart Alerts at AquaAmerica.com or 877.987.2782.  You can choose how you’d like us to contact you in an emergency: by phone, email or text message.

Throughout the summer, we’ve shared these tips about how you and your family can prepare when you think you might lose water service during and after a storm:

  • Save water for essential use in advance of a potential water outage and consider filling bathtubs, buckets, large pots and pitchers. Any water collected in a non-potable container (bathtubs, previously used buckets, etc.) should be boiled before consuming it.
  • When water service is restored after an outage, Aqua might issue a precautionary boil advisory until water samples can be tested to ensure that water quality has not been compromised. Bring water to a rolling boil, let it boil for one to two minutes to ensure any harmful bacteria is destroyed, then let it cool before using it. We’ll let you know when it’s okay to drink the water without boiling it first.

You can learn more about how to prepare for a hurricane and other emergencies at Ready.gov.

Aqua will continue to support our employees and the communities we serve here in Texas as we get through this crisis together and begin to rebuild. I hope you and your family are safe.

 

 

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