Mobile System Designed to Provide Emergency Drinking Water

For Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) of Seattle, WA, ensuring an adequate, reliable emergency water supply for the more than one million residents in the greater Seattle metro area has always been an important mandate.

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For Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) of Seattle, WA, ensuring an adequate, reliable emergency water supply for the more than one million residents in the greater Seattle metro area has always been an important mandate. In a major step toward that goal, the city recently unveiled its new Emergency Drinking Water Provisioning System, which can deliver up to 612,000 gallons of water a day to six strategic distribution sites around the city.

Located in close proximity to Seattle’s six largest community centers, the system provides an accessible, clean and sanitized source of water for citizens in need. The system is the result of a collaborative effort among local government, a number of companies and experts. Development partners include Colder Products Co. of St. Paul, MN, a provider of quick disconnect couplings and fluid management solutions; Parish Manufacturing, a manufacturer of flexible packaging products for liquid, food, and beverage products; and Ryan Herco, a distributor of industrial plastics.

Why Have an Emergency Water Plan?

In 2001, threats to public safety from terrorist attacks led the U.S. federal government to pass the Public Health, Security, and Bioterrorism Preparedness Act. The act states that a community water system serving more than 100,000 citizens shall conduct an assessment of a system’s vulnerability.

SPU evaluated its system and based on its findings determined that it needed to go beyond what the law required and create an emergency preparedness system. The plan provides water to Seattle’s neighborhoods quickly in the event that the regular water system were to be compromised.

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Water distribution systems are packaged in ecology containers and dispatched to area locations.
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“We’ve never had a grand-scale emergency, but we realized that there is no such thing as a completely secure water system,” said Pat O’Brien, senior planner of the Seattle Public Utilities’ Community Service Division. “We felt that a hands-on approach was necessary, so we enlisted the assistance of partners from the private sector to help create the emergency water plan. We then put a citywide community support system in place to ensure successful implementation.”

System at Work

In the event of an emergency, potable water distribution systems are dispatched to six designated sites around the city. Each system consists of a generator, a tent, a table, chairs, a 3,500 gallon water storage unit called a blivet, and the dispensing equipment. In short, all the elements needed to collect, store, and dispense potable water to the local citizens.

The blivets are connected to a Ryan Herco-developed pumping system that enables the users to dispense water into individual six-quart bags. The bags are provided by Parish Manufacturing and are equipped with the Colder Puncture Seal bag closure fitment.

“Believe it or not, the process of getting water from the pump to the bag is a critical one. We have to make sure that we can rapidly fill the bags. In an emergency, people are stressed and anguished, and ensuring they get water quickly and easily is essential for maintaining a state of calm,” O’Brien said.

Quick Connection

A Colder quick disconnect coupling and a sanitary, tamper evident puncture seal bag closure provide the final link between the pumping system and the individual bags.

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The patented Colder Puncture Seal keeps each individual bag sterile until it is filled.
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The patented Colder Puncture Seal keeps each individual bag sterile until it is filled. As soon as the puncture seal coupling is connected to the closure on the bag, the puncture seal membrane is pierced. This allows water to fill the bag quickly via a hands-free operation.

When the filling process is complete, system operators simply depress the thumb latch on the coupling body to disconnect it. The bag is then capped and sent home with local residents. In dry-run practice tests, citizens continue to comment on the speed at which the bag fills, as well as the fact that it is leak free.

“Anyone who has seen the bags fill has been absolutely in awe. We wanted bags that would fill in half a minute or less and this system does the trick in 25 seconds,” O’Brien said. “Its simplicity makes it visually impressive. Plus, once the bag is filled, it does not leak at all. We don’t even have to disconnect the water connection between fillings.”

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A Ryan Herco-developed pumping system enables users to dispense water into individual six-quart bags.
Click here to enlarge image

By incorporating the Colder Puncture Seal system into Seattle’s emergency plan, SPU has also avoided a problem common in other cities, where residents reuse unhygienic containers that they bring to water-dispensing sites. Use of sanitized bags and the puncture seal ensures a cleaner, safer alternative. The Colder system provides the added benefits of being disposable and tamper evident.

“Colder’s Puncture Seal system provides us with the convenience, ease-of-use, and cost-effective design that we needed,” O’Brien said.

Partnering for System Success

While the puncture seal was a critical component in the system, SPU also benefited greatly from contributions made by the other development partners.

“We’re very pleased at what can be accomplished when organizations work together toward a common goal. In this instance, the completion of the system would not have been possible without the collaboration of our exemplary partners,” O’Brien said.

Greg Garcia, northwest regional sales manager of Ryan Herco said, “Our involvement in the design of the water distribution system demonstrates our ability to package unique, functional finished goods. We are proud to have been part of efforts to improve Seattle’s emergency preparedness.”

SPU’s efforts also include a community response team of 36 SPU staff. The community team is in place to address emergencies, including potable water distribution, which affect a much larger regional area. The key to the system, however, is that it isn’t labor intensive.

“A real strength of this system is the ability to distribute safe potable water to many individuals with limited manpower,” said Garry Bledsoe, sales and marketing manager of Parish Manufacturing. “Water is easier to transport when it can be filled and packaged on site.”

Educating Communities

At the moment, the Seattle Public Utilities is currently developing a “how to” training manual for municipal employees and community responders who will be involved in emergency water distribution. The system has been demonstrated at regional forums including the Emergency Preparedness Conference in Redmond, WA. This type of awareness building will ensure that residents take full advantage of the system in the event of an emergency, and O’Brien hopes other cities are taking notice.

“I am not aware of a system like ours anywhere in the United States,” O’Brien said. “Our citizens can rest assured that we are prepared to deal with potential risks to the water system and we want other communities to feel the same sense of security. The potential is definitely there for other cities to replicate what we have done and bring greater uniformity to our national water emergency response system.”

About Seattle Public Utilities

In addition to providing more than 1.3 million customers in the Seattle metropolitan area with a reliable water supply, SPU provides essential sewer, drainage, solid waste and engineering services that safeguard public health, maintain the City’s infrastructure and protect, conserve and enhance the region's environmental resources.

For more information on the Seattle Public Utilities Emergency Drinking Water Provisioning System, please contact Pat O’Brien 206-615-1745 or WW

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