Grays Harbor PUD crews responded to several scattered outages Monday morning as several inches of standing water flooded main roads, side streets and several homes in Aberdeen, Hoquiam and Cosmopolis.  While there have yet to be widespread outages caused by Monday's storm, PUD crews are asking customers to call the Grays Harbor PUD Outage Reporting Hotline at 360-537-3721 or 1-888-541-5923 to report any outages that may have occurred.

While the Grays Harbor PUD will be closing early today to allow employees to reach their homes safely, line crews, a substation crew and essential IT and facilities staff will remain on duty to deal with power restoration and any emergency issues that occur.

The Monday evening PUD Commissioners meeting will take place earlier in the day, beginning at 3:30PM in the Nichols Building meeting room.  The abbreviated meeting is expected to last no more than half an hour, allowing all attendees to leave before dark.

 

The Harbor Paper aeration basin is once again empty.  After years of holding the water and sediment that remained from the treatment of wastewater, the 4.5 acre basin is empty for the first time since the completion of its construction in the summer of 1977.  On the evening of December 30,, 2014, the last dump truck rolled out of the basin, carrying the final load of “sludge” to the Cowlitz County Landfill, the closest landfill licensed to receive the waste product. 

“It’s a significant moment in the Grays Harbor PUD’s efforts to remove and demolish the Harbor Paper wastewater treatment facility,” said PUD General Manger Dave Ward.  “From the beginning of this project, our goal has been to find ways to complete the work with the smallest possible impact to our customers.  The work in the aeration basin is one of the best examples of innovative thinking and cost saving solutions that we have.”

After examining multiple options for the loading and transport of the sludge, the PUD chose the method with the lowest cost: to rent trucks, trailers and a loader and hire drivers and a loader operator to transport the material to the Cowlitz landfill.  In all, the PUD trucks made 525 trips to Cowlitz County over a three month period, shipping 14,523 tons of sludge, an average of 27.6 tons per trip.  The final cost of the disposal of sludge totaled $490-thousand.

“Had the PUD used a private contractor, the cost for hauling and dumping the sludge would have been between $720-thousand and $900-thousand,” said Ward.  “Thanks to our dedicated staff, the PUD arrived at a solution that responsibly disposed of thousands of tons of industrial waste and did so at a significant savings to the PUD and its customers.”

Under its agreement with Rayonier Properties, LLC, the PUD is obligated to clean and remove the facility’s water treatment system and remove solid byproducts including the basin sludge and piles of bark/rock mixture, sand ash, and boiler grate material. 

As the Grays Harbor PUD prepares to implement a new Customer Service Information system, they are reminding customers of a change to billing practices that will impact a small number of customers who have elected to use the bi-monthly billing option.  The new system the PUD is transitioning to does not have the capability to provide a bi-monthly billing option so beginning in January of 2015, all Grays Harbor PUD bills will be delivered on a monthly basis. 

“PUD staff began notifying customers in October of 2014 to allow them to adjust their budgets to the monthly billing cycle,” said Chief Financial Officer Doug Streeter.   “In that time we hope they will have made changes that will allow them to start 2015 under the new billing cycle.”

The elimination of bi-monthly billing will impact fewer than 300 PUD customers, but Streeter says they need to know that Customer Service representatives are ready and able to help with questions or offer payment options that may make this transition easier.  Grays Harbor PUD Customer Service can be reached at (360) 532-4220, 1-800-562-7726 or via email, customerservice@ghpud.org.

Ever try to put a dollar amount on a great skill set and a little empowerment?  In the case of the Grays Harbor PUD’s Alice King and Corwin Grey it comes out to roughly $80,000 per year.  That is the estimated amount the two will save the PUD thanks to their creation of a new network operations center system.

Previously the PUD had contracted with an outside agency for system monitoring services to watch over servers, battery banks, communication systems, SCADA, Load Reporting, and other PUD systems.  However, the PUD outgrew the existing system and coupled with the $7,500 per month costs, the contract was becoming an ill fit. 

Seeking a system with lower costs and more efficient responses, Grey and King received the go ahead from the Chief Information Officer Rob Hanny to acquire new software and create a system in-house; one based on specific Grays Harbor PUD needs.  In the end, the new system met PUD efficiency requirements, allowed for faster response times by PUD staff and did so for roughly $10,350 per year.  Compared to the $90,000 per year the PUD was paying their contract company, its’ impossible to argue the win-win status of the new network operations center system.     

“This really shows the quality of the employees we have,” said Board of Commissioners President Russ Skolrood.  “They saw a need and acted on it.  I am really impressed with the skills they have shown.”

While the new system is a Grays Harbor PUD creation, it may spread to other utilities.  Hanny says other districts have already contacted him to learn about the system and how it may work for their system.

Grays Harbor PUD line crews will assist the Snohomish County Public Utility District with power restoration efforts in the wake of the Dec. 11th storm.

As of 9am Friday morning, Snohomish County PUD reported 13,000 of their customers were still in the dark after strong winds ripped through the Puget Sound region.  The call quickly went out for mutual aid responders from neighboring utilities to send crews to assist with the recovery.  Grays Harbor quickly assembled two, five man volunteer crews who will travel north Friday afternoon to lend a hand with system reconstruction and power restoration work.  The cost of the work will be covered by the Snohomish County PUD.

“Utilities have a long standing tradition of helping each other in times of need,” said Grays Harbor General Manager Dave Ward.  “Dozens of utilities helped the Grays Harbor PUD recover from the December 2007 storm.  We are proud to return that service when and where we can.”