Puerto Rico Recovery
Award of Merit
Owner: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Contractor: Thompson Pump
Hurricane Maria was still raging over Puerto Rico when the spillway of the remote Guajataca Dam failed, forcing the evacuation of 70,000 area homes. Conditions continued to deteriorate after the storm passed, raising fears that the dam itself could fail. Working under the auspices of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the project team rapidly deployed a system of portable 18-in. pumps along the reservoir, gradually reducing water levels to alleviate stress on the damaged structure and mitigate the immediate threat of downstream flooding. The systems were also strategically located to prevent the large lines from obstructing a road linking homes above the dam to the rest of the area. Communications and logistical challenges overshadowed the initial work, with no cellphone service and few supplies beyond what team members brought with them.
With the threat to the dam’s stability alleviated, the pump system was soon expanded and redeployed to address another dire need—supplying safe drinking water for more than 200,000 citizens. Up to 10 pumps channeled reservoir water to a canal serving three treatment plants. Over the next 12 months, the project team continued to provide round-the-clock pump operational support and maintenance, repositioning the units and associated suction and discharge lines in order to maintain consistent flows as the reservoir level fluctuated with subsequent rainfall. The affected water treatment plants have since been restored to normal operation.