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Palm Beach County Rushes to Reload Diesel Supply

September 14, 2004

With Hurricane Ivan approaching, Palm Beach County officials have been concerned over the dwindling stock of diesel fuel. On Sept. 9, they said a potential crisis has been averted — assuming the tanker trucks they've arranged actually arrive, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel newspaper on September 10. "We need to have diesel fuel and gasoline in large quantities," County Administrator Bob Weisman said. Diesel fuel is so important that Weisman said he was prepared to order actions that would be "historically stupid" but necessary to preserve life and safety for county residents. Weisman said he came close on September 9 to ordering the shutdown of the county's southern region wastewater plant to save the 7,000 gallons of diesel fuel required to keep the plant operating on generator power. Gary Dernlan, director of the county water utility, said that would have sent 35 million gallons a day of raw sewage into Lake Ida. Weisman said the 7,000 gallons of saved diesel "would run some more important facilities for a long time." As he was contemplating that decision, Weisman said commercial power was restored to the site. Weisman said he had been asking federal officials to help with diesel supplies for days. With Hurricane Ivan approaching, he said he told Federal Emergency Management Agency officials in a September 9 conference call that Palm Beach County needs 140,000 gallons of diesel fuel before it hits. He said that would replenish stocks to the level they were at before Hurricane Frances struck, and it would be about half the storage capacity. He said that would cover critical county and municipal government needs as well as critical functions such as hospitals. He said he did not know how much was on hand as of Sept. 9 except that stocks were "very low." Dernlan said the county was down to less than a 24-hour supply, though usage varies depending on how quickly Florida Power & Light Co. restores electricity to facilities using generator power. With no help forthcoming from the federal government, Dernlan and County Commission Chairwoman Karen Marcus said the county arranged its own supplies on Sept. 9. Dernlan said 95,000 gallons were bought from a Georgia supplier, and some tankers should start arriving today.
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