Arwen Stories: Battling the Elements to Protect the Environment

24 December 2021
Earlier in the week, we highlighted the experience of members of our local water operations team during Storm Arwen, working in challenging conditions to maintain and restore supplies while getting assistance to customers who needed it. Today, we hear from two of our waste water operators in the north-east, Ruairidh Steele and Adam Martin. 
Ruairidh Steele was one of the local team working hard to maintain and restore waste water treatment after Storm Arwen tore through the north east of Scotland
Fallen trees, blocked roads and disrupted power supplies were among the challenges faced by our local teams
Fallen trees, blocked roads and disrupted power supplies were among the challenges faced by our local teams
Fallen trees, blocked roads and disrupted power supplies were among the challenges faced by our local teams

Teamwork to Beat Storm Challenges

Our waste water operations team pulled together to recover from the devastation Storm Arwen caused to access and critical power supplies

Ruairidh, who is based in Elgin, was on call for the weekend, and knew things were going to be challenging after receiving three calls in 15 minutes about power outages at sites across the area on the Friday evening as gale force winds battered the country. With a large area to cover, it became clear early on that Ruairidh would need extra hands to deal with the issues arising. 
He said: “I was concerned as I would be driving for miles on exposed roads - and I was aware that many trees were down. I also know that most of our sites are surrounded by trees, so I was fearing the worst!  

“As we were advised not to attend standby calls on the Friday night at the height of the storm, I started mentally planning, figuring I’d need to check on the bigger sites first to assess the damage the following day.   
“My senior operator Davie Duncan called to offer help. We had sites with no power and access issues due to fallen trees, as well as alarms going off on some essential site equipment. 

“I quickly realised I wasn’t going to be able to cover the whole area with the amount of issues we discovered via our remote monitoring system, so I contacted our team leader Nina Ker to request assistance from other operators who had offered to help.” 
While the immediate impact on service to customers was more limited than for colleagues dealing with drinking water, the threat of environmental incidents was one that the teams had to be keenly aware of. 

“At our Huntly works, we knew that the inlet screw pump had failed and needed to be fixed as a priority to prevent pollution to the river,” Ruairidh explained. “Davie Duncan flagged this as a priority for the Electrical and Mechanical team so we could avoid this potential pollution incident happening.” 
Ruairidh worked a 16-hour day on the Saturday, alongside Sewerage Pumping Station Operator Chris Morrison, Wastewater Operator Matthew Gibb and Team Manager Andy Will - and says it was that team effort to assess the damage and quickly identify priorities that put them in a more positive position for the following week. 

“By Monday morning, we were able to focus on the worst affected areas,” he said. “It also meant there was no delay in getting contractors organised to clear trees from the start of the week.” 

While they were busy dealing with the repercussions of the storm at work, our staff were also feeling its effects in their own lives. 
Adam Martin, Senior Wastewater Operative, told us how the storm impacted him and his team.  He said: “Not only did we have to deal with the after effects of the storm with no power to sites and all the tree damage, but we also had to deal with the loss of power in our own lives outside of work. Some of our colleagues didn’t have power in their homes for five to six days. 
“At some points it was difficult, however, the support from the team made it easier to manage. I had some late nights working to catch up with my regular duties and to organise what the team would be doing the following day, but we got there.” 
He added: “Communication was extremely good however it was tricky some of the time as the storm had affected not only the power, but also the mobile phone signals which made it quite difficult to contact some of the members of the team.   

“We were trying to minimise disruption and get generators to the sites where they were needed as quickly as possible, while continuing to monitor all sites in our area carefully.” 
Lewis Deas, Wastewater Operations Manager for the East, said: “A big thank you to the operational team members across the East who were exposed to challenging conditions, with waste water assets in the Grampian area left without power for days. I'm proud of the fabulous teamwork and individual resilience demonstrated by the team and by Scottish Water as a whole.”