Associations Offer Collection System Management Guidelines

Four associations have issued guidelines to promote good engineering practices for managing and operating separate sanitary collection systems.

By Patrick Crow, Washington Correspondent

Four associations have issued guidelines to promote good engineering practices for managing and operating separate sanitary collection systems.

The American Public Works Association, the American Society of Civil Engineers, the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA) and the Water Environment Federation drafted the Core Attributes of Effectively Managed Wastewater Collection Systems after surveying industry stakeholders.

The groups said wastewater collection systems must be effectively maintained and managed to minimize potential impacts on the water environment. Part of this management includes the control of sanitary sewer overflows and the prevention of discharges into receiving waters, in accordance with the Clean Water Act.

They said those management efforts have been complicated by the absence of clear federal guidelines on how to best manage separate sanitary collection systems and minimize overflows.

Ken Kirk, NACWA's executive director, said the guidelines were "a significant step towards a consistent national framework for the management of separate sanitary collection systems and a critical element of any future federal rule or guidance to address sanitary sewer issues holistically."

The document is available from each of the four partner organizations.

A U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report has explored options for funding wastewater infrastructure projects, including a national infrastructure bank and public-private partnerships.

Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), the senior Republican on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, had requested the study. Mica said a potential $150 billion to $400 billion gap between future needs and current spending for wastewater infrastructure could develop over the next decade.

The GAO made no recommendations. It identified a number of ways to supplement federal loans and grants to fund wastewater infrastructure projects, including the use of full-cost pricing, municipalities' use of the bond markets, creation of a dedicated trust fund, creation of a national infrastructure bank (NIB), and encouraging private investment in wastewater projects, including partnerships between private and municipal public entities.

In the report, GAO focused particularly on a NIB and public-private partnerships. It said a majority of stakeholders supported the creation of an NIB. Stakeholders identified three key areas that should be considered in designing an NIB, including its mission and administrative structure, financing sources and authorities, and project eligibility and prioritization.

Many stakeholders felt that the federal government should provide some or all of the initial capital for an NIB, and some also suggested that federal funds be augmented with private funding and be self-sustaining.

In addition, GAO found that privately financed wastewater public-private partnerships generally fall into two categories (design-build-finance-operate partnerships and lease partnerships), and that these partnerships are relatively uncommon in the U.S.

Privately financed wastewater public-private partnerships have several reported advantages, including faster construction of new facilities, access to alternative sources of financing, increased efficiency, and access to outside experts and technology solutions.

GAO saw some potential challenges to these partnerships, including public and political opposition, more complex procurement contracting, and the difficulty in combining private with public financing due to statutory restrictions.

Mica said, "We must remove the impediments that currently limit the use of alternative funding mechanisms for infrastructure projects so we can provide our communities with more tools in the tool box to better help them finance the critical infrastructure and services we need."

A Water Research Foundation study has reported that the main reason consumers conserve water is simply to save money.

Researchers surveyed 6,000 residential customers, interviewed water agencies, analyzed billing, and reviewed utility literature to measure the effectiveness of conservation communications campaigns.

The report found that many customers think they are conserving as much water as they can. Apart from saving money, the study said consumers thought water conservation was the right thing to do and were concerned about water availability.

According to the report, only 9% of customers said they participate in utility rebate programs but 60% said they would participate if they knew about them.

It said customers preferred getting information from bill inserts and television ads. They thought water supply managers were the most credible source of information about water conservation but they distrusted elected officials, the media and retail outlet sales personnel.

Robert Renner, executive director of the foundation, said, "These findings will help utilities promote their conservation programs and encourage more people to participate in water conservation.

"Because many customers feel they are doing all they can with water conservation, it is important for utilities to clearly communicate an end goal, like reducing water use by 10% so that their customers feel like they are doing their part to achieve that goal," he said.

In other Washington news:

-- The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee has continued to exempt the water sector from regulation under the latest chemical plant security bill.

-- EPA and the Department of Energy have developed "Canary" software to help water systems detect intentional or unintentional contamination. The Greater Cincinnati Water Works has been using Canary since 2007. New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and San Francisco have begun testing it.

-- The House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure has reported that 93% of the funds provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for highway, bridge, transit, and water infrastructure projects has been allocated.

-- EPA has issued administrative orders to the Missouri Department of Transportation citing multiple violations of stormwater permits in state construction projects along the U.S. Highway 54 Expressway in Camden County and U.S. Highway 67 in Wayne County.

-- Under the terms of a federal court consent decree, Revere, Mass. will reduce discharges of raw sewage overflows from its wastewater system and separate storm sewer system. The city will spend $50 million on improvements and pay a $130,000 fine.

-- EPA has praised a $465,735 green infrastructure project in Raleigh, N.C., partially funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The project collects rainwater in cisterns at 11 fire stations. Firemen use the water to clean equipment or vehicles.

-- EPA has awarded De Soto, Kan., $485,000 for improvements to its drinking water system. The funds will go toward a $1.2 million project to replace a pipeline built in the 1940s.

-- A federal court has ruled that Malibu, Calif., violated the Clean Water Act when it discharged polluted water into Santa Monica Bay. Environmental groups planned to ask the court to limit the city's polluted water runoff.

-- EPA said the city and county of Honolulu have agreed to upgrade their wastewater collection and treatment systems to meet the Clean Water Act. The city will improve its wastewater collection system by June 2020, the Honouliuli wastewater treatment plant by 2024, and the Sand Island plant by 2035. WW

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