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Are we prepared for disasters?


By Lisa Brody
News Editor
...continued from page 9

He noted that after the widespread power outage of 2003, when the eastern portion of the United States was hit by a power failure, "we beefed up our contingency plans after that with an awareness that a large scale situation could happen."

The Water Resources Commission is part of a WARN agency, a first weather warning system around the country, "so if a big enough disaster happened, other WARN agencies would be contacted to come to Michigan and help us," Price said.

"Emergency preparation is a big responsibility we have," said Sue McCormick, CEO of Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA), which was created in January 2016, and is responsible for the drinking water for the region. "One of the first things we did was hire an emergency management director, who reviewed vulnerabilities in our cities. By June 2016, we had our first plan from a regional perspective, and by fall 2016, we were doing a tabletop exercise."

What about a terrorist dropping a toxin or chemical into the water system?

"Our source waters are Lake Huron and the Detroit River, and we belong to the Lake Huron to Lake Erie monitoring system," McCormick said. "There are various points of monitoring along the way. In addition, intakes are being monitored ongoing online, which was put in place since 9/11. If there are changes in a reading, it will indicate if there are any chemicals anywhere along the way. To my knowledge, nothing has been detected along the way or at any intakes."

She explained that GLWA monitors intake and their transmission system daily, and in the event of any chemical detection, "we can mitigate it by shutting down a portion of the system at a time by taking a water plant offline and supplementing it with another facility.

"How unique a system is it that the quality and monitoring is done and mitigated," she said. "Many systems only have one plant, one facility, one source. That GLWA's system has five different water treatment plants and three different sources allows for the flexibility on a daily basis, as well as in a disaster, that few other regional systems have."

"The water system is pressurized. That means when you open your faucet, water comes out," Price said. "Someone can't just drop something in. It's detected."

If there were a major power failure, such as in 2003, GLWA is beefed up to complete operations without fail. "When the entire grids go down, there were some operations (in 2003) that did not have standby generators," McCormick said. "But today, all the stations have adequate backup generators."

...continued on page 11
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Tags: LONGFORM

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