In the latter half of February, Winter Storm Uri wreaked havoc on many homes and businesses throughout the Greater Houston Area. Many systems that supply water in and around the area were impacted by sustained sub-freezing temperatures, resulting in power outages, equipment damage, and the loss of water pressure for thousands of residents.
Thankfully, FB MUD No. 151’s operator, Inframark, had a plan to handle such emergencies, and worked tirelessly to keep the District’s systems fully operational during the freeze event. ElizaBeth Reeves with Inframark was happy to answer some questions about Inframark’s actions before and during the storm.
Q: What preventative actions were taken prior to the storm?
A: We have a checklist that we follow for winterization. All the standard protocols were followed.
Q: Where there any issues at the time of the freeze event (Sun/Mon)?
A: The two biggest challenges were the power outages and the length of time that we experienced such low temperatures, which prompted the use of generator power. We had one coolant line on the diesel generator freeze and crack, necessitating an emergency repair.
Q: What actions were taken during the storm?
A: Facilities were monitored closely throughout the week. When the diesel generator required repair, the emergency water interconnect was opened between Firethorne and Tamarron in order to maintain water pressureuntil the repair was completed.
Q: Did you have a tech stationed at the Waste-Water Treatment Plant? The Water Plant?
A: Periodically throughout the storm at both plants.
Q: Are there permanent generators at the facilities? Are they Diesel or Natural Gas?
A: We have both types.
Q: Was the customer service office impacted?
A: Yes, our CS reps were working remotely due to COVID-19, so the power outages proved to be a challenge, as we never had a full complement of staff that had power at the same time. Regardless, when power was available, calls were being taken. We relied heavily on our website and the District’s splash pages to provide timely updates to residents.
Q: How did you avoid having to issue a boil water notice? What actions were taken to restore or to prevent pressure loss?
A: By using auxiliary power and the emergency water interconnect, we were able to keep the water pressure up. Therefore, we were prevented from having to issue a boil water notice.
Q: Did Inframark have technicians working in the District to aid in resident water shut-offs, where needed?
A: Yes, we had techs that were canvassing the District to provide assistance with shutting off water when needed for repairs.
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