Flood Update- Where We Are Now- May 2019
February 23rd took an already overwhelming amount of rain to a whole new, totally unprecedented level. Of all the problems our team experienced, nothing matched our growing dread that both of the First Utility District sewer pump stations would be totally submerged in water if the rain did not abate. Over the subsequent hours, our fears became reality: the Ebenezer and Ten Mile pump stations became completely submerged.
So, where are we now, nearly three months later, and how did we get here? Immediately after the rain stopped, we asked a crucial question: do we begin the process of bringing in replacement pumps for every pump currently submerged in water, or do we wait to assess damage until the floodwaters abate? This question proved incredibly difficult, because, though the rain finally stopped, the flooding showed no signs of receding, keeping us from investigating the full scope of the damage. We then learned that replacement pumps have a very protracted lead time, nearly 6 months. Our General Manager Bruce Giles knew he needed to make the call: our team must either order replacements for every pump to avoid additional lead time delays or wait an undefined amount of time to investigate the damage to the stations. Bruce knew time was invaluable and chose to order the pumps immediately. In the end, the water took two long weeks to move out, and Bruce made the right call—every single pump needed to be replaced.
While we worked to make additional crucial decisions, our Operations Manager, Brad Brummett, secured diesel bypass pumps to ensure there would be no threat of violating state regulations while our stations sat inoperable (Note: First Utility District did not have any violations from the flooding incident). These pumps help avoid problems in emergencies and in very short term situations, but they also require 24/7 manning and were proving to be an expensive substitute for the ruined pumps due to the high price of diesel (nearly $800 per day). Brad knew diesel bypass pumps would be an inadequate long term solution for the 6 months lead time on replacement pumps.
Brad chose to reach out to long-time friend in the industry Mike Adams (General Manager of Dixon County Water Authority) to inquire about the possibility of utilizing electric bypass pumps Dixon County Water Authority purchased to make due during a construction project months earlier. Electric bypass pumps require far less maintenance than diesel bypass pumps, do not need to be supervised 24/7 and are not dependent on expensive diesel. Mike graciously agreed to help, which cut down on First Utility District’s bypass expenses as well as avoided the need for 24/7 supervision of the pumps- we owe so much appreciation to Dixon County Water Authority for their generosity and assistance. From there, Brad reached out to another long-time friend in the industry, Mark Robinson with Lenoir City Utility Board, and Mark agreed to help Brad set up a temporary transformer bank for the electric pump. This electric pump will be in service until we receive our new pumps (75 and 100 horsepower, custom engineered pumps) for installation around the end of July, and we will receive all the equipment necessary to bring the stations back online in early August (provided there are no unexpected delays).
The entire team at First Utility District worked tirelessly to meet the challenges presented in the last twelve weeks. Yet, of the many employees who assisted during that crucial time, we feel two departments in particular deserve special recognition for their tireless work ensuring our operation got back on track as quickly as possible: our Facility Operations department, headed by Marty Roberts, as well as our CMOM departments, headed by Pat Spangler and Steve Carmon. These incredibly dedicated teams spent countless hours assisting with any possible repairs, installing bypass equipment, working on electrical repairs, and tirelessly assessing anything that could be salvaged from the two stations.
“This was a major flood,” says Bruce Giles, General Manager. “We’re into the middle of recovery right now, we will continue to be in the middle of this for a while, but that is our job. We will also continue to ensure our customers don’t feel anything, because that is also our job.”
Knox News May 2019 Article:
February 2019 Initial Flood Information
In February of 2019, East Tennessee experienced flooding due to a significant rain event. The following news articles describe flooding damage to our facilities. We do not anticipate passing on any costs to our customers at this time. We have contingencies in place to offset costs. We are one of only four AAA rated water utilities in the state, and plan to be debt-free by 2025.