Miami-Dade Water and Sewer Department survived and continues to thrive after Hurricane Andrew
Hurricane Andrew, which in 1992 was the costliest natural disaster in United States history, bulldozed through Miami-Dade County 25 years ago today on August 24, 1992, leaving in its wake millions of dollars in damage, as well as countless lessons learned. The Miami-Dade Water and Sewer Department (WASD) took to heart these lessons when rebuilding after the storm and continues to review and improve upon these upgrades to provide uninterrupted service for our customers during disasters, as well as accounting for new considerations such as sea level rise.
While WASD never lost power at its water treatment plants, some residents in South Dade were left without water service because trees uprooted water lines. The South District Wastewater Treatment Plant, located just south of Cutler Bay, did lose power and could not operate for two weeks after the storm.
“While we had free standing generators at South District, they were washed out by storm surge,” said WASD Director Lester Sola. “With new construction at the plant, we elevated the generators to higher levels – between 10-14 feet and placed them in a building as additional safeguards.”
Other post-Andrew practices include maintaining a large inventory of mobile generators that can be transported to various locations to facilitate uninterrupted department operations such as at pump stations, and motors that can replace parts that may have received water damage.
Hundreds of utility workers from around the country came to assist WASD employees repair damaged infrastructure to get service restored. These volunteers lived in RVs and tents at the WASD plants.
“Hurricane Andrew definitely resides in a special category for natural disasters and we as a utility have been pretty lucky from being spared from repeated direct hits from storms, but we remain vigilant in our preparation,” said Sola.
“This department can maintain continuous operation of delivering safe drinking water and wastewater removal for 25 days without electricity after an emergency without the need of additional deliveries. We are committed to providing uninterrupted service for our customers so that it is one less concern our customers have to worry about. It is important to note in 2005, when we had a very active local hurricane season we did not lose any plant capacity.”
WASD continues to research methods that can minimize service interruptions. When new construction is being proposed and where it makes sense, the department looks to elevate appropriate equipment to 20 feet above sea level. This is based on storm surge modeling and also takes into consideration sea level rise projections. When infrastructure cannot be elevated then the department looks to flood proof the area to minimize water intrusion. This includes installing water tight doors and windows.
It is the priority of the Miami-Dade Water and Sewer Department to provide safe, reliable service to its customers. For additional information about Department services and programs, visit the department’s website.