July WaterWorks News: Rate hikes spur opposition, water main causes cave-in, stimulus funds arriving slowly

SAWS rate-hike plan spurring opposition
Under a proposed new rate increase by San Antonio Water System (SAWS), businesses that use a lot of water to irrigate their properties could see their bills increase from 45 to 65 percent. The rate increase is slated for investment in much needed infrastructure.

Richard Perez, chairman and CEO of the Greater San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, says business owners are asking SAWS to re-evaluate the sharp increase.

Busted water main floods street, causes road cave-in
On June 5, neighboring residents and businesses near the University of Florida campus in Gainesville, FL, experienced flooding in the streets and a drop in water pressure due to a busted Gainesville Regional Utilities pipe. A sizeable section of road also caved in. The dimensions could not be determined until the water was pumped out, but it was deep enough that when one GRU employee accidentally fell in, the water was up to his head. A layer of sand covered the street where the water had receded due to pumping.

The cause of the break to the water main in the intersection was not determined, nor was it clear until pumps could be brought in which of two pipes broke – a 21- or 16-inch water line.

Stimulus funds slow in coming
Infrastructure funding may not reach the city of Jackson, MS, to help with the city’s crumbling water infrastructure until next year or 2010 according to city officials who requested $10 million out of the $25 million set aside but never appropriated in the 2007 federal water bill.

It wasn’t until a hard freeze in January knocked out water service for area residents and business for a week that the city decided to ask for funding that had been authorized three years ago. Second District Rep. Bennie Thompson said he expects the money to make it into an omnibus federal spending bill, but that may not pass until late this year.

Thompson said he knew the city had problems with its water and sewer infrastructure, which is why he requested the money. In his opinion, the city has no clear plans for upgrading its system and seems slow in making any decisions.

The money will require a local match and will pass through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers before it reaches the city. However, the money would not nearly solve the city’s problems with its aging water and sewer systems. The city estimates the systems need $214 million in upgrades.

EPA awards grants for water project
EPA has awarded $242,000 to Junction City, KS, for improvements to the current drinking water system.

EPA Region 7 Administrator Karl Brooks said, “These water infrastructure funds will help to protect the biological quality of the water produced at the drinking water plant. The project will ensure that local residents are provided with higher quality drinking water.”

The purpose of the project is to install three flow meters and an enhanced disinfection system to ensure that the water is safe from disease-causing organisms.

AZ Water Association names Water Reuse Project of the Year

The Arizona Water Association (AZ Water) presented the 2010 Water Reuse Project of the Year Award to Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam Inc. (LAN) and the city of Surprise, AZ.

The award, presented during the 83rd AZ Water Association Annual Conference at Glendale, AZ, on May 5, recognized the project team’s work on the Surprise South Water Reclamation Plant (SSWRP) Vadose Zone Recharge System. All project team members, including the owner (city of Surprise), prime consultant (LAN) and team of sub-consultants and the prime contractor received individual plaques.

Since 2003, Projects of the Year Awards have been presented on an annual basis to recognize outstanding engineering excellence and achievement in the water, wastewater and water reuse categories. Projects are judged based on several criteria including original or innovative application of new or existing techniques, social and economic considerations, meeting and exceeding owner needs and complexity. The water reuse category was added in 2006.

The Surprise South Water Reclamation Plant (SSWRP) Vadose Recharge System was developed by the design team of LAN, HydroSytems Inc. and DLT&V Systems Engineering Inc. as part of the city of Surprise’s master plan to expand the SSWRP wastewater treatment capacity from 7.2 million gallons a day to 16.3 million gallons a day. To store the plant’s increased volume of reclaimed water underground, 52 site-specific vadose recharge wells have been master planned for installation in multiple phases at two different locations in the city service area. Other project elements in this recharge system include associated delivery pipelines, booster pump station modifications, geo-membrane reservoir cover and a SCADA control system.

To date, five initial vadose zone recharge wells and associated facilities have been installed at the SSWRP site. In addition to the recharge well system, the associated infrastructure, consisting of 4,700 linear feet of 20-inch pipeline, well delivery manifold, a floating reservoir cover and pressure control stations to recharge an estimated 2.2 MGD of Class A+ reclaimed water, was constructed. LAN provided project management, planning, civil engineering and construction management services for the project.

“The award is a testament to the project’s contribution to our community and recognition of the value we bring to our clients,” said LAN project manager Floyd L. Marsh. Marsh is the water resources manager and practice leader for the Phoenix office of LAN.

Greater Boston water pipe failure restored
At about 10 a.m. on May 1, a collar connecting two sections of 10-foot wide pipe ruptured in Weston, MA, disrupting the connection between the MetroWest Water Supply Tunnel and the City Tunnel. The rupture worsened as the afternoon progressed, eventually resulting in the loss of access to clean water from the Quabbin and Wachusett Reservoirs for approximately two million residents of 31 cities and towns, including Boston.

Massachusetts Water Resources Authority Executive Director Frederick Laskey called the break “catastrophic.” The rupture worsened as the afternoon progressed, eventually resulting in the loss of access to clean water from the Quabbin and Wachusett Reservoirs for approximately two million residents of 31 cities and towns, including Boston. By evening, the MWRA had activated the backup water system, which was drawing water from the Sudbury Reservoir, Chestnut Hill Reservoir, and Spot Pond Reservoir. Because water from these older surface reservoirs is not treated, the MWRA issued a boil order for the affected communities.

Repairs began on the damaged pipe early in the day on May 2. By that same afternoon, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick stated that clean drinking water could be flowing again “in days, not weeks.” Service was restored in the early morning of May 4. An investigation is ongoing to determine the cause of the rupture.

Diminishing water supply, aging infrastructure will impact NJ state economy
Speaking at a recent business roundtable, New Jersey American Water President John Bigelow said that in the Garden State, a diminishing natural water supply and aging infrastructure will impact business and the state for the foreseeable future.

According to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, the state uses one trillion gallons of water per day. That’s enough to cover the entire state in 8 inches of water. “Despite the fact that we’ve just come out of the wettest winter in recent memory, New Jersey’s water supply is slowly diminishing,” Bigelow told the audience. “And the availability of water has a direct impact on a community’s ability to grow.” The decline has been caused, in part, by salt water intrusion into regional coastal plain aquifers, and increasing levels of contamination. As a result, NJDEP severely reduced the amount of water that could be pulled from wells, forcing water providers to turn to more complex and costly surface water systems. “We have proposed several conservation programs that if implemented would help reduce water consumption, and in many cases help reduce water bills. We call this concept Save Blue, Save Green,” said Bigelow.

Another driver where water will impact the economic outlook is the state’s aging 30,000 miles of water infrastructure (about 8,600 of which belong to New Jersey American Water), which according to the U.S. EPA will take up to $10 billion over the next 20 years to replace. “Most of these assets are buried and have been out of sight and mind for many years. We are replacing pipes at a frequency rate that requires an asset life of 300 to 500 years. Unfortunately, pipes do not last that long and their original cost of $1/ft is now more than $100/ft to replace,” said Bigelow. “Clearly, there is a need for the water industry to step up investing in the state’s infrastructure, and that can be challenging in the current economic climate. As I mentioned earlier, without infrastructure investment, communities will not continue to attract businesses and maintain quality of life.”

Endangered Upper Delaware River
The Upper Delaware River, the drinking water source for 17 million people across New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania is at risk from shale fracking for natural gas, a process that poisons groundwater and creates toxic pollution, according to an association report. This threat landed the Upper Delaware in the number one spot in the American Rivers organization’s America’s Most Endangered Rivers: 2010 edition.

American Rivers called on the Delaware River Basin Commission to ban any shale fracking in the Upper Delaware watershed until a thorough study of impacts is completed and the pollution potential of shale fracking is fully documented and assessed. American Rivers also urged Congress to pass the Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act of 2009 and to resist special interest pressures to include federal subsidies of shale fracking for natural gas in upcoming energy legislation.

The entire Upper Delaware River and its watershed are located over a geological formation known as the Marcellus Shale. In order to access the reserves of natural gas in the shale, multinational energy corporations have acquired drilling rights to large tracts of land in the watershed. Two companies, Chesapeake Appalachia and Statoil, have a stated goal of developing 13,500 to 17,000 gas wells in the region in next 20 years.

Energy companies have requested permits to take clean water from the river to mix with over 250 chemicals to make hydraulic fracturing fluid for injection into wells to release the gas. Each well requires between three and five million gallons of water for fracturing.

In 1978, Congress designated roughly 73 miles of the Upper Delaware River between Hancock, NY, and Mill Rift, PA, as one of the original National Wild and Scenic Rivers, and made it a unit of the National Park System. The river is a popular recreation destination. Additionally, several endangered, at-risk, or rare species live in the river and along its banks.

WorkForWater.org offers resources for recruiters, job seekers
The Water Environment Federation (WEF) and the American Water Works Association (AWWA) have launched WorkForWater.org, a collaborative Web site featuring resources for water recruiters, career seekers and students.

The site addresses one of the water community’s top concerns in the coming decade – the expected retirement of 30 percent of the water workforce and the need to recruit new talent to the field. The new Web site is a gateway to many recruiting and retention resources already available throughout North America and beyond. WEF and AWWA are inviting organizations to contribute documents, videos and links that benefit both career seekers and employers.

The site has landing pages for four audiences: high school and vocational school students, college students, second career and retired military job seekers, and advanced science professionals.

In more WEF news, the federation is initiating a search for a new executive director to lead the 81-year old non-profit technical and educational water quality organization.

Bill Bertera, WEF’s executive director for the past 10 years, has announced that he will be leaving the organization effective Dec. 31, 2010. The new director is expected to take office in early 2011.

The new executive director, in partnership with the WEF board of trustees, will be responsible for leading the organization to realize its strategic vision, serve its membership, and successfully lead the business operations.

The new executive director will oversee a staff of nearly 100 and will be based in the organization’s Alexandria, VA, headquarters.

ISCO supplies pipe for Eastern Navajo Water Pipeline Project
ISCO Industries, a Louisville, KY-based distributor and fabricator of piping products, supplied 13 miles of high-density polyethylene (HDPE) pipe for phase two of the Eastern Navajo Water Pipeline Project.

The complete pipeline project, which consists of four planned phases, will provide a sustainable water supply to 10,000 people across four counties and eight Navajo chapters. Of the 10,000, nearly 4,000 people currently do not have running water in their homes. These families haul water to their homes in trucks or by horseback. In addition, many of the water sources used by these water haulers are not fit for human consumption due to bacterial contamination.

The 13-mile phase two of the Eastern Navajo Water Pipeline Project runs from Nageezi, NM to Counselor, NM. HDPE pipe was chosen for the phase because of the aggressive conditions of the soil.

“We chose to use HDPE in the phase two design because there was a concern regarding the potential corrosive nature of the soil in the area that precluded us from using ductile iron pipe,” said Andrew Robertson, P.E., senior engineer at Souder, Miller and Associates, the engineering firm for phases two, three and four of the pipeline project.

Funding for phase two of the pipeline comes from the United States Department of Agriculture, the State of New Mexico and contributions from individual Navajo Chapters.

To show support for water conservation and the Navajo Nation, ISCO Industries also presented a $1,000 donation toward the Rio Puerco Alliance summer high school youth program. In the summer, high school students in the water restoration program learn about, and work on, restoration projects that use water-harvesting techniques using locally available and environmentally sustainable materials.

ISCO Industries also contacted pipe manufacturer JM Eagle to donate toward the program. Collaboratively ISCO Industries and JM Eagle donated $2,000. It costs the alliance approximately $500 for each student to participate in the program.

WERF has a new address
The Water Environment Research Foundation’s suite number and phone number have changed. The new address is 635 Slaters Lane, Suite G-110, Alexandria, VA 22314-1177. WERF’s main phone number is now (571) 384.2100.

EPCOR acquires Arizona water provider
EPCOR Utilities Inc. has signed an agreement for the acquisition of all outstanding shares of Chaparral City Water Company of Arizona.

Chaparral, a subsidiary of American States Water Company, is a public utility company engaged principally in the purchase, production, distribution and sale of water to about 13,000 customers in the Town of Fountain Hills and a small portion of Scottsdale, AZ. The Metropolitan Phoenix area, including Fountain Hills and Scottsdale, is one of the fastest-growing regions in the United States.

“This investment provides EPCOR entry into the water utility market in Arizona,” said President and CEO Don Lowry. “It establishes a base in the U.S. South West from which we intend to grow our water business. Gaining presence in this market is a key part of EPCOR’s growth strategy and we look forward to serving these customers and being an active member of the community.”

The $35-million acquisition including the assumption of approximately $6 million of long-term debt by EPCOR Water (USA) Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of EPCOR Utilities Inc., is subject to regulatory approval by the Arizona Corp. Commission, which is anticipated to be accomplished in 2011. The acquisition will be funded with cash or debt financing. Chaparral has 12 employees, who are expected to continue to operate the utility within EPCOR once the transaction closes.

In addition to its staff, Chaparral assets include a water distribution system and 15 million-gallon-per-day water treatment plant in Fountain Hills. This is EPCOR’s first water acquisition in the U.S.

EPCOR is a provider of drinking water and wastewater services to more than one million people in over 70 communities in Western Canada. EPCOR owns and/or operates 24 water treatment and distribution facilities and 24 wastewater treatment and collection facilities.