When communities in West Georgia started looking for resources to help with recovery from Hurricane Michael, the Brunswick-Glynn County Joint Water and Sewer Commission saw an opportunity to pay it forward.
During Hurricane Irma, the Georgia Rural Water Authority offered to send generators to the Golden Isles to help the JWSC while it repaired the public water and sewer systems. Nearly all sewer pump stations lost power during Irma, and many couldn’t be immediately turned on because they needed repairs.
“They offered up generators to us, and as far as I know that was the first time the JWSC was the recipient of that kind of aid. So when we saw the opportunity to reciprocate we jumped on it,” said Jay Sellers, the utility’s director of administration. “We have a mutual aid agreement with the GRWA. They’re always ready to serve, so it was high time we returned the favor.”
Coordinating through the GRWA, the Georgia Emergency Management Agency and state Environmental Protection Division, the JWSC sent five generators Sunday to Bainbridge, Ga., to run water and sewer wells and pumps in the West Georgia area.
“On Sunday, going about my business, I got a call from Homer Bryson, the Georgia EMA director, at which point I knew it was serious. He said they could use whatever resources the JWSC could supply,” Sellers said.
He said he was later contacted by Amy Rammo-Kuhs with the EPD, who started coordinating the effort to get generators to Bainbridge.
Jay Matthews with the GRWA said three of the generators stayed in Bainbridge, one went to Colquitt, Ga., and the last went to Donalsonville, Ga.
“They were a tremendous resource in response ... Of course, they have some experience in this, dealing with storms on the coast over there,” Matthews said.
Officials in the area said they had suffered a lot of damage, and that they appreciated the assistance.
“Bainbridge got tore up. Donalsonville got hit pretty hard,” Bo Ladner, assistant public works director with the city of Bainbridge.
Jeremy Miller, with the city of Colquitt, said their water system was hit very hard, losing pressure completely. Four of the city’s 10 sewer pump stations are still on generators, he said, but they’re steadily getting everything back online.
Kevin Davis, with the city of Donalsonville, said he was glad to have the generator, that it was powering one of the city’s wells. Recovery has been slow-going, however.
“We’re getting there. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel ... We had a lot of devastation,” Davis said.
Ladner said Bainbridge received 10 generators from different places and were beginning to phase some out. Two of the three generators from the JWSC were still in use on Friday, he said.
“We’re looking pretty good. We’ve got piles and piles of debris that’s got to go, and broke power poles. Back to 60-65 percent of power back in service. But we have a lot of debris that needs to be picked up,” Ladner said. “... I just want to tell (the JWSC) I really appreciate them. I state for everybody down here, they’ve been tremendous.”
The JWSC wasn’t the only agency to help, however. Matthews said water and sewer utilities from all over Georgia contributed to the recovery in the southwest corner of the state.
Sellers said Glynn County lent a hand as well by sending two trucks to tow generators.
“The water professionals really stood up and stood out and helped others in their time of need. In Brunswick, they were one of the leaders on that,” Matthews said.
Sellers said reimbursement for the cost in personnel time and fuel used in delivering the generators will likely be worked out with the Federal Emergency Management Agency at a later date.