Lessons learned by New Jersey American Water during Hurricane Irene last year helped the company to prepare, respond to, and quickly recover when Hurricane Sandy hit the state last month, company President David K. Baker told a Senate hearing in Trenton today.
Preparation for a storm like Sandy began more than a year ago, as all major facilities refined and practiced their emergency operations plans. At major water treatment facilities, new generators were installed permanently, several that were attached to natural gas lines. Contracts were established with vendors for fuel, additional generators, and other necessary materials that would be needed in a major storm. As it became obvious that Sandy was going to hit New Jersey, additional generators, fuel and chemicals were obtained. “The result of all this work, both long-term planning and more immediate preparatory activity was clearly evident in the resiliency of the company’s water system during the storm,” said Baker. “We took the lessons from Irene to heart.”
Although, when Sandy came ashore on Oct. 29 knocking out the power to nearly 100 percent of New Jersey American Water’s operations, which serves nearly 30 percent of the New Jersey population, the impact on customers’ water service was very isolated and of short duration. Sixty five sites were operating on backup generation. “Putting it in perspective, we estimate that over the course of several days, only about 200 out of approximately 650,000 customer accounts on the mainland experienced short periods of low to no water pressure as our crews worked to keep back up power generators operating,” said Baker. “I was and continue to be inspired by the efforts of our employees to keep water service flowing to our customers. A few of our employees had residences rendered uninhabitable by the storm, and most had no power at their own homes for several days. And they still worked, and in many cases are still working around the clock to counter the storm’s impact on our customers’ water service.”