AWWA Hosts Water Infrastructure Conference

Combining topics from the former Distribution System and Water Security Conferences, AWWA hosted a three day workshop from October 26-28 in Atlanta, GA.  The Conference offered a wealth of options for attendees to learn more about water related issues ranging from Innovative Approaches for Infrastructure Investigation & Rehabilitation and Managing Cyber Risk for Water Utilities to Tools & Technology for Operations Management and Accomplishing Resiliency:  Case Studies in Business Continuity and Risk Management.  A highlight of the conference was the Opening Session presentation by Major General James Hoyer, Adjutant General, West Virginia National Guard, who spoke about the response strategies and tactics applied during the West Virginia chemical spill.  Using the concepts of stabilize, recover and remediate, and communicate, MGEN Hoyer walked the audience day-by-day through the crisis.  He highlighted that Job 1 was to get water to people.  The affected area included more than 300,000 individuals spread over 300 square miles and 9 counties with 1700 miles of pipe.  The state’s capital city, eight hospitals and 109 schools were also affected.  Effective communication was essential to avoid panic and misunderstanding about the health implications.  For example, in trying to demonstrate relative volumes of contaminant to water supply, they finally settled on a graphic that depicted 590 drops of contaminant equaling one ounce.  They then explained that less than one drop would be found in a tanker truck of water.  This helped decision-makers and non-water supply experts gain perspective.  In closing, MGEN Hoyer noted that the final positive outcome relied heavily on the combined collaboration of Federal, state, and local partners – local health officials responded to requests for investigation, six states helped with sampling, testing, and evaluation of the contaminated water, and EPA Regional staff provided great support in all aspects of the response and remediation efforts.