By Nate F. Searing
Like the Asian tsunami, hurricanes Katrina and Rita exposed America to the devastating and immediate impact of a natural disaster firsthand and to the ensuing lack of clean drinking water. These storms also exposed the commitment and dedication of those in the water treatment industry who responded to the crisis with bottled water and emergency treatment technologies and to the long-term needs for water treatment infrastructure redevelopment and groundwater remediation.
More than six months later, many water treatment companies are still providing assistance in the stricken regions and exploring new and unique ways for their expertise and equipment to be best utilized in future times of tragedy.
Kinetico Incorporated’s response to Hurricane Katrina was immediate. Like many companies that provided emergency assistance, Kinetico’s relief efforts were a combination of their expertise in the field and just a little bit of luck.
The company was contacted by a representative in the St. Bernard Parish area of Louisiana, who had spoken with municipal workers about the need for water treatment on the local docks.
“As luck would have it, we had a complete custom system that was basically sitting on the production floor,” said Dave Chew, Kinetico’s Director of Marketing and Technical Service. “Our people sprang into action and we had it delivered to St. Bernard Parish along with the technical support needed to utilize it.”
Once the system was installed, the operators attempted to get a temporary permit from local officials. Unfortunately, none were being issued for emergency systems. Luck struck again as a happy coincidence had a U.S. Naval vessel at the dock where the equipment was set up. “The Navy ship’s Captain stated that they were prepared to commandeer the system if necessary to keep it running,” Chew said.
As a result, the Kinetico system was able to provide clean water when and where needed. The experience has prompted the company to review the need for emergency response protocols in the future, to ensure that it can do more than just ship bottled water in the event of a disaster.
“Like most companies, the day after the storm hit, we were talking about what we could do, how to do it and where,” Chew said. “It’s a great thing that so many people wanted to help, but a more focused approach would be better for the future. We need to make sure if we drop a highly sophisticated water treatment system into a place that needs it, even if we are also sending along personnel or coordinating with local technical support, that the people suffering can make the most of that system.”
In the future, greater benefits would be gained if state and local municipalities would guarantee access to systems in emergency situations via the implementation of temporary permitting rules, Chew said, adding that water treatment manufacturers should be developing their own individual plans for providing emergency treatment equipment so that they are not scrambling in the event of an immediate need.
“Our industry is in a unique position to provide help in these situations, we should take the initiative and make sure that we are doing all that we can.”