RECOVERY EFFORT: The Whitsunday Regional Council's water team hard at work in the hours following Cyclone Debbie.
RECOVERY EFFORT: The Whitsunday Regional Council's water team hard at work in the hours following Cyclone Debbie. CONTRIBUTED

Water team recognised for Cyclone Debbie recovery efforts

WHITSUNDAY Regional Council cleaned up at the 2018 Resilient Australia Awards in Brisbane last week, winning two awards including one for an image taken during Cyclone Debbie.

The Whitsunday Water team won the People's Choice Resilient Photograph Award for an image titled Restoring water and sewer after a cyclone, which shows the water team working from Chief Operating Officer Troy Pettiford's garage in the hours following Cyclone Debbie.

Mr Pettiford said the prolonged cyclone caused extensive damage and flooding which resulted in a number of people being stuck in Cannonvale.

"We were very lucky that our house was a location everyone could get to and we had quite good phone coverage too,” he said.

"We had quite a task ahead of us to restore water supply to Cannonvale and the greater area, so we used the house as a base.”

Mr Pettiford said they had spent a lot of time in the car out the front of the house, running the engine to charge phone batteries.

But his then nine-year-old son Brad watched the work unfold and took it upon himself to set up a home office "base camp” with tables, chairs and name tags in the garage.

Mr Pettiford said Brad was a big part of the operation, taking minutes, word for word, on daily tasks and conversations (including the occasional accidental profanity), and participated in the debrief at the end of every day.

It took three days to get a water supply back as Mr Pettiford said a tree had come down on a fire hydrant near Abell Point Marina, emptying the back-up water supply, not to mention burst water mains.

They also had to go through the process of having the water tested by relevant government agencies to confirm that it was drinkable.

But the team put in 18-20hour days for two weeks to bring water and sewerage back as quickly as possible and maintain 65 generators around town.

Mr Pettiford extended his gratitude to the community, many of whom offered assistance, including running extra power cables to his garage.

"They'd come around to see if we needed help cleaning the yard or to offer a beer or help cook a barbecue,” he said.

The Whitsunday Water team were also highly commended finalists in the Resilient Projects Local Government for the Bowen Water Treatment Plant for "water supply energy and resilience - integration of solar and backup generation to adapt to our extremes”.


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