VERNON TOWNSHIP — Meadville Area Water Authority (MAWA) customers may not have noticed any change in their water supply last week, but that doesn’t mean things were entirely normal at the pump station serving much of the city.
A power outage July 12 left the authority’s Rogers Ferry Road headquarters — including its seven wells, three pumps and all of the computerized equipment controlling the pump station — without power for a week, Project Manager Bob Harrington told the MAWA board on Wednesday. The authority’s site generator powered the utility throughout the outage so that service was never interrupted.
Staff work schedules, on the other hand, were disrupted. When the station runs on backup power, Harrington said, a crew member must be present at all times so that any concerns that arise can be addressed immediately. As a result, the seven-person maintenance crew staffed the facility around the clock.
“They did work long hours,” Harrington said in an interview following the board meeting.
Mark Gildea brought the outage to the attention of his fellow board members in order to give a “shout-out to Bob Harrington for the excellent work he did in regard to the outage we had last week.”
Harrington told the board, “We are lucky to have the staff we have.”
The source of the problem, Harrington said after the meeting, was the repeated cycling on-and-off of the authority-owned transformer at the MAWA compound that occurred as utility crews made repairs following severe weather on the afternoon of July 12. Three bayonet fuses, which protect the transformer from power surges, were damaged. Replacing them proved difficult, according to Harrington.
When Cox and Kanyuck Electric, the Meadville electricians hired to repair the transformer, searched for replacement parts, they were only able to locate an extremely limited supply of the necessary fuses and shipping them from Texas took a week.
“Apparently there were only six in the country — and we bought all six,” Harrington said to laughter and suggestions of “put them on eBay” from board members.
The fuses were installed and the pump station was reconnected to the commercial power network on Monday.
The authority continued its usual business and “kept all of our appointments” during the outage, Harrington said. Backup power has been used in the past, so relying on the generator was not out of the ordinary for the authority, but the seven-day duration of the outage was lengthier than past disruptions.
While the power outage did not interrupt business as usual, Harrington said that if the backup system had failed, residents would have noticed.
“We would have struggled to supply Meadville with water,” he said. “The emergency backup system worked exactly as it’s designed to, which is very reassuring.
“And that’s why,” Harrington added, “nobody knew it happened.”
Mike Crowley can be reached at (814) 724-6370 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.