GRANTS PASS, Ore.-- Grants Pass is taking multiple steps to make sure it’s prepared for an emergency situation. The city is testing a system that will be able to detect the amount of time before an earthquake strikes.
It's called ShakeAlert. It’s being developed by the United States Geological Survey (USGS). Right now the Grants Pass water filtration plant is the only place to test this technology in Oregon. Here's how it works. If an earthquake is detected anywhere on the west coast, ShakeAlert will send an alert to the plant with how much time until that first shake will be felt.
"What we're able to do with that is actuate valves in our distribution system or shut off some of our bigger pumps and motors and prevent them from causing damage OR save water in our storage reservoir," said Public Works Director Jason Canady.
He added this could potentially spare millions of gallons of water from being lost due to damage such as broken pipelines.
"What it will do is it will allow us to recover quicker after an earthquake. We're still going to have damage. We're still going to have breakage but if everything doesn't tear itself apart then we can get back up in running and get normality restored to the citizens much faster," Canady said.
In the event that the water treatment plant did have to shut down from an earthquake, another natural disaster or an extended power outage, it has a backup plan. It’s called the Water Emergency Resource Trailer, or WERT for short. It has the ability to take water from the Rogue River and filters it enough for people to drink it.
"We bring in raw water and we run it through four stages of filtration ranging from ultra-course down to ultra-fine," Canady said.
The trailer will also remove any harmful bacteria in the water. It's just one part of the city's emergency response plan for if the water filtration plant were to fail.
"This unit will at least be able to provide drinking water, not water for industrial purposes or flushing toilets but just to keep people alive," added Canady.
The treatment plant usually produces 3.5 million gallons of water a day in the winter and 15 million in the summer. If something happened to the plant, the WERT would be able to pump 40,000 gallons from the Rogue River. That's enough for 1 gallon of drinking water per person per day.