In the hall of unsung heroes surrounding Hurricane Sandy, I would like to draw attention to the men and women of The North Hudson Sewerage Authority. As the Authority Chairman, I may not be an entirely objective voice, but the facts speak for themselves. The Authority accomplished it goals: to keep the sewerage treatment plants and pump stations operational in the face of the storm. Achieving those objectives minimized health and environmental hazards and freed the streets of water 48 hours faster than would have otherwise been the case.
We are very proud of what our men and women accomplished in the teeth of this incredible storm. They were prepared, organized, and very brave throughout the whole ordeal. Expert planning and heroic execution during the storm itself (both facts later recognized by the NJ Department of Environmental Protection) kept one treatment plant fully functional throughout the hurricane, protected all our pump stations, and brought back into primary operation the Hoboken treatment plant just 24 hours after it was submerged and cut off from the rest of City by storm surge.
The Authority and its Operator, CH2MHill/OMI, mobilized its entire staff of 42, plus10 CH2MHill workers from as far away as Mississippi, Ohio, Rhode Island, and South Carolina, and an additional 20 subcontractors. Because this large contingent of trained workers were on site 24/7 during the entire week, the system was able to take the hard punches from Sandy and get back up and running in record time.
The Hoboken treatment plant was engulfed in 10 feet of storm surge which raced down 16th Street on Monday night in a torrent of waves and white caps. Much of its equipment flooded, the plant was inoperable on the first night of the storm. But emergency generators and quick work by the staff to dry out pumps and equipment had the plant at primary treatment within 24 hours. For the entire week, crews worked around the clock to make repairs, with additional personnel and resources such as pumps, generators, vehicles and other supplies being brought in from CH2M HILL locations across the country.
The Authority’s decision to sandbag and shut down pump stations in danger of being engulfed in storm surge allowed workers to save the pumps and then turn them back on at critical junctures during the storm and its aftermath. While the devastation in Hoboken and parts of Weehawken was in many ways unfathomable, it would have been much worse had the wet weather pump stations not worked continuously throughout the storm and immediately afterwards. The pumps on Observer Highway in Hoboken and 18th Street in Weehawken dried out the streets in Southwest Hoboken and the Shades in Weehawken fast and effectively.
This tremendous recovery is a testament to our dedicated staff who worked tirelessly despite the fact that many of their own homes suffered damage and were without power, water and other essentials. The Authority and its commissioners are very proud of their effort.
Dr. Richard J. Wolff
North Hudson Sewerage Authority