CFPUA reflects on issues during Florence

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WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - The Cape Fear Public Utility Authority met Wednesday, Oct. 10 for its regularly-scheduled October meeting, and in addition to its planned business discussed the organization’s response to Hurricane Florence.

During the storm the utility faced two major issues: a generator failure that caused 5.25 million gallons of partially-treated wastewater to spill into the Cape Fear River, and a fuel shortage that almost led to the utility cutting off water service.

Director of Engineering Carel Vandermeyden said all of the system’s generators were filled up before the storm, and can typically run for 3 to 6 days straight, but the length of the storm combined with the inability to get supplies into the area exacerbated the problem.

Vandermeyden said the two sources CFPUA typically calls upon to get fuel for generators in an emergency were unable to deliver, either because of power outages or damage to their equipment. CFPUA worked with resources in Raleigh to try to get a shipment of fuel, but by the time the tanker truck was loaded up and ready to go, he said the roads were flooded and it couldn’t get through.

Eventually, he said, the airport authority was able to secure a fuel, as were a few smaller suppliers in the area, and the utility never had to cut off service.

The generator at the Southside Wastewater Treatment Plant failed early on in Florence’s onslaught, but it wasn’t because of the storm damage or running out of fuel.

VAndermeyden said a voltage regulator went bad during the storm, and crews couldn’t get to it to fix it before 5.25 million gallons of water were discharged.

Executive Director Jim Flechtman said all of the issues throughout the storm, as well as the positive efforts of the staff will be fully outlined in a report that he and his team will present to the board and the public in November.

“After any event like this, it’s important to go back and document what wen well, and where we can improve," Flechtman said. "And we’ll start that process tomorrow, and we’ll bring our findings back to the board, and to the public, and we’ll discuss where we can improve and how we can bring that about. Absolutely.”

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