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After Water Stoppage Scare, CFPUA Prepares For Hurricane Season

By Johanna Cano, posted Jun 3, 2019
After a water service termination scare in the Wilmington region during September’s Hurricane Florence, Cape Fear Public Utility Authority is preparing for this year’s hurricane season, according to a news release.

Those preparations include the purchase of a 2,800-gallon fuel truck, added saddle tanks to trucks, increased fuel storage capacity at several strategic locations and expanded fuel storage capacity by 20% to 60,000 gallons at its treatment plants.

Utility staff members have been, or are in the process of, getting certified to operate the fuel truck. Also, CFPUA’s new contract with its emergency fuel provider currently requires the contractor to have an onsite backup generator that would provide power if commercial power is lost, according to the release.

Efforts to address fuel-shortage problems come after CFPUA warned Sept. 16 last year, two days after Hurricane Florence made landfall in the area, that water service might stop if fuel was not acquired within 48 hours.

"We are exploring every avenue to find a fuel source. However, if we do not get the needed fuel within the next 48-hours, we will not be able to continue water service for public health and safety such as fire suppression and other life-sustaining activities," CFPUA officials said in a September release.

That same morning, New Hanover County’s Emergency Operations Center sent out a request for fuel to Colonial Terminals, a storage facility with a location in Wilmington that handles oil and chemicals.

Colonial employees who stayed behind to assist with recovery were able to load fuel into a truck for CFPUA.

The latest CFPUA release stated that staff have spent the past several months since Hurricane Florence "taking steps to prepare for future storms. Florence caused major damage and disruption in Southeastern North Carolina, dumping more than 23 inches of rain in the Wilmington area and leaving the community essentially isolated. Even so, fewer than half a dozen CFPUA customers were without water or wastewater service, despite some close calls…”

CFPUA has also added a new alert system, CivicReady, which allows customers to sign up for customizable alerts in the event of an emergency. The service is free and CFPUA customers can sign up at CFPUA.org/CivicReady.

The utility company is setting up and testing its emergency operations center at Sweeney Water Treatment Plant used to coordinate operations during events that might cause service disruption.

Other actions taken since Hurricane Florence include the replacement of generators at the Southside Wastewater Treatment Plant, which failed during the storm and resulted in the bypass of partially treated wastewater to the plant’s outfall.

The new generator replacement should be complete by July 31.
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