Redefining Conventional Workflow in a Complex World

Three pioneering public entities in Massachusetts are taking a more holistic look at resources and infrastructure assets with the help of integrated asset management tools and techniques. The long-term benefit of integrated planning and asset management for all three communities is the opportunity to preserve limited resources and improve overall system integrity and public health and safety through timely rehabilitation.

Nov 17th, 2014
Uwm Integrated Planning 1 A Street Pumpingstation Framingham
Framingham's EFSIP project area primarily consists of two large pump stations, two smaller pump stations, and over 30,000 feet of force main piping.

By Betsy Frederick and Stephen Geribo

As infrastructure ages, budgets shrink and the severity of extreme weather events become a more tangible concern, owners and operators of public service utilities must find ways to plan and manage infrastructure in a smarter, more efficient manner. The approach must support quality of life, public and environmental health and safety, and economic development -- and it must do it with less money.

Unfortunately, the traditional silo-based infrastructure management approach commonly used by municipalities doesn't work in today's more complex conditions. Public works agencies are finding it increasingly difficult to manage different departments -- water, sewer, stormwater, and roads -- as separate entities with separate budgets, or to base funding on historical precedence and priorities set by perceptions or politics.

Instead, three pioneering public entities in Massachusetts are taking a more holistic look at resources and infrastructure assets with the help of integrated asset management tools and techniques. The results thus far are impressive.

With the integrated approach, one water and sewer utility in Massachusetts has found a way to achieve regulatory buy-in while meeting community needs within a financially sustainable model. Further, the MetroWest town of Framingham has also reconfigured its wastewater collection system for greater efficiency, and the suburban Boston City of Newton has incorporated better transparency in its capital planning.

The long-term benefit of integrated planning and asset management for all three communities is the opportunity to preserve limited resources and improve overall system integrity and public health and safety through timely rehabilitation. Here's an inside look at how each of these organizations has adopted and adapted integrated planning and asset management to achieve impressive value for their organizations, stakeholders and the community.

Regulatory Buy-In

A water and sewer utility in western Massachusetts is responsible for an extensive sewer collection system that includes sanitary, combined and interceptor sewers ranging in diameter from 6 to 108 inches; thousands of manholes; dozens of sewer and flood control pumping stations; and a regional wastewater treatment facility. The utility network includes more than 50,000 asset features, and crews perform over 10,000 asset inspection observations annually.

The utility needed to find a way to manage its aging wastewater collection system while balancing its obligations related to the development of a long-term control plan (LTCP) for combined sewer overflows (CSO) mandated under an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) consent order. The utility contracted Kleinfelder and MWH Americas, Inc., to develop its LTCP, with an emphasis on asset management. The project team expanded the existing geographic information systems' (GIS) asset inventory and developed an electronic library of records and tie-cards that could be searched using the map interface.

Thus far, the utility is in the third year of the five-year program to develop its asset management program. The Kleinfelder/MWH Americas team has mapped and collected asset attribute data and performed condition assessments on over 50 percent of the service area's pipes, manholes and pump stations as well as the wastewater treatment facility assets. Moreover, they have linked more than 25,000 record documents to the correct assets and built a risk model that evaluates relative risk of all assets in the collection system.

Focused on a more integrated planning and asset management approach, Framingham initiated EFSIP to reconfigure its wastewater collection system into a more streamlined, efficient system.

Within the risk model, the risk of failure is determined by the probability of a failure times the consequence of that failure. Each asset's consequence of failure is scored for a variety of consequences including environmental impact, high cost of repair, public health and safety, and public relations. An example of an environmental impact might be the asset's proximity to a wetland, river or sensitive environment.

The high cost of repair could be the location of pipes under railroads, buildings or rivers, which are far more difficult to repair or replace than those in the street. Public health and safety is a concern, particularly when assets are located within proximity to sensitive receptors such as schools, daycares, retirement facilities, or hospitals.

The risk score allows the utility to compare risk across various types of CSO and non-CSO assets. Various asset improvements are assembled into recommended projects. The transparency of the prioritization process as well as the quantifiable means of expressing the real and likely water quality benefits of a specific phased infrastructure improvements program were necessary to support the utility's mission of meeting EPA's requirements for the CSO and integrated planning objectives.

Reconfigured for Efficiency

Incorporated in 1700, the town of Framingham is located about 20 miles west of Boston. The first sewers in Framingham were installed in the 19th century. Since that time, the community has become one of the larger sewer systems in the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) service area. The town's Department of Public Works is responsible for the collection and transport of 10 million gallons of wastewater daily from 17,000 residential and commercial accounts. The separated collection system includes 226 miles of sewers, 18 miles of force mains, 51 pumping stations, and 6,600 manholes.

In 2004, Framingham was issued an Administrative Consent Order and in 2007 a Notice of Non-Compliance by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MADEP). In addition, the town had to comply with a settlement agreement from MWRA issued in 2003 to limit the levels of hydrogen sulfide, which had been identified as the source of corrosion in the Authority's system, discharged to the MWRA.

Focused on a more integrated planning and asset management approach, Framingham initiated the East Framingham Sewer Improvements Project (EFSIP) to reconfigure its wastewater collection system into a more streamlined, efficient system. EFSIP is the single largest project in Framingham's Capital Improvement Program. The goal of the program is to promote enhanced proactive-versus-reactive system management, while addressing critical and urgent needs as identified through the integrated planning framework.

Through major sewer construction and rehabilitation, EFSIP will alleviate reoccurring sanitary sewer overflows (SSOs), as well as comply with MWRA's settlement agreement to limit sulfides by eliminating pumping stations and related long force mains with subsequent sulfide generation.

The project area primarily consists of two large pump stations (Saxonville at 3,200 GPM and Speen Street at 4,500 GPM), two smaller pump stations (Arsenal at 600 GPM and Valentine at 300 GPM), and over 30,000 feet of force main piping. Force mains account for approximately 80 percent of hydrogen sulfide generation.

The Saxonville and Speen Street pump stations require constant repair and are beyond their useful lives. The Saxonville station discharges to a 17,000-linear-foot, 24-inch ductile iron force main, whereas the Speen Street force main alignment runs through a neighboring community and is a 15,000-linear-foot, 16-inch piecemeal piping system comprised of sections of pipe dating from 1910 to 1978. The EFSIP design eliminates the Arsenal and Valentine pump stations and more than 30,000 feet of force main and consolidates Saxonville and Speen pump stations into one centralized wastewater management facility with a capacity of 13 million gallons per day (MGD).

The EFSIP design was complete in December 2009. Construction began in July 2010 and was completed on schedule in December 2013. Using integrated planning and asset management, Framingham spent $40.4 million to reconfigure its aging sewer system for greater operational and energy efficiency and improved performance for the cost of replacing the infrastructure in-kind.

Capital Transparency

Incorporated in 1688 and located 20 minutes west of Boston, the city of Newton is home to roughly 85,000 residents. Kleinfelder was retained to perform a condition assessment of 43 buildings and to assist the city in developing its five-year capital improvement plan (CIP). The CIP included all of Netwon's capital requests including buildings; vehicles and equipment; parks and playgrounds; roadways, sewers and water system improvements; and IT upgrades.

As part of the risk-based approach, a risk score was developed for each capital request based on a probability of failure and a consequence of failure.

For the first time in Massachusetts, the city applied a risk-based approach, developed by Kleinfelder, to compare and prioritize disparate capital projects in the CIP.

As part of the risk-based approach, a risk score was developed for each capital request based on a probability of failure and a consequence of failure. Probabilities of failure were derived from condition assessment rankings and percent life left. Consequence of failure factors were calculated as a weighted average of seven consequence rankings including health and safety, city operations, potential costs or savings, and quality of life. The risk-based prioritiziation approach revealed several key findings to the city's managers including the identification of urgent needs and obsolete assets, and the importance of preventive maintenance.

Different technologies were used throughout the project:

  • GIS paired with a web application for facilities-assessment
  • A custom database to bundle building recommendations into either CIP or maintenance projects
  • A spreadsheet to prioritze all CIP projects based on risk scores

Ultimately, over $240 million in CIP projects were identified, of which 66 percent were building related. The risk-based process was logical, data-driven, and most important to Newton's mayor, transparent so that city staff and the public could understand how projects were ranked and funded in the five-year CIP.

Federal Backing

As all three organizations in Massachusetts have found, identifying all assets across multiple departments allows public works organizations to proactively address asset management, thus allowing them to avoid unplanned crises, such as catastrophic failures, as well as the high cost of responding to these unanticipated failures.

Rather than evaluate infrastructure within a functional category, such as water or wastewater, all water resource infrastructure can be evaluated in terms of common metrics such as environmental benefit/compliance, impact or consequence of failure of an asset, cost, social/aesthetics, or other community-specific criteria.

Project rankings (whether capital, operational or diagnostic in nature) are predicated on risk and benefit of the investment and financial capacity to perform the program. Integration of the entire buried infrastructure with city roads also creates greater efficiency by improving water, sewer and storm drains concurrently with the road reconstruction.

Different technologies were used throughout the project, including a custom database to bundle building recommendations into either CIP or maintenance projects.

Even better, the approach has support from leading regulatory agencies. In fact, the EPA and many state governments praise the integrated planning and asset management approach as a rational basis for achieving affordable and sustainable infrastructure management programs impacting water quality.

It is common for public sector agencies to be cautious regarding adoption of innovative practices or technologies. Traditional approaches are traditional for a reason -- they worked. But as times have changed, so have demands on our infrastructure and infrastructure management. Early adopters of integrated planning and asset management approaches are seeing the positive results of their efforts in relatively short order. That sounds like the basis for the next tradition.

About the Authors: Betsy Frederick, principal environmental planner with Kleinfelder, can be reached at (520) 628-7769 or bfrederick@kleinfelder.com. Stephen Geribo is the vice president and water infrastructure segment manager with Kleinfelder. He can be reached at SGeribo@kleinfelder.com.

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