University of Florida Training, Research and Education for Environmental Occupations (UF TREEO) Center is currently acting as the State of Florida’s Water/Wastewater Agency Response Network (FlaWARN) Response Center. The Response Center, normally located in Tallahassee, is facilitating requests for help from water/wastewater utilities affected by Hurricane Michael. It also provides a staging area for utilities traveling from South Florida to the Panhandle.
City of West Palm Beach water and wastewater crews arrive at UF TREEO Center to stage their equipment overnight before heading out to Bay County to restore service to those affected by Hurricane Michael.
“UF TREEO is centrally located and a good overnight stopping area for utilities from South Florida heading to the affected areas. We moved from the Central District of Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) after the task of calling all utilities in the area was completed. UF TREEO volunteered to house the response center because electricity is still being restored in Tallahassee,” said Carol Hinton, UF TREEO Center Director.
Water/Wastewater Agency Response Networks (WARNs) are a network of utilities organized within a state to facilitate the exchange of resources after an emergency. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has long worked with local and state government as well as water sector associations in support of WARNs, including conducting exercises and training, and developing tools and resources.
Hurricane Michael has affected more than 100 medium to large water and wastewater systems and several hundred smaller systems. According to Hinton, the FlaWARN Response Center has logged over 120 hours responding to 70 requests for assistance from utilities affected by Hurricane Michael and those numbers are growing.
Requests for help have been answered by over 30 utilities around the state of Florida with an additional 10 utilities that are in preparation to deploy. Help has also been sent from Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, North Carolina and South Carolina. “Many utilities did not have personnel available but were able to send equipment or supplies,” Hinton added, “The majority of these resources are heading to Bay County and Gulf County.”
The FlaWARN Response Team includes Hinton, Joni Synatschk, FDEP, Jamie Shakar, FDEP, Joan Douglas, Southeast Rural Community Assistance Project (SE RCAP) and Dyana Stewart, Florida Rural Water Association (FRWA).
In addition to supporting FlaWARN, University of Florida Training, Research and Education for Environmental Occupations (UF TREEO) plays a major role in the continuing education for environmental professions. Currently in its 40th year, UF TREEO offers online courses in addition to its face to face offerings in Gainesville, Florida as well as in satellite locations all over the world.