The evacuation and re-entry process in Glynn County is not perfect.
As much as we and local emergency management officials urge everyone to be prepared for a hurricane, there is no way to be fully prepared for what the storms will bring.
We can know a storm is coming, and we can know approximately how bad the impacts may be, but we cannot see the future to know how those impacts may affect local infrastructure. We can only know once they have happened.
Reports of overflowing manhole covers and sewage leaks around Glynn County were disturbing in Irma’s aftermath. We don’t want our children and families encountering sewage in the streets and we certainly don’t want anyone getting sick because of it.
The all clear notice put out by the Brunswick-Joint Water and Sewer Commission Friday was a relief to us all. It shows how dedicated the hard-working folks there are and how much they care about getting things back in working order.
The problems we saw this week have nothing to do with the men and women at the utility who have probably not had any sleep since Hurricane Irma came and went, spending all their time trying to get sewer lift stations back online and running so water and sewer restrictions could be lifted. We applaud their efforts and thank them for all they do. We are confident their dedication is what made the all clear possible.
Instead, the problems stem largely from the system’s old age and a lack of modernization during the search for a new headquarters.
The ramifications of that neglect have been on full display before Irma. Her impacts simply showed us how bad the problems really are and made us understand the need for recent rate hikes and SPLOST allocations. Fixing the issues will not be cheap or easy. It will also not happen overnight.
The good news is plans are in the works that should relieve most of the sewer capacity issues. Those fixes cannot come soon enough.
As they happen, we hope the utility takes a close look at its policies and procedures for dealing with natural disasters like hurricanes and tropical storms as well. To get some ideas, we suggest taking a look at other areas hit by storms that may have fared better and do what they did.
With storms becoming a more regular occurrence for the Golden Isles, something must be done to mitigate these problems so residents don’t have to return home to sewage in their streets.
Our suggestion is to find a way to buy generators for strategic sewer lift stations that will keep things operating when power is out. We understand they are expensive, at least $100,000 each, but if grant money or other methods can help, by all means do it.
The faster things are working again after a storm, the sooner everyone can come home.