Water Utilities Supply Chain
Challenges and Case Studies:

CHLORINE, SODA ASH, AND THE
POARCH CREEK INDIANS UTILITY AUTHORITY

The Poarch Creek Indians chartered a Utility
Authority in the early 1990s. Authority staff focus
on drinking water, wastewater, and solid waste
needs of both the Tribe and community The Tribe
has invested millions of dollars in establishing its
own self sustainable utility system, constructing
and installing two groundwater wells with water
treatment facilities for distribution, a million-gallon
water tower, a sequencing batch reactor wastewater
treatment plant, numerous lift stations, water mains,
and sewer mains to support these facilities.

The Tribe is located close to the Gulf of Mexico
in Escambia County, Alabama, making it familiar
to the impacts from hurricanes. The Utility
Authority has already implemented supply chain
best management practices to combat extreme
weather concerns. For example, the Authority
established accounts with their treatment
chemical suppliers and identified two back-up
suppliers for each critical chemical. Furthermore,
during hurricane season each year, the Authority
increases the amount of treatment chemicals
stored on site, anticipating that those chemicals
may be hard to obtain after a hurricane makes landfall.

As the COVID-19 pandemic progressed, the
Authority heard from regulatory agencies and other

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utilities that chlorine and soda ash were soon
to be in short supply. As the Authority began to
consider its options, the call came from its supplier:
the next expected shipment of both chemicals
was going to be delayed for five to seven days.
Authority staff quickly identified back-up suppliers,
but were told that since the Authority was not an
active customer with these distributors it could
not be prioritized for delivery. Eventually one
backup supplier was able to provide both soda
ash and some chlorine, but the price would be
double their normal cost.

To mitigate the impacts of potentially running out of
chlorine and soda ash, the Authority implemented
operational changes designed to maximize the life
of on-hand supplies of both chemicals.

For example, one well in the Authority's drinking
water system is equipped with an in-line ultraviolet
(UV) disinfection unit. The Authority began to use
this well more than the other to leverage the UV unit
and use less soda ash.

While this was not operationally ideal in terms of
water age, cycling back and forth between the two
wells enabled the Authority to continue to produce
safe water at regulatory standards.

"It is my personal goal to have
[sustain] a certain number of
failures before we are critical."

- Shaun Livermore, Operations Manager

Response and Mitigation

The Challenge


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Lessons Learned

Although the Poarch Creek Indians Utility Authority believed it was well prepared to withstand supply chain
disruptions given the Authority's experience with hurricanes, it further strengthened the following supply
chain best management practices:

	Increase storage. Although the Authority was
increasing chemical storage during hurricane
season, it is now a year-round practice. To
minimize environmental challenges, the Authority
stores the same chemical in multiple locations
around the utility. This avoids potentially exceeding
storage limitation thresholds set for safety and
reporting requirements. It also allows for more
chemical access flexibility in the event of road
closures or other unforeseen obstacles. Currently,
the Authority's goal is to maintain a six-week
supply of all critical treatment chemicals on-site.

	Change order frequency. Orders will be
delayed and may come in multiple, partial
shipments. The Authority orders critical supplies
two weeks earlier than usual and may place the
next order before the original order arrives.

	Communicate with regulatory agencies

Authority staff work with both EPA Region 4
and the Alabama Department of Environmental
Management. These agencies have indicated
their willingness to work with the Authority under
emergency conditions to help relieve pressures
caused by maximum storage thresholds and to
consider any treatment changes that may be
needed based on chemical shortages.

Ask neighbors for help. The Authority has
access to mutual aid through the United South
and Eastern Tribes organization. The Authority
also has agreements with West Escambia Utilities
and Freemanville Water System for assistance.
The three utilities can loan each other needed
chemicals and supplies and then be "paid back"
with identical chemicals and supplies once the
borrowing utility has them in stock again.

The Poarch Creek Indians Utility Authority knows their supply chain challenges are not over yet. But
the Authority feels it is now managing its supplies in a much more proactive way that allows them to
maintain control over unpredictable supply challenges.

Additional Resources

You can find more information on using supply chain
management best practices and preparing for supply chain
challenges at https://www.eoa.aov/waterutilityresponse/
water-and-wastewater-sector-suDDlv-chain-resilience.

Office of Water (4608T)

EPA 830-F22-002

July 2022


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