ERDC’s Martinez-Guerra applies military installation expertise to Jackson water crisis > Engineers Research and Development Center > News

VICKSBURG, Mississippi – By now many have heard of the recent water crisis affecting the town of Jackson, Mississippi.

However, many may not realize that a research environmental engineer from the Environmental Laboratory of the U.S. Army Engineers Research and Development Center (ERDC), Dr. Edith Martinez-Guerra, applied her expertise to military installations to help assess the troubled system.

The city’s two sewage treatment plants, OB Curtis and JH Fewell, form an important part of this system. According to the City of Jackson’s website, OB Curtis encountered water treatment issues in early September, resulting in a loss of potable water throughout the city.

“I did an infrastructure assessment on the resilience of water treatment plants by adapting a survey template that our team had developed from the facility energy and water plan project (IEWP),” Martinez-Guerra said. “I used it to develop a baseline to see what we need to work on in Jackson.”

IEWPs build the resilience of U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force installation energy and water systems for critical preparedness after hurricanes and other disasters, and Martinez-Guerra was the lead for the water on the project. Martinez-Guerra defines resilience as how quickly interconnected systems can recover when damaged.

The IEWPs are part of a multidisciplinary, multi-laboratory program that Martinez-Guerra has been working on since 2019 through ERDC’s Applied Research Planning Support Center.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Vicksburg District Project Manager Capt. Hayden Schappell is leading the development of a City of Jackson Water Crisis Resilience Handbook as part of a mission entrusted to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Vicksburg District’s Katy Breaux is the senior project manager for the Environmental Infrastructure Program and has worked closely with Schappell and Martinez-Guerra since forming the USACE Jackson Water Crisis Team in September. The USACE team worked in partnership with other state, local, and federal agencies, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH), and the Agency US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

“The Playbook will help the city make long-term improvements to Jackson’s water treatment facilities,” Breaux said. “The Resiliency Playbook contains over 100 relevant projects and recommendations that can be implemented to maintain and improve the overall resilience of these factories. The material contained in the Playbook is intended to be a starting point for future planning efforts by local, state and federal partners.

Martinez-Guerra’s survey model, associated reports, and project briefs played an important role in shaping the Playbook’s roadmap for improvements.

To complement investigations, Martinez-Guerra typically asks herself when she reviews a water treatment system, “What should they be looking at?” and she inspects plant systems – in this case, raw water intake infrastructure, flocculators, clarifiers and other components – to see if they are working properly.

“I also looked at the filter system, the chlorination room and the sedimentation pond, etc.,” she said.

“Dr. Martinez-Guerra has developed project maps for cost estimates that isolate an issue and then provide a recommendation,” Breaux said. “She has a lot of knowledge and she excels at sharing it effectively with lay people.”

“I have completed the resilience reports for both plants,” Martinez-Guerra said. “The OB Curtis water treatment plant is only about 35 years old, and the JH Jewell is about 100 years old. Both factories are working, it’s just that their capacity is lower.

Martinez-Guerra said Jackson’s treatment plants — like many water treatment plants — have redundancies to support resiliency. Redundancies are backup configurations so that in the event of a system failure, there is a backup to use.

“If there are two pumps and one is a standby pump – if one pump fails and there is no staff to fix it immediately, you use a standby pump, then if this one breaks down, you’re in a bind,” she said.

His expertise and the associated water survey model have the potential for a wide range of applications. A manager with the US Department of Homeland Security’s Critical Infrastructure Protection and Resilience team recently contacted her to inquire about the use of her model.

Breaux said the expertise and tools Martinez-Guerra brought during the crisis were invaluable.

“Dr. Martinez-Guerra was an integral part of the response to the Jackson water crisis,” Breaux said. “She identified critical vulnerabilities in water treatment plant operations and made recommendations experts to improve the operations and resilience of Jackson’s water treatment plants. She conducted water quality testing and algal speciation to help the EPA and MSDH ensure clean water. high quality to the residents of Jackson.His knowledge and expertise contributed greatly to the success of the Unified Command and USACE Emergency Response Team in response to the water crisis in Jackson.

About Irene J. O'Donnell

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