August Newsline: Senate panel cuts EPA budget, update on sewer debt crisis

Senate panel cuts EPA budget
Oversight panel sought to end sewer debt crisis
EPA admonishes Ohio to fix sewer overflows
Georgia gets approval for water, sewer projects
Bayou awarded contract for Fayetteville Express Pipeline project
Maryland improves regulation of construction sites
Oil/gas industry, unions form partnership
MMSD proposes two city sewer projects
MDC breaks ground to replace century-old sewer system
In memoriam: David A. Haynes
In memoriam: Barbara Jean Davis Riggs

Senate panel cuts EPA budget
In late June, legislation was approved by a Senate panel to cut environmental agencies’ spending by $220 million from the levels approved by House appropriators. The measure includes $3.6 for water and waster infrastructure.

The Senate requests $32.1 billion to fund the Interior Department, U.S. EPA and U.S. Forest Service for fiscal 2010, compared with the $32.3 billion requested in the measure approved by the House. The Senate package is $225 million below President Obama’s request and $4.5 billion above 2009 levels.

The Senate bill is less generous toward EPA than the House version, with the chambers splitting on funding for water projects.

The agency would see $10.2 billion under the Senate measure, a 33 percent boost from last year’s level but $380 million less than the House is proposing and $300 million less than Obama’s request.

The differences largely lie in spending for clean water projects, which would receive an enormous boost under any of the proposals. The Senate bill includes $3.6 billion for water and sewer infrastructure, almost $300 million less than the House measure contains but more than double last year’s funding level.

The Senate bill would allot $2.88 billion for environmental programs and management activities, an increase of $486 million above the 2009 level.

The Superfund program would receive $1.3 billion, even with the levels in the president’s request and the House bill and a 2 percent jump from last year.

The Senate package would fund $112 million for climate change protection activities at EPA – a $17 million boost over 2009 levels, including funding for EPA’s greenhouse gas reporting rule to be finalized later this year.

Other climate change programs included in the spending bill: $42 million for the Fish and Wildlife Service to begin scientific monitoring and assessments to respond to climate change; $15 million to the Bureau of Land Management to respond to the climate change challenges in the West; and $22 million to the U.S. Geological Survey to expand global climate change research.

Grants offered under the Diesel Emission Reduction Act would receive $60 million under the bill, an amount equal to the levels proposed by the House bill and Obama.

Oversight panel sought to end sewer debt crisis

In Alabama, Jefferson County officials asked the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to help it escape bond deals that have left the county struggling to avoid bankruptcy for more than a year. The county has been unable to win backing from creditors or state lawmakers for plans to restructure the debts.

In a last bid to reach a solution that involves concessions to creditors, county officials have proposed an oversight board for the sewer system.

Jefferson County’s bond deals unraveled after insurers that guaranteed the bonds against default lost their top credit ratings because of losses on securities linked to subprime mortgage loans. When investors dumped the county’s floating-rate bonds, interest rates surged as high as 10 percent. Most of the debt is now held by JPMorgan, Bank of America Corp. and others who agreed to act as buyer of last resort. However, JP Morgan Chase & Co. may be sued by the SEC for its work on bond and interest-rate swap sales for Jefferson County’s sewer system in 2002 and 2003.

In an effort to put pressure on Wall Street, Collins wants the federal agency to find a solution to the county’s $3.9 billion sewer-debt crisis and keep investment firms that are violating laws from dealing with the county.

The 17-page proposal sent to the SEC calls for: the creation of a state sponsored bond issuer that would sell new bonds to replace the county’s variable-rate sewer bonds with a low interest rate 3.5 percent that mature in 40 years; using excess one cent education sales tax to augment sewer system revenue to pay sewer debt – state lawmakers have not supported this bill; and the plan would extend the sales tax over 40 years to limit future sewer rate increases.

EPA admonishes Ohio to fix sewer overflows

The Great Miami River watershed in Hamilton, OH, should get a significant improvement by 2014, when the city is required by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to eliminate sanitary sewer overflows (SSOs).

According to city records, 278 overflows have occurred at five locations since 2005; one of the more frequent overflow sites dumped more than 11 million gallons of wastewater into the river in 2008.

Initially mandated to eliminate SSOs in 1991, Hamilton has now been ordered to upgrade its sewer systems in five targeted locations over the next five years.

Because the upgrades are complex and costly, and must be completed in the five-year time line, the “unfunded mandate” puts an added burden on Hamilton residents who will have to pay for most of the project costs through higher sewer rates.

Those rates are increasing from 2008 to 2012 to pay for the estimated $36 million that will be needed to fix the city’s five overflow sites. The city has yet to calculate future rate hikes; the average city resident paid a little more than $13 more this year on sewage bills than last year, a 5.1 percent increase.

The Ohio EPA is funneling stimulus money to communities to fix overflow problems, with Hamilton slated to receive $1.8 million, which will cover upgrades at one overflow site. Only 222 projects are receiving funding out of 2,100 requests across the state. There are only $220 million in stimulus funds available while the requests totaled $5.4 billion.

Georgia gets approval for water, sewer projects

Governor Sonny Perdue for the state of Georgia has given approval of 11 state and federally funded environmental infrastructure projects totaling $91.5 million. Of the 11 projects, five are at least partially backed by $40.5 million in federal stimulus money.

The Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority (GEFA) board of directors approved the
commitments to help finance water and sewer infrastructure projects in Cobb County, Colquitt County and Gwinnett County, and the cities of Camilla, Hiawassee, Port Wentworth, Portal, Sparta, Stillmore, Valdosta and West Point.

GEFA has $144 million in federal money, including about $121 million in stimulus funds to use on projects in 2009.

GEFA set up rural and non-rural funding streams to administer stimulus money. Rural projects receive a 70 percent subsidy, and non-rural, or basically metro-area projects, receive a 40 percent subsidy. Green projects receive 60 percent subsidy.

Details of some approved loans are:

  • Cobb County will receive a $35 million loan, $10 million of which is from federal stimulus money, to pay for building a 30,000-foot sewer tunnel as well as a lift station at the South Cobb Water Reclamation Facility. Once complete, the lift station will move 130 million gallons of water a day.
  • Gwinnett County’s project, a $55 million sewer tunnel that will store and convey wastewater for the No Business Creek Regional Pump Station, is also backed by stimulus money.
  • The city of Sparta will receive $100,000 for improvements to the city’s sanitary sewer system including manhole and sewer line replacement.
  • A Georgia fund loan of $236,000 will help finance and total project cost of $736,000 for the city’s sanitary sewer system. The rest will be picked up by a grant from the Georgian Department of Community Affairs.

For more details on other cities and counties receiving loans, visit or call (404) 584-1000.

Bayou awarded contract for Fayetteville Express Pipeline project

The Bayou Companies, a subsidiary of Insituform Technologies, announced it was awarded a $27.6 million contract with ILVA S.p.A. for pipe coating, welding and logistical support services. ILVA is manufacturing and transporting pipe for installation on the Fayetteville Express Pipeline (FEP), a natural gas pipeline joint venture between Kinder Morgan Energy Partners and Energy Transfer Partners.

Bayou’s work on the project will include the coating and double joint welding of approximately 185 miles of 42-inch pipe. Bayou will coat the pipe using internal flow efficiency and external fusion bonded epoxy processes. The internal flow efficiency process improves the flow of gas through the pipeline by creating a smooth, defect-free surface. The fusion bonded epoxy coating process is an environmentally safe cathodic protection technique used to inhibit corrosion of the pipeline. Bayou is a leading provider of these and other products and services to the onshore and offshore oil and gas industries, primarily in North America and the Gulf of Mexico.

Bayou will also provide logistical support to ILVA in connection with the shipping and transport of the finished pipe to certain project sites. The FEP will originate in Conway County, AR, and terminate at an interconnect with Trunkline Gas Company in Panola County, MS. Bayou anticipates work on the project to begin in July and expects completion by March 2010.

The FEP is designed to contribute to energy independence and stability, stimulate economic growth and help to meet future energy needs in the United States. Importantly, the FEP will add new pipeline access and takeaway capacity for the Fayetteville Shale.

Maryland improves regulation of construction sites

In response to a coalition of environmental groups represented by the University of Maryland Environmental Law Clinic, the state of Maryland will change the way it requires developers to prevent pollution at construction sites from running into local rivers and streams.

The coalition, which includes Potomac Riverkeeper as well as 11 other Maryland Waterkeeper organizations and the Waterkeeper Alliance, announced that it has reached an agreement with Maryland’s Department of the Environment over its challenge to Maryland’s general stormwater permit for construction sites.

The settlement will mitigate polluted runoff (known as stormwater) at construction sites in three ways:

  • it requires MDE to update the measures that must be taken on construction sites to prevent water pollution;
  • it requires MDE to ensure expanded opportunities for the public to review and comment upon planning documents for construction sites; and
  • it improves protections for water bodies that are already overwhelmed by stormwater.

Stormwater usually leaves construction sites in the form of mud and sludge during periods of heavy rain and runs into storm drains or directly into water bodies. In some locations, such as Cumberland and Washington, DC, the mud and sludge drains into combined sewers (that hold both rainwater and raw sewage) and, if it rains (in some areas more than 1/10 of 1 inches), overwhelm the combined sewers and flow directly into the Potomac River and its tributaries without first being treated.

Construction and land development activities are some of the main reasons why the Chesapeake Bay is choking on sediment and other pollutants. In Maryland, 90 rivers and streams have been officially designated as “impaired” due to excessive sediment.

Oil/gas industry, unions form partnership

Representatives from 15 construction unions and the oil and natural gas industry announced the formation of a labor and management committee to discuss ways to increase domestic energy production, initiatives they said could lead to an estimated 160,000 new jobs.

Building and Construction Trades Department, AFL-CIO, President Mark Ayers and Carpenters and Joiners of America President Douglas McCarron, joined American Petroleum Institute President and CEO Jack Gerard, and API Chairman J. Larry Nichols in a press teleconference to announce the partnership. They said they plan to encourage key constituencies to send “a cohesive and clear message” to officials engaged in public policy that the energy ventures will create jobs and expand energy resources.

Building and Construction Trades Department, AFL-CIO, President Mark Ayers said efforts to increase domestic energy capacity would increase demand for construction to build new pipelines and refineries. “Americans want to work,” he said. Moreover, training new workers in skills specific to the types of work needed for oil and gas industry construction would aid in developing the work opportunities once the country emerges from the economic recession and in rebuilding skilled-crafts as current workers retire.

Douglas McCarron, president of Carpenters and Joiners of America, said the unions and contractors may negotiate for project labor agreements for some of the projects.

American Petroleum Institute President and CEO Jack Gerard also said the mutual conversation with labor was established to develop jobs and to ensure energy security in the United States. He said that some legislative proposals that are under debate in Congress were “not in the best interest of U.S. energy” expansion. Proposals to impose new taxes on the oil and natural gas industry would discourage new energy development and cost thousands of jobs, he said.

MMSD proposes two city sewer projects

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is looking for public input on two sewer projects proposed by the Madison Metropolitan Sewerage District (MMSD), one to serve the growing northeast side, the other to shore up deteriorating pipe on the Far East side.
The northeast-side project features an $8.3 million interceptor line stretching from Lien Road south to Nakoosa Trail, 9,250 feet of large-diameter sewer that will prevent any overflow of sewer water into Starkweather Creek, as well as allow for the abandonment of an existing overflow area near Sycamore Avenue and the abandonment of part of an existing interceptor that has corrosion damage.

The far east-side project is expected to cost about $450,000 and is for 5,500 feet of new lining on the Cottage Grove extension of the Far East interceptor, to prevent water leakage.

The Cottage Grove project will be done through existing manholes and isn’t expected to disrupt surrounding lands, but the northeast side project will cross Starkweather Creek and border some small wetlands.

The route for the new interceptor was partly chosen to minimize wetland impact, and appropriate construction controls will be implemented to protect surrounding areas, the DNR said.

MDC breaks ground to replace century-old sewer system

The Metropolitan District (MDC) is a non-profit municipal corporation chartered by the Connecticut General Assembly in 1929 to provide potable water and sewerage services on a regional basis.

The largest public works project in Hartford, CT, history began in June as a massive effort to redo part of the city’s century-old plumbing and curtail the millions of gallons of sewage and storm water that overflow into the basements, streets and streams of the North End after heavy rain.

The first leg of the 15-year, $2 billion project by the Metropolitan District (MDC) will include the construction of a 72-inch-diameter reinforced concrete conduit that will extend the current Homestead Avenue Interceptor from Walnut Street along a 3,000-lineal-foot alignment to a junction with an existing culvert located beneath Bushnell Park. The project will employ advanced micro-tunneling construction technology to mitigate impacts to adjacent businesses and traffic flows within the area affected by construction. Northeast Remsco Construction was awarded the general contract to build this project.

Once completed in November 2010, the tunnel will carry sewage away from the Upper Albany neighborhood, and storm water will be piped in separate lines to the Park River.

Eventually, storage tunnels will be built to collect excess water and the capacities of the treatment plant will more than double to 250 million gallons a day.

Canadian municipalities target Buy American movement

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities passed a resolution in June giving the United States government 120 days to broker a fair trade deal or face the consequences of U.S. companies being restricted from bidding on Canadian infrastructure projects. The resolution adopted by the Federation, representing over 90 percent of Canadian cities and townships, expressed support for procurement policies which favor free and fair trade, particularly for water and wastewater projects, by ensuring that goods and materials are procured “only from companies whose countries of origin do not impose trade restrictions against goods and materials manufactured in Canada.”

David Angelo, chairman of the Water and Wastewater Equipment Manufacturers Association, had previously sent a letter to Congress and the White House warning of the risks associated with employing protectionist measures in the stimulus bill, noting that such measures “will ultimately serve to undermine our economy as it will demand retaliation by our largest trading partners.”

In 2008, the United States exported $6.18 billion in water and wastewater equipment and piping to Canada. “The billions we stand to lose in trade with Canada, and potentially other trading partners as they begin employing similar measures, will detrimentally impact our industry and the U.S. economy, with job losses being an unintended consequence of the Buy American movement,” Angelo warned. “We call upon our federal government to take appropriate measures to allow U.S. municipalities to have the same rights and privileges as their federal counterparts to continue doing business with our nation’s international trade partners and enable U.S. suppliers to continue working through their traditional supplier chains to give our communities the best, most cost-effective technology to meet their critical infrastructure needs,” he said.

U.S. Composite Pipe South was listed under the company’s previous name of Amitech USA in the Pipeline Selection Chart (Underground Construction, June 2009, pg. 33). All other information is correct.

In Memoriam

David A. Haynes
, 49, of Beaverton, MI, passed away June 27 in Oak Hill, WV, while whitewater rafting with family members. Haynes was a long-time employee of Mears in Rosebush, MI. He began working with Mears in 1996. For many years Haynes was the point man for HDD operations in Rosebush – coordinating supplies, trucking and crew logistics, visiting prospective jobs, estimating and administrating.

“Dave established himself with many of Mears’ customers as their go-to person for HDD work and applied his sense of humor to any crisis he seemed to be thrown into and always left a positive image of our company and himself with whomever he had contact,” said Scot Fluharty, Mears Group President.

Haynes was preceded in death by his father Joseph Haynes Sr. and bother, Joseph Jr. He is survived by his mother, Jane Haynes; wife, Paula; sons Scott, Matthew and Nicholas; stepdaughter Lindsy and husband Mike Brueggerman; stepsons Shawn and Kelsey Stockford; sister, Laurie Warner; one granddaughter and two grandsons.

Barbara Jean Davis Riggs of Belpre, OH, passed away June 16. Riggs was the owner and CEO of L.A. Pipeline Construction Co. Inc.

She is survived by her husband, Wayne (Bud); daughter, Susan-Gail Pearl and husband, Brian; son, William (Billy) and wife Mary; son, Richard West and wife, Beth; and eight grandchildren.

Memorials may be sent to the Tunnel Relay for Life, c/o Peoples Bank, 138 Putnam Street, Marietta, OH 45750 in honor of Barbara Jean Riggs for lung cancer research or the Barbara Jean Riggs Memorial Scholarship Fund, c/o Gospel Baptist Church, County Road #16, P.O. Box 454, Little Hocking, OH 45742.

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