Florida water utility prepares for hurricane season

May 3, 2018
Bonita Springs Utilities Inc. has purchased additional tow-behind generators to enhance the utility's hurricane preparedness capabilities.
Source: Bonita Springs Utilities
BONITA SPRINGS, FL, MAY 16, 2018 -- In preparation for the upcoming hurricane season, Bonita Springs Utilities Inc. has purchased additional tow-behind generators to enhance the utility's hurricane preparedness capabilities and assist with operations during emergency situations that may result in extended power outages.

"BSU weathered Hurricane Irma extremely well last year," said BSU Board President Bob Bachman. "However, as forecasts call for another busy hurricane season, the board of directors and staff are taking steps to enhance our emergency response capabilities."

BSU's pre-hurricane planning, action and infrastructure resulted in successful and sustained operations through Hurricane Irma. Water service was maintained throughout the Bonita Springs and Estero service area, with one exception. Due to its Evacuation Zone A location and the catastrophic storm surge forecast, BSU made the decision to temporarily cut service to the Bonita Beach area to protect the integrity of the system, private property on the islands, and water supply for the area as a whole. Service was quickly restored, with a standard two-day boil water notice afterward.

BSU's preparedness plan also included switching all plants to generator power before the storm hit in anticipation of losing electricity. All water wells and 332 lift stations throughout the service area lost power. Prior to the storm, permanent generators were installed at a number of these facilities.

Afterward, staff worked 12-hour shifts, 24 hours a day, to fuel and pump down the lift stations with a fleet of portable generators until power was fully restored.

"Our focus during hurricanes and similar emergencies is on meeting the needs of our community," said John R. Jenkins, BSU executive director. "Drinking water availability is critical during hurricane recovery activities. Imagine the impact of loss of water and wastewater service, on top of flooding, storm damage, and power outages. We plan year-round in an effort to minimize storm impacts and maximize recovery efforts."

During assessments after Hurricane Irma, BSU identified a need to dedicate more generators to water well and lift station operations during and after a hurricane or other emergency. Three new generators will be available for identified master lift stations and a fourth generator will assist in providing backup power to wells in order to maintain potable water service to members.

In addition to purchasing generators, BSU continues to pursue ways to harden its facilities and improve its storm preparation. Efforts include expansion of communication capabilities with remote water tanks, wells and lift stations, use of CNG as an alternative fuel supply for fleet vehicles and equipment, sewer system interconnects to afford adequate response time and a robust sewer system maintenance and replacement program.

Bonita Springs Utilities Inc. is a not-for-profit water and wastewater utility cooperative founded by local citizens in 1970. The member-owned utility provides service in the City of Bonita Springs, the Village of Estero and unincorporated South Lee County. The utility is recognized as an industry leader with awards from the American Water Works Association, Florida Department of Environmental Protection and Florida Water and Pollution Control Operators Association. For more information, visit the BSU website at www.BSU.us.