O&M contract in Oklahoma City wins public-private partnership award

An operation and maintenance (O&M) contract between Oklahoma City and USFilter Operating Services received the National Council for Public-Private Partnerships 2001 award for innovation and efficiency.

Feb. 11, 2003 -- An operation and maintenance (O&M) contract between Oklahoma City and USFilter Operating Services received the National Council for Public-Private Partnerships 2001 award for innovation and efficiency.

In 1984, Oklahoma City was faced with a host of related problems within its wastewater
treatment system, including:
• steadily rising wastewater treatment costs
• the need to consolidate piecemeal operations
• increasingly stringent environmental regulations that were overwhelming the system operators
• difficulty in hiring and retaining employees due to the system's remote locations, and
• needed plant technology that was beyond operator capabilities.

The initial contract with USFilter called for the company to operate just a portion of the liquids handling system. In 1988, USFilter had proven its capabilities well enough that Oklahoma City signed a contract with the company for the operation and management of three more wastewater treatment plants.

The contract covered multiple advanced wastewater treatment facilities, residuals management, industrial pretreatment and water reuse. More than one million residents lived in the metropolitan area when the relationship was initiated in 1984. It was renewed in 1997 for another five years.

Under the contract, USFilter provided O&M of a total of 101 million gallons per day (MGD) in wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) facilities, including:

- 80 MGD tertiary conventional activated sludge WWTP
- 10 MGD tertiary rotating biological contactor (RBC) WWTP
- 6 MGD tertiary rotating batch reactor (SBR) WWTP
- 5 MGD tertiary conventional activated sludge WWTP

In addition, USFilter performed O&M on a 75 MGD pump station, a 24,000 tons per year post-dewatered, lime-stabilization biosolids program, the city's industrial pretreatment program (IPP), a 750,000-1.5 million gallons-per-year water reuse program and laboratory services.

Despite proliferation of public-private wastewater system partnerships, the project
remains one of largest in the nation.

So far, the 18-year partnership has saved Oklahoma City more than $60 million.

After an initial investment of more than $1 million for enhancing operating performance and
reducing costs, many improvements and multiple increases in services and
scope of the facilities have been made.

The partnership's award-winning biosolids program reduced sludge disposal costs dramatically and produces some 24,000 tons annually of beneficial product that is land-applied to more than 15,000 acres.

Under the industrial pretreatment program, USFilter provides regular, systematized inspections of pretreatment systems of over 500 permitted industries within metro Oklahoma City.

A water reuse program annually delivers between 750,000 to 1.5 million gallons of high-quality treated effluent for the benefit of a major area golf course.

"As a result of the operational and management improvements made by USFilter over the past four years, we've reduced our wastewater operating and maintenance costs by more than $4 million annually," commented Ron Norick, Oklahoma City Mayor, after receiving the 2001 NCPPP Award. "These savings have helped to pay for several capital improvements to our system. And the firm's preventive maintenance program is saving the city money over the long term by protecting our investment in infrastructure. Contract operations are helping to ensure compliance and are helping us to stay current with important legislative and technical developments."

Results

As indicated, USFilter provided more than $1 million in capital to upgrade facilities and services, and in the course of the ensuing 18 years has brought Oklahoma City cumulative savings of more than $60 million.

There are numerous components to the cost-saving regimen, such as integration and consolidation of administration. Maintenance and laboratory functions have also cut expenditures for labor and supplies by $1.75 million annually.

Modifications to the system's odor control program have not only mitigated odors, but are saving $850,000 yearly. Changes to the sludge dewatering system have reduced electrical expenses by $700,000 per year, and other upgrades to sludge dewatering and equipment are saving $600,000 annually.

Installation of high-efficiency aeration equipment has decreased power costs by $500,000 a year. Prudent chemical usage saves $200,000 annually, and corporate purchase agreements and volume purchasing for all facilities and satellite locations have significantly lowered the price of chemicals.

Operational effectiveness

Innovative operation and maintenance programs have been implemented throughout Oklahoma City's wastewater treatment system, including the use of computerized systems to optimize information, management, and process-control functions.

SCADA, remote monitoring and laboratory robotics systems are among the more notable installed and in 2001, USFilter added radio telemetry for heightened monitoring of remote
facilities.

Ongoing use of state-of-the-art preventive and diagnostic maintenance techniques helps to forecast operational trends and reveal hidden problems that could otherwise compromise operational efficiency or regulatory compliance.

Environmental compliance

As an operator, USFilter is contractually bound to put forth their best efforts in pursuing all regulatory compliance and has achieved full compliance. There were several federal regulatory administrative orders incurred in the first three years of the contract prior to USFilter taking over direction of the majority of the system in 1988.

Since then, the partnership has installed effective upgrades in effluent quality, treatment capacity and wet-weather peak flow capacity. No fines were levied and in the past 18 years there have been no compliance issues.

The partnership's biosolids management program, which has won an EPA Region 6 award, annually produces 24,000 tons of beneficial product that are land-applied to 15,000 acres of permitted cropland. This provides an advantage to area farmers.

Among the results have been improved soil characteristics, reduced fertilizer costs and increased crop productivity. The water reuse program that annually provides 750,000-1.5 million gallons of treated, usable effluent to an area golf course has been hailed for its cost-reducing, water-conserving benefits.

Labor management

Under the initial contract between Oklahoma City and USFilter, all city wastewater system workers were offered employment.

In addition, they were offered opportunities, salaries, and benefits comparable to those provided by the City. Since the initial contract in 1984, the staff size has declined by 50 percent-mainly through natural attrition-at a payroll savings of some $1 million annually.

In a 1993 report, James Couch, the City Manager for Oklahoma City, stated that the change from public to private operations "was definitely an improvement for the workers. The company began implementing employee training and safety programs for the staff, and also encourages the staff to achieve higher levels of operator expertise and certification."

Community relations

USFilter maintains a strong commitment to community service within Oklahoma City. The company and its employees have been highly visible in their participation in local charities, functions and scholarship programs.

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

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