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Hurricanes Katrina and Rita left in their wake considerable damage to water and wastewater systems in the affected areas of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. While federal, state and local officials are working diligently to assess the overall damage, a comprehensive evaluation of the damage to wastewater systems is not available. To meet this need, the Water Environment Federation (WEF), members working for utilities and private companies are collaborating with global engineering, consulting and construction company Black & Veatch to develop and present an area-wide assessment of the damage and probable cost to rehabilitate or replace wastewater systems in the Gulf States.
As a result of the hurricanes, some treatment plants were completely destroyed while others sustained considerable damage. Collection systems also sustained considerable damage. Local utilities are working to meet immediate needs but could face a prolonged period before they receive sufficient funding to restore full service to their customers. Much of this long-term financial support is expected to come from the federal government and state agencies; therefore, members of Congress and other policymakers need an official assessment of the damage to wastewater systems across the Gulf States.
This study will meet this need by providing a high-level overall damage assessment and a financial review that will cover the utilities’ ability to meet debt-service requirements, of particular concern in cities that have experienced significant declines in population. The assessment will include data from site visits and telephone surveys supported by volunteers from utilities throughout the US. This will be combined with information on storm damage zones and utility-specific data to develop an overall assessment across the region.
“This project provides WEF with a substantive way to help the wastewater sector recover from this disaster,” said WEF President Lynn Orphan.
Participants are donating time and expenses. WEF leadership is providing liaison with member associations and government entities and will publish the final report, Black & Veatch is providing project management and assessment expertise and other WEF members are assisting with site and phone surveys. Black & Veatch will draft the framework document that will encompass physical and financial damage as well as projected costs of recovery.
"The outcome will be a high-level cost assessment that can be used as a basis for reconstruction funding and financial support," said Jim Clark, a vice president of Black & Veatch and a past president of the Water Environment Federation. "We're pleased to be able to contribute value through a combination of physical and financial assessments that will help the hurricane-ravaged communities resume crucial wastewater operations."