Contractor Helps City Ravaged by Hurricane Irma

Florida’s Murphy Pipeline Contractors taking on additional work to help community get water and wastewater systems working again after Irma

Contractor Helps City Ravaged by Hurricane Irma

(Photo by Associated Press)

When Richard Crow got to the job site Wednesday morning in Fort Lauderdale, what he saw epitomized the devastation Floridians are dealing with following Hurricane Irma.

Trees are down and there is rampant flooding. Kids are playing outside as sewage seeps up from the ground. There’s no electricity. The houses reek of wastewater.

Richard Crow
Richard Crow

Crow, who is the regional manager in South Florida for Murphy Pipeline Contractors Inc., has three and a half crews — 41 total employees — in Fort Lauderdale trying to help the city get back up and running.

Murphy Pipeline Contractors, which has an office in Pembroke Pines, also sent crews to nearby Broward County cities Pompano Beach and Sunrise. The company doesn’t specialize in disaster response, but it will fix municipalities' infrastructure needs immediately.

“All our crews are busy,” Crow says. “Most of them are addressing not normal work, but the various cities' immediate needs in clearing and getting water mains and force mains back operational. A lot of the trees were uprooted and when they were uprooted they either dislodged or broke water mains or force mains.”

Prior to the hurricane sweeping through South Florida on Sept. 10, Fort Lauderdale already had serious infrastructure problems. The city was seeking a $2 billion bond just to take care of wastewater, according to Crow. Now the city’s issues have compounded.

Crow received a call from the city Sunday after the winds whipped through Fort Lauderdale. By the next morning at 8 a.m., Crow had his guys on site ready to work.

“Fort Lauderdale is in the worst shape of the three (municipalities) that we’re working with,” Crow says. “Electricity is out. They had some force mains that went bad. Right now we’re excavating and they’ve got sewage bubbling up all over the place. They’re just trying to deal with it. We’re just trying to get their mains (30-inch) back online as soon as possible. They have valves that aren’t functioning, so we have to get line stops down here from other subcontractors and we’re telling them it’s a dire need. The force main we’re working on right now, 30 percent of Fort Lauderdale’s wastewater is not working based on this one line being down.”

Getting that force main fixed is the No. 1 priority.

Crow feels fortunate working with the city of Fort Lauderdale, because its staff isn’t sitting behind desks, it’s out in the field helping. It’s all hands on deck.

“We’re having daily meetings with people within the city, including the village manager and the mayor. We are top priority,” Crow says. “Our stuff is their stuff, and their stuff is our stuff. They have a few people we can use. You can tell it’s a different animal working with them in an emergency. We’re working as one team, not separated.”

With the hurricane imminent to hit last weekend, Murphy Pipeline Contractors prepared its employees for the worst.

“The hurricane kind of went on the west coast of Florida, so it wasn’t that bad (for us),” Crow says. “We still experienced some heavy rain and some flooding in some areas, but the guys were OK. A lot of the cities around here lost power. I didn’t lose power personally, but all my other guys lost power. A lot of them were kind of overworked a little bit, so when they got back a lot of them didn’t have sleep. But they got right back into it the next day.”

The company has had an emergency disaster plan set in stone for years, and it was just modified to fit the situation. The employees were notified of the plans prior to the hurricane hitting.

“As a company, we talk about getting the company itself ready, getting all the fuel ready,” says Crow, who mentioned the company’s building didn’t have any major damage, just some flooding. “Getting extra fuel containers ready, because we knew it would be short supply, but they need us ASAP. We bought extra water just for the crews. When the guys come back they can’t be dehydrated as soon as they work. We prepared the offices. We tied down all the equipment and made everything safe.”

Crow knows he and his crews are going to be busy for quite some time. He estimates cleanup in Pompano Beach and Sunrise should wrap up in two weeks. After running the numbers on Fort Lauderdale, Crow says his guys could be cleaning up until Oct. 14.

“It’s a long line,” he says. “It’s got a lot of damage to it.”

It’s going to be a long and difficult next month for Crow and his guys. But as contractors in this industry, they are relied upon heavily to get the important work finished.

“I told the guys that this is not about making money,” Crow says, "You’ve got people with wastewater coming back in their homes. I need you all to work Saturdays and Sundays and tough it out. If you’ve got an emergency at home, go home. But we’ve really got to help this community get back in line.”

Murphy Pipeline was previously featured in Cleaner magazine in the September 2016 issue.



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