BY MARCY SHORTUSE AND RON BOLTON
One of the basic necessities of life, one that we often overlook until it is not available, is running water. Hurricane Ian brought that fact to light in a hurry, as we had no water on the island for almost two weeks in some places. The water was under a boil notice until today, press day, which is another whole ball of wax when power is sporadic and boiling water can be problematic.
Our executive director of the Gasparilla Island Water Association, Ron Bolton, took a minute out of his incredibly busy schedule to give us a timeline of how things went before, during and after the storm. Here is what we had to say …
Tuesday, Sept. 27: GIWA prepared for evacuation of island by turning power off to all lift stations, water plant and wastewater plant. Substation had one pump running.
Wednesday, Sept. 28: Hurricane Ian.
Thursday, Sept. 29: Returned to island in afternoon to make initial assessment. High water and downed powerlines made travel unsafe.
Friday, Sept. 30: Met with key staff and began welfare checks on all GIWA staff. WWTP was not accessible because of downed trees and powerlines. Water plant had damaged roofs and some minor structural damage. Control panels and electrical systems were soaked by rainwater in building. Substation generator was under one ton of building debris and office had sustained significant structural and roof damage. Wellfield was completely engulfed in standing water.
Saturday, Oct. 1: Visited Galloway Roofing to schedule tarping of roof at water treatment plant. Began drying of water plant electrical and control panels. Removed debris from substation generator. Tested water plant generator, wellfield generator and substation generator. Tested substation pumps and water plant high service pumps. Made access to wastewater treatment plant. Pavilion roof was laying on deep injection well controls.
Contacted Charlotte County Utilities to coordinate bulk water purchase through our large user agreement. Charlotte County could not provide any water. Installed tap at substation to fill fire trucks with residual water.
Sunday, Oct. 2: Contacted Florida Warn and FDEP to begin giving daily status updates. Met with staff to assess individual needs and establish recovery schedule. Contacted vendors to assist with various repairs and maintenance support and materials required. Continued to dry out water plant controls. Tested wastewater treatment plant generator.
Monday, Oct. 3: Pumped water from water plant storage tanks to island substation to test transmission lines. Tested pumps and panels at all twenty lift stations. Began repairs of distribution system leaks. Tarped roof at office. Removed pavilion from the injection well controls. Tarped roof at water plant.
Tuesday, Oct. 4: Tested controls and panels at water plant. Tested controls and panels at wastewater treatment plant. Set up generators and by-pass pumps to lift stations. Repaired additional distribution leaks. Issued precautionary boil water notice.
Wednesday, Oct. 5: Started water plant and wellfield to produce water. Started wastewater treatment plant to process waste from EQ tank. Pumped water from the island substation into the water distribution trunk line.
Thursday, Oct. 6: Began full water production to island. Restored service to areas with piping intact. Ran lift stations on generator or by-pass pumps to move wastewater to plant. Processed wastewater at plant via injection well. Repaired leaks and serviced lift stations as required.
Friday – Sunday, Oct. 7 – 9: Restored water service, repaired leaks, and monitored lift stations for FPL power until all customers were back in service. Inspected temporary bridge. Met with Lee County EOC and Army Corps of Engineers.
Thursday, Oct. 13: Boil water notice lifted.