Drinking water treatment facility operation saves Atlanta area county $2.4 million

The contract operation of a drinking water facility in the Atlanta, Ga., area has provided the county with savings of $2.3 million and increased the permitted capacity of the plant.

Feb. 4, 2003 -- The contract operation of a drinking water facility in the Atlanta, Ga., area has provided the county with savings of $2.3 million and increased the permitted capacity of the plant.

The water treatment facility, which takes its water from the Chattahoochee River, serves more than 310,000 in Fulton County. The area includes Atlanta and North Fulton County (which resells to cities in Alpharetta and Roswell, Ga.)

The contract was a partnership with USFilter which began in January 1991 and most recently renewed in January 2000 for another four years.

It involved the operation of a 90 MGD surface water treatment facility, seven finished storage tanks and the associated reservoir maintenance.

USFilter also provides capital improvement oversight and consulting and residuals management for the county.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Effective reduction of water production costs in combination with an increase in finished water production; provided the Atlanta-Fulton County Water Resources Commission (AFCWRC) with more than $2.29 million in savings since 1994

• Operational expertise played a role in securing two regulatory re-permittings that increased capacity from 45 to 56 MGD with no capital improvements

• Increased plant efficiency by upgrading the electronic monitoring of equipment

• Helped decrease operating costs by recommending use of variable frequency drives (versus constant) to control water distribution pressure, which decreased power usage • Over ten years, provided quality services, delivered significant cost savings and supported the plant expansion project without one change order

• Recipient of more than 20 national and state awards for safety, service and/or compliance

• Excellent safety record at this facility with no lost-time accidents.

BACKGROUND

In November 1990, the AFCWRC entered into a public-private partnership with USFilter to provide start-up and operations assistance services at the new Atlanta-Fulton County Water Treatment Plant for two main reasons: 1) the facility is owned by Atlanta and Atlanta-Fulton County and a third-party operator was needed to protect both owners and 2) the AFCWRC lacked the capital needed to upgrade the facility and needed an experienced operator to efficiently run the facility.

The partnership has been renewed twice, most recently in May 1999, and today, the company is engaged in a full-contract to operate and maintain the 90 MGD facility with 20 employees operating 24-hours a day.

The general manager of the AFCWRC works onsite at the plant and is "hands on" in the day-to-day operations, making this a true, working public-private partnership.

RESULTS

The successful partnership between the AFCWRC and USFilter indicates how public and private entities can develop long, mutually beneficial relationships that include highquality service, no change orders and award-winning operations.

COST SAVINGS - The public-private partnership has created many benefits for the commission and the citizens of Atlanta and Fulton County. Most importantly, it brought significant cost savings. USFilter decreased the unit cost from $.3424 per 1000 gallons in 1994 to below $.20 per 1000 gallons by May 1999. This reduction in production costs, in combination with the tremendous increase in finished water production, enabled the AFCWRC to realize over $2.29 million in savings since 1994.

OPERATIONAL EFFECTIVENESS - Over the course of more than 10 years, USFilter has provided quality services, delivered significant costs savings and spent significant effort in the plant capacity expansion from 30 MGD to the 90 MGD capacity without one change order.

The company's innovative approaches have allowed for a continually profitable operation. For example, USFilter implemented a pilot program enabling the approval by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) to increase flow rate capacity from 30 to 45 MGD without any capital expenditures.

Subsequent efforts increased capacity to 56 MGD. The demand for potable water then became so great that the AFCWRC upgraded the plant to 90 MGD and has been running at this new flow capacity since May 1998.

In addition to the significant cost savings mentioned above, another benefit of this partnership has been an outstanding record of safety and quality. The staff has received more than 12 operations, safety and staff awards from the Georgia Water and Pollution Control Association and the U.S. EPA Region IV - many of which were won during plant expansions.

These awards include the Best Operated Plant in Georgia (3 times), the Best Tasting Water in Georgia (2 times), the Safe Drinking Water Excellence Award and the Operator of the Year Award (2 times).

ENVIRONMENTAL COMPLIANCE - Because USFilter was the first operator at this facility, there are no reference points related to environmental compliance. However, the company treats water to standards that meet or exceed Safe Drinking Water Act requirements for drinking water, and the USFilter staff has had no violations of any kind.

LABOR MANAGEMENT - The facility was staffed from the ground up, so there are no labor management issues with this partnership.

COMMUNITY RELATIONS - USFilter has been a steward of financial and time resources to several worthy Atlanta metropolitan causes throughout the more than 8-year tenure of working with AFCWRC. The company has contributed more than $100,000 to organizations such as Morris Brown College, Fulton County Beat the Odds Program and the Atlanta Clean Water Program. In addition they have provided speakers, lecturers or conducted seminars for several metropolitan schools and colleges and have provided internships to local and national students.

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

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