Florida Rural Water Keeps Everglades City Sewers Operating After Hurricane Irma

EVERGLADES CITY, Fla. – Hurricane Irma left Everglades City, Fla. devastated – there was no power, storm surges left a coat of filthy, grey mud on everything, and the city’s sewer system was dangerously close to overflowing. Emergency assistance from the Florida Rural Water Association helped keep the system working until workers could make repairs.

“I asked the staff to assess Everglades City and provide assistance to any of their emergency response efforts,” said FRWA Executive Director Gary Williams.

FRWA Wastewater Technicians Allen Slater and Jamie Hope went to Everglades City to evaluate the system, bringing FRWA’s new trailer-mounted vacuum excavator. The vacuum trailer is a self-contained unit with a 500-gallon tank, jetter, water tanks and hoses that can be used to excavate and transport wastewater to the treatment plant. Nearby Regional Utilities also sent workers and a generator to assist.

“The city had water, but no power,” explained Lloyd Beaty, a Supervisor with the community of about 400 residents.

The city’s 17 main lift stations were without power, creating a situation where sewers could overflow or backup into homes. Wastewater systems largely rely on gravity to operate, but they often require mechanical assistance to extend service into areas of lower elevation. When these lift stations are without power, they fill to capacity and risk overflowing or backing up into structures.

After a quick assessment, the workers divided into two crews.

“I took the Regional Utilities crew and the generator to the causeway lift station,” Slater said.

After Slater attached the generator, they could begin pumping one side of the city toward the wastewater treatment plant. Hope and the Everglades City staff used the vacuum trailer to pump out lift stations on the other side of town, and transport the wastewater to the wastewater treatment plant.

“We tackled the closest lift station to the facility to ensure quick turnaround times,” Hope said.

The trailer proved to be a valuable piece of equipment. It’s user-friendly design and automatic shutoff allowed crews to quickly pump one station and move to the next.

“It didn’t take long and we were running like clockwork,” Williams said. “I was pleased to hear that my decision to purchase that piece of equipment, was already helping utilities.”

Around 7 p.m. that evening, power started being restored to parts of the city. FRWA returned the next day to ensure the lift stations remained functional.

“They were a big help,” Beaty said of FRWA’s assistance. “They kept the stations pumped out until we were able to make some repairs.”

“It was awesome,” he added. “They kept us flowing.”