Water Utilities in Maine – Adapting to a New World

December 10, 2020 / Comments (0)

Community Utilities

A Maine Water Utilities Association Collaboration

The enduring COVID-19 pandemic has affected many businesses, including water utilities across the United States. In conjunction with the cancellation of large-scale events, many organizations are experiencing decreased revenues; including the utilities that supply water.

In the months ahead, water utilities will continue to face critical challenges. A greater dependence on technology and the ability to adapt to rapidly evolving conditions remain a tough test to maintain maximum operational performance.

Interviews were conducted with superintendents of water districts across the State of Maine to find out exactly how they are going to battle against these new challenges.

Mike Broadbent of Auburn Water and Sewer Districts shed light on how his team were handling the situation:

“We are essentially following all as state CDC guidelines. Doing things like trying to keep spacing 6 feet apart and wear a mask. We have weekly meetings with employees to go over the latest restrictions and guidelines to reassuring them and make sure they feel open and comfortable. If they don’t feel well, we encourage them to stay home, especially if they have COVID-19 symptoms. Our employees can use any of their time when dealing with Covid stuff. As far as business goes, we are limiting how much out techs are getting into homes and private businesses. If it meant service or no service they would go in, but not for maintenance services like if your meter isn’t working properly. Our facility is restricted when it comes to people around the facility. it’s essentially on lock-down. Doing wipe downs of the entire building at the beginning and the end of every shift”.

In Southern Maine, the spread of Covid-19 hit earlier, and forced utilities to find the most efficient ways to conduct business. Sharing knowledge with others about what works and what doesn’t is one of the easiest ways to overcome and adapt. York Water District’s Don Neumann lead the charge and did exactly that.

“The group is called the Southern Maine Regional Water Council. It includes seven water utilities: Kittery, York, South Berwick, Sanford, Kennebunk, Maine Water and Portland Water. Our locations are from Portland – south. After Covid hit in March/April, we had our first council meeting. The idea is about utilities helping utilities and meet every Thursday morning for about an hour. bating ideas back and forth and sharing SOP‘s. The weekly Zoom meeting is kind of like our cheerleading squad. as managers we have to make sure everyone who works for our utilities have everything they need. resources such as PPE’s.One entity might make an SOP for their crew that can be taken and adapted for another utility. We have had the ability to pull together a lot of good information making sure employees are all well advised. This has been a learning curve for all trustee members, but this group has been very helpful just to keep us sane”.

Jefferson Longfellow of Kennebec Water District is making the most what he has for resources and empowering his employees to take the standard precautions that are going to help ensure they, and their families will remain safe.

“Our employees are complying by adhering to the full requirements of wearing a mask when out in public spaces. When it comes to service, we aren’t doing any non-emergency appointments such as dealing with water meters. Right now, we only have about 50 percent of people on site. Our district is currently limited to the offices themselves and we have a good lobby. One thing I’ve come to find is that we are aren’t as insulated in Maine as we thought we were. I was always one of those people who would work through a cold, but now that’s all changed, and we are telling everyone to stay home if they feel a little sick. Our plan for now is to stick to the state guidelines and re-assess after the holidays”.

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced water utilities around Maine to adapt and overcome a showering of obstacles. Fortunately, most water utilities continue to conquer water and sewer main breaks in order to prevent disastrous situations while still, serving their customers and protecting employees. They will undoubtedly be able to adapt and surmount the confrontation created by Covid-19. As Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States once said, ” Always bear in mind that your own resolution to success is more important than any other one thing.”

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