By now, we are all well aware of the aftermath Hurricane Katrina brought to the southeastern U.S. Many of you have contributed to those left in need in a variety of ways—donating money, clothes and food; perhaps some of you have even made it to the affected areas to help with clean-up; or maybe you volunteered at one of the local shelters established for those displaced by the disaster.
As part of the relief efforts, equipment manufacturers in the water/wastewater industry donated thousands of dollars, in addition to various supplies and equipment to the flooded areas.
In concert with all of your generosity following Hurricane Katrina, as well as last year’s tsunami in Southeast Asia, I think the industry has represented itself pretty well in terms of philanthropic efforts.
However, there is more you can do to help. Overwhelmed, and likely understaffed, the water and wastewater facilities in the southeast are certain to have a bevy of problems ahead of them following the dewatering project currently underway as of press time.
For example, how will the city of New Orleans be able to supply adequate drinking water? The utilities have to repair or reconstruct many water treatment plants first in order to get drinking water into homes and businesses. Until there is a reliable water supply—and a functioning sewer system—the city will be uninhabitable.
As for when the area will get drinking water, it could be until late November, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Despite the high levels of lead and E.coli in the water sources, concern also lies in the pipes themselves. Chances are the polluted water has made its way into the pipes; therefore, thousands of miles of pipe need to be repaired, flushed and sanitized.
FEMA’s estimates may be a shot in the dark as reestablishing the water/wastewater infrastructure may be more overwhelming than initially thought. I estimate the entire reconstruction to take a couple of years with costs soaring into the billions.
Besides New Orleans, other afflicted areas in the Gulf Coast may be starting their water/wastewater infrastructure from scratch. This is where you can help.
You can provide your expertise by answering questions from affected utilities or simply offering tips to help rebuild the water/wastewater infrastructure. Whether it be sharing application stories or case studies; making phone calls to offer engineering assistance; or simply sending an e-mail to share design ideas, any amount of your expert advice can help.
Not sure of where to send your ideas and advice? Send them my way, as WWD is establishing communication with water/wastewater personnel in the areas affected by Hurricane Katrina in an effort to find out what we can to do to help.