During this unprecedented time, we want to assure you that Municipal District Services is committed to its mission of providing safe drinking water, reliable sewer service, and to continue as a responsible environmental steward.
MDS and its employees have been identified as essential personnel and work in a critical infrastructure sector. On March 16th, the President issued updated Coronavirus Guidance for America. The guidance states that, “If you work in a critical infrastructure industry, as defined by the Department of Homeland Security… you have a special responsibility to maintain your normal work schedule.” Though the guidance is advisory in nature, it is clear that MDS and its employees who ensure continued operations of water and wastewater systems are essential employees.
With that in mind, we wanted to share some details about how MDS is performing during this national crisis:
MDS is actively monitoring COVID-19 developments and policy changes issued by federal, state, and local governments. Additionally, in an effort to protect water operations and worker safety, we closely follow regulations and recommendations issued by the World Health Organization, the Center for Disease Control, and public health authorities.
MDS has made changes to our standard operating procedures to ensure proper social distancing to keep COVID-19 from spreading. We have moved employees within our offices to new locations to reduce contact and increase the space between people. Through our investment in newly adopted technology, our call center is fully operational with Customer Care Representatives able to take calls from the safety of their homes.
We have eliminated large company meetings and have reduced most face-to-face meetings involving even just a few employees. But, the critical work of MDS continues as usual – we are using technology to collaborate effectively and ensure our daily operations are not disrupted. In an effort to contain the virus spread and remain productive, most administrative staff are working from home.
MDS has taken a proactive role in keeping our customers and fellow MUD industry colleagues updated amid rapid changes. We have posted regular updates to both our Facebook page and our web site, including the launch of dedicated COVID-19 Response page. We have also partnered with fellow regional operations companies to form the Gulf Coast MUD Emergency Operations Group (GCM-EOG). The purpose of this group is to ensure the dissemination of accurate information to all those in the region responsible for operating the water and wastewater infrastructure.
We are in the process of posting signage at the facilities we manage (Water Plants, Wastewater Treatment Plants, Lift Stations, etc.) stating PPE and hand washing requirements for all who access the facilities. This message has been reiterated to our vendors, contractors, and fellow consultants via a letter reinforcing the measures we have enacted.
In an abundance of caution, last month MDS suspended meter reading in order to reduce exposure and ensure continuation of essential services. Plans are now in place to resume this service once personal protective equipment is secured and training is complete. For the one month without meter reads, customer billing will be determined by a customer’s average usage from the previous four months (this does not apply to districts with Electronic SMART Meters). While this process may cause water accountability anomalies in the short term, we expect every district will fully recoup billing for all customer water usage.
This situation is continually evolving. We are reviewing data, employee concerns, and customer concerns on a daily basis. As conditions change, we will reassess our policies and guidelines and update them as necessary to ensure that MDS continues to protect customers and our employees, who are critical to providing these essential services.
To reiterate, everyone here at MDS is united and focused on the same goal of providing safe drinking water and reliable sewer service to all of your customers. While these times may not be exactly business as usual, we are hard at work, getting the job done.
Wishing Good Health to You and Your Families,
Bryan Chapline, Rebecca Marcucci, Ken Love