City Water Supply Uninterrupted After a Hurricane

Hurricane Ike left downed power lines that not only shut off electricity to homes and businesses, but pumps that were essential to basic services. Houston’s Municipal Water Supply was shut off, making the tap unsafe to drink. A study found that using a specific non-grid alternative power source would eliminate the need to shut off the water supply in the event of another hurricane like Ike. Pat Hernandez has more.

Hurricane Ike forced the city of Houston to shut down operations of its water and wastewater treatment facilities. It also resulted in contamination issues. 60-percent of the oyster crop was destroyed because of the effluent that hit Galveston Bay. Bocci Engineering is a Houston-based energy efficiency and sustainability firm. Its president Leanne Lami says a a study done for the city of Houston found that using a non-grid alternative — combined heat and power — would eliminate the need to shut off the municipal water supply
in the event of another Ike.

“This project that we’ve developed for the city of Houston for Almeda-Sims Wastewater Treatment Plant, is a green, combined heat and power solution that will produce about one and half mega-watts of power, and provide them on going reliability for operations, to help them avoid those contamination issues.”

Energy is very expensive and volatile. Lami says they convinced the city that energy from the Almeda-Sims WWTP in south Houston can be produced cheaper than purchased, and the heat by-product of the energy consumption could be reused.

“At Almeda-Sims, they have to dry the sludge. They actually produce a fertilizer pellet that they sell to the industry. For them to dry it, they have to consume energy, right there at the plant. Why would you allow a grid power producer to consume energy, and have Almeda-Sims wastewater plant consume energy, when you can consume that BTU once, take the heat off the process and put it right back into the drying solution on sight.”

The Almeda-Sims project is expected to save over 5-thousand tons of carbon a year across the grid where it is off-setting electric consumption. Lami says the energy saving component is what sold the city.

“The ancillary benefit of continued operations, was actually not originally adopted as a need by the city. After  Hurricane Ike, a tremendous amount of legislation has been passed since then, now forcing both municipal utility districts, local governments, counties and the cities to implement power sustainable solution.” 

Lami says a back-up system of combined heat and power would keep waste-water treatment plants operating even after a hurricane.

Pat Hernandez, KUHF…Houston Public Radio News.