The following was emailed to all City Council Members on Mar 27, 2020 by City Administrator Tom Crawford.
There’s been some recent concern expressed by residents regarding the city’s capability to continue to deliver quality drinking water during the coronavirus pandemic. As council members hear questions about the city’s water, you can be assured that that the city’s drinking water is safe, and there is ample supply to meet the city’s needs during this pandemic, regardless of its duration. The city understands that safe and reliable drinking water is critical to the community for not only consumption, but also for personal hygiene, most importantly handwashing. City staff have plans in place to address emergencies including events like the one we are currently experiencing. The city’s next issue of Quality Water Matters, that will be distributed next week, will address COVID-19 and reinforce, for city drinking water customers, that they can rely on city water to meet all of their needs during the pandemic without reservation.
Do we have redundancy built into our WTP system?
There is a significant amount of redundancy built into the city’s water treatment plant and processes. Most of the redundancy is mandated by statute. Even if there was a significant failure of a piece of equipment and the city was unable to get parts or service due to the pandemic, service to city customers would not be impacted.
Is WTP operation a primary concern under our Emergency Operation Planning?
Both drinking water and wastewater treatment services are identified in the Governor’s Executive Order and in communication from the Federal government as essential services. While we have reduced city government services during this pandemic, both the water and wastewater plants are continuing with full operation. While some services levels have been reduced to minimize employee interactions through social distancing and other recommendations, the operation and ability to deliver drinking water and wastewater services has not been impacted and will not be impacted during the pandemic. City administration has been working closely with both water and wastewater plant managers to ensure we have the resources and staffing in place, and adequate contingency plans, to ensure service will not be impacted to our customers.
Does the city have staff trained that can replace current WTP staff should some catastrophe befall them?
Both the drinking water and wastewater plant have staffing plans in place that can be implemented if employees become unavailable due to illness or care for family members. These plans include flexible use of staff, sequestering staff if needed, and the ability to tap external resources if necessary.
The City of Ann Arbor has been at the forefront in planning to address the impacts that this pandemic might have on water and wastewater system operations. Other utilities and EGLE have sought input and guidance from the city on how it is handling this event, and we have been sharing our policies and procedures so that others can benefit from the work that we have done.