Superstorm Sandy wrecked havoc on the East Coast. The North Hudson Sewerage Authority minimized damage to wastewater treatment plants in New Jersey and New York through strategic pre-storm planning and effective post-storm emergency management.

By: Gary Fournier, CH2M HILL Project Director

Gary Fournier will present “Superstorm Sandy and the North Hudson Sewerage Authority: Effective Utility Management Helped Get NHSA in Recovery Status Quickly, Safely” on Tuesday, October 8 at 1:30 p.m. in TS428, during the Water Environment Federation Technical Exhibition and Conference (WEFTEC), in Chicago, Illinois. Learn more about CH2M HILL’s WEFTEC 2013 participation and technical sessions.

When weather reports indicated a severe storm was building at sea that promised to bring hurricane force winds, heavy rain and unprecedented storm surge to New York City and the New Jersey coastline in October 2012, cities and residents began taking precautions to prepare in an effort to protect property and save lives. Early forecasts predicted the storm, now known as Superstorm Sandy, to remain at sea. However after taking a sharp turn, the storm slammed ashore, bringing a huge storm surge to the Jersey shoreline—severely damaging or destroying public infrastructure throughout the metropolitan New York area.

The metropolitan area wastewater treatment facilities were heavily impacted by the storm. While many plants were crippled and treatment was stopped, managers and operators at the North Hudson Sewerage Authority (NHSA) in New Jersey recognized the threat and took precautions to prepare the Adams Street Wastewater Treatment Plant and West New York, River Road Wastewater Treatment Plant, which provides wastewater treatment for a densely developed urban area encompassing Hoboken and Union City, as well as towns of West New York and Weehawken in New Jersey.

Using lessons learned from earlier storms (Hurricane Irene), the NHSA worked closely with CH2M HILL to mobilize support teams and equipment, implementing pre-emptive measures such as: sandbagging, topping off fuel levels for standby generators, securing food and other essential items at wastewater treatment plants, and establishing shelter in place mode to keep plant personnel protected.

When the storm hit, the water quickly overwhelmed Hoboken’s stormwater system, and plant operators implemented the emergency management plan, focusing on maintaining emergency generators and pumping systems to drain the floodwaters as quickly as possible. Through Effective Utility Management and the Emergency Response Planning, the NHSA was able to minimize significant damage to its water infrastructure, limit environmental impact and prevent injury of plant staff. Despite being inundated under the 4.27 meter (14-foot) storm surge, the NHSA got back on line quickly after Superstorm Sandy’s passage, returning to full plant operations within 40 hours of the storm’s arrival.

Highlighting the great effort of the NHSA during Superstorm Sandy, the information covered in my presentation is valuable for other utilities to consider, as severe storms like Sandy are expected to increase in frequency and intensity given climate change and rising sea levels. Understanding how to mitigate the impact of these storms by taking proper precautions can save assets and millions of dollars in recovery and mitigation costs.

Gary Fournier is a Project Director at CH2M HILL. With more than 42 years of experience in water, wastewater, and solid and hazardous waste, Gary brings expertise in project and program management, utility management and administration, environmental infrastructure consulting, and engineering. Previously, Gary worked as a licensed operator in New York, Maine, and Massachusetts managing water and wastewater operations and maintenance (O&M) services. Leveraging this knowledge, Gary brings a high level of expertise to his current role managing 2 wastewater treatment plants, a 106 mile combined sewer system (and associated regulators, solids and floatables facilities) and 7 pump stations, as well as managing all administrative functions and O&M.