Operations of wastewater facility saves Camden, N.J., over $2 million per year

Implementation of management and operations improvements for an advanced wastewater treatment facility and collection system has provided over $2 million annual savings to the city.

Sept. 5, 2003 -- Implementation of management and operations improvements for an advanced wastewater treatment facility and collection system has provided over $2 million annual savings to the city.

FACTS
• Operation of the 21.5 MGD water treatment plant
• Maintenance of 150 miles of wastewater collection lines
• Operation of wastewater pumping stations
• Population of 54,000 served with the water system and 87,500 served by the wastewater collection system
• Year partnership was initiated: 1998.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Operating costs reduced by over 20 percent
• Overall cost savings to Camden over $30 million
• City avoided an unattainable but projected large increase in user rates
• Eliminated non-compliance
• Reduced customer non-payment of bills
• Recognized and successfully worked with the collective bargaining unit (CBU)
• All of the current staff are original city employees
• Eliminated most lost time accidents
• 20-year contract initiated in 1999.

Contract operations and project management by U.S. Water has taken the politics out of procurement, City Attorney Marc Riondino said in December of 2000. "Since U.S. Water's operations have saved Camden over $2.0 million per year, this has allowed the city of Camden to spend some of the "dedicated money toward capital improvements."

BACKGROUND

In 1998 Camden decided to award the contract to operate the city's water and wastewater systems to U.S. Water. U.S. Water commenced operation very early in 1999. It is the responsibility of U.S. Water to manage, operate and maintain the city's water system, including source of supply, treatment, distribution, billing, collections and customer service. US Water also manages, operates and maintains the city's entire wastewater collection system.

RESULTS

Since US Water has commenced operations of Camden's water and wastewater systems, regulatory non-compliance has dropped to zero, and employee moral has drastically improved. US Water's operation of the systems has freed significant amount of money, some of which could be spent on long overdue capital improvements that allow the system to meet new, more stringent Safe Drinking Water Act standards.

COST SAVINGS - US Water significantly reduced the costs of operating and maintaining Camden's water and wastewater systems. Much of this cost savings has been reinvested in the system as capital improvements. US Water has also taken on customer billing reduced, customer relations, and added an additional $9 million to the city's income. US Water has reduced non-payment of customer bills.

OPERATIONAL EFFECTIVENESS - Implementation of US Water's management, operations, and maintenance practices in Camden has resulted in improvements in water quality, employee attitudes and skill levels, along with the reliability and regularity of billing and collection activities. These significant improvements were achieved rapidly, while reducing the city's operation and maintenance costs by more than 35 percent.

ENVIRONMENTAL COMPLIANCE - O&M responsibility for compliance is with the operator. Regulatory capital improvement needs are a result of joint (operator & City) planning efforts and are discussed at monthly engineering meetings. Direct interaction with local, state, and federal agencies is critical in achieving long-term project goals. These interactions range from handling new job permits and certification to providing expert technical support for clients during suspected non-compliance issues.

LABOR RELATIONS - US Water voluntarily recognized the union that was in place with Camden at the start of contract. The CBU is the Camden City Council 10. For the term of the agreement, US Water offered all existing employees employment at equivalent salaries, hours, and benefits with no layoffs for economic reasons. The pension plan was transferred from a public-defined-benefit plan with the city, to a private-defined-contribution 401K plan with US Water. The employees are very satisfied with the results of the pension plan change.

This case study was provided by the Water Partnership Council. To learn more, visit : http://www.waterpartnership.org/.

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