June 2020 Vol. 75 No. 6



DC Water’s Tunnel Boring Machine Reaches Key Project Milestone

DC Water’s giant tunnel boring machine, named Chris, broke through a wall of concrete to reach the W Street shaft, a key milestone in the mining of the Northeast Boundary Tunnel (NEBT) project.

Chris will rest for a bit in the shaft and get much-needed maintenance before resuming work.

Excavating through clay and sand, Chris the machine is on a five-mile-long underground journey digging the NEBT, which is the last tunnel segment of the Anacostia River Tunnel. This is actually a giant 23-foot-diameter sewage tunnel that can store 90-million gallons of combined sewage during heavy rains to keep from overflowing the sewer system in the District. The combined sewage will ultimately make its way to the Blue Plains Advanced Wastewater Treatment Plant where it will be treated, cleaned and recycled back to the Potomac River.

When Chris finishes mining and all work is complete in 2023, the Northeast Boundary Tunnel will connect to the existing First Street Tunnel. The first half of the tunnel opened in March 2018 and has already substantially improved the health of the Anacostia River.

“To date, the portion of the Anacostia River Tunnel that is in service has prevented more than 7 billion gallons of combined sewage and 3,500 tons of trash from entering the Anacostia, bringing a resurgence to the waterfront. The Northeast Boundary Tunnel in particular will significantly reduce sewer backups and chronic flooding in the Bloomingdale and LeDroit Park and other neighborhoods adjacent to Rhode Island Ave, NE,” said David L. Gadis, CEO and General Manager of DC Water. When the entire 13.1-mile Anacostia River Tunnel is completed, it will reduce combined sewer overflows to that river by 98 percent.

The boring machine has been mining since September of 2018 and the tools on its cutterhead are worn from all the work.


EPA Proposes First Ever Rule to Improve Transparency of Guidance

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is announcing its first-ever proposed rule to establish consistent requirements and procedures for the issuance of guidance documents.

“EPA is proposing a rule that codifies procedures to ensure the public can engage in the development and review of agency guidance,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “Historically, EPA has issued many more guidance documents than most federal agencies. Today’s action is a major step toward increasing transparency in EPA processes and ensuring that EPA is not creating new regulatory obligations through guidance.”

This new rule will significantly increase the transparency of EPA’s practices around guidance and will improve the agency’s process for managing guidance documents. When final, the rule will:

  • Establish the first formal petition process for the public to request that EPA modify or withdraw a guidance document
  • Ensure that the agency’s guidance documents are developed with appropriate review and are accessible and transparent to the public
  • Provide for public participation in the development of significant guidance documents.

On Oct. 9, 2019, President Trump issued Executive Order 13891, Promoting the Rule of Law Through Improved Agency Guidance Documents, to promote transparency by ensuring that all active guidance documents are made available to the public.

On Feb. 28, 2020, EPA launched a new guidance portal that provides public access to agency guidance documents.

The proposed rule will be open for public comment 30 days after it publishes in the Federal Register. To access the guidance portal: https://www.epa.gov/guidance.


CGA: Late Locates of Buried Utilities Appear Underreported

Common Ground Alliance (CGA) has announced the findings from a new supplemental report examining near-miss data submitted to the Damage Information Reporting Tool (DIRT) from 2015–2018.

The report, which analyzes near-miss data separately from actual damage incident data, examines the characteristics that make near misses unique from damage events. Near misses to buried utilities are defined as events where a damage did not occur, but a clear potential for damage was identified.

This first-of-its-kind examination of the near-miss data set revealed several key takeaways and suggestions for new analysis. Primary among these findings was that the quality of near miss data submitted by excavators is higher than that of their damage reports, as these stakeholders appear to utilize DIRT to document locating issues and associated downtime. Near-miss data is analyzed separately from damage data.

Other key findings from the near-miss supplemental report include that reports submitted by natural gas and liquid pipeline stakeholders involve “transmission” as the facility affected and “no notification made to one call center/811” as the root cause in higher percentages than their damage reports. In addition, near-miss reports from locators are not significantly different from their damage reports in terms of root causes, facility operation or facility type affected.

“Damage prevention advocates have long recognized the value in collecting information not only about incidents that result in damage to our nation’s buried infrastructure, but also gathering data surrounding incidents which very nearly could have resulted in damage – those events that the damage prevention industry refers to as ‘near misses,’” said Sarah K. Magruder Lyle, president and CEO of the Common Ground Alliance.

The complete DIRT Supplemental Report–Analysis of Near Miss Events (2015-2018) is available for download at www.commongroundalliance.com, and stakeholders interested in submitting data to the 2020 report or establishing a Virtual Private Dirt account should visit the DIRT site at www.cga-dirt.com.


DCA Restructures Industry Meetings

The Distribution Contractors Association has cancelled its planned Mid-Year and Fall Meetings and will hold a combined event later in the fall.

Robert Darden, Executive Vice President for the organization issued a statement to members:

‘In light of the continuing Covid-19 pandemic and state travel restrictions, the DCA Board of Directors has decided to cancel the Mid-Year Meeting schedule for mid-July and the Fall Meeting scheduled for late October.

“This was not an easy decision, but ultimately the public health and safety of our members, families, speakers, and staff led us to conclude that cancelling these face-to-face meeting was the safe and responsible action.

“In the place of these two major DCA events, a “Mid–Fall Meeting” has been scheduled for Monday, Oct. 5–Thursday, Oct. 8, 2020 at the Grove Park Inn in Asheville, NC.

“This event will be a combination of the Mid-Year and Fall Meetings and be held at the same hotel where Mid-Year was planned to occur.

“More details will be forthcoming and posted on the DCA website. Registration will open later this summer.”


MPLX Abandons Permian NGL Pipeline Amid Industry Downturn

MPLX LP said it is no longer pursuing its BANGL pipeline project in the current downcycle and will focus instead on increasing the capacity of its existing pipelines.

The BANGL pipeline was to have delivered Permian Basin natural gas liquids (NGL) to the Texas Gulf Coast. The project’s associated fractionation capacity and export facility also were deferred.

The company cut its planned capital spending for 2020 by more than $700 million to about $1 billion.

CEO Michael Hennigan said during a quarterly conference call with analysts that MPLX is working with others to optimize existing capacity while continuing to meet producers’ needs for flow assurance and future growth.

MPLX reiterated that construction is continuing on two other significant projects in which it has an ownership interest. The Wink-to-Webster Permian crude oil project and the Whistler natural gas pipeline project are both advancing.

The Whistler Pipeline is designed to transport about 2 Bcfd of natural gas from Waha, Texas, in the Permian Basin to the Agua Dulce market in south Texas. It is scheduled for completion in the second half of 2021.


U.S. Delays Pipeline Approvals After Environmental Ruling

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has suspended a nationwide program used to approve oil and gas pipelines, power lines and other utility work, spurred by a court ruling that industry representatives warn could slow or halt numerous infrastructure projects over environmental concerns.

The directive from Army Corps headquarters, detailed in emails obtained by The Associated Press, comes after a federal court threw out a blanket permit that companies and public utilities have used for decades to build projects across streams and wetlands.

The Trump administration was expected to challenge the ruling. Meanwhile, officials have put on hold about 360 pending notifications to entities approving their use of the permit, Army Corps spokesman Doug Garman.

Pipeline and electric utility industry representatives said the effects could be widespread if the suspension lasts, affecting both construction and maintenance on potentially thousands of projects. That includes major pipelines like TC Energy’s Keystone XL crude oil line from Canada to the U.S. Midwest, the Mountain Valley natural gas pipeline in Virginia and power lines from wind turbines and generating stations in many parts of the U.S.

“The economic consequences to individual projects are hard to overstate,” said Ben Cowan, a Houston-based attorney with Locke Lord LLP who represents pipeline and wind energy companies. “It could be fatal to a number of projects under construction if they are forced to stop work for an extended period in order to obtain individual permits.”

The Army Corps has broad jurisdiction over U.S. waterways. It uses the blanket permit to approve qualifying pipelines and other utility projects after only minimal environmental review. That is a longstanding sore point for environmentalists who say it amounts to a loophole in water protection laws and ignores the cumulative harm caused by thousands of stream and wetlands crossings

Since the blanket permit in question, known as Nationwide Permit 12, was last renewed in March 2017, it has been used more than 37,000 times, Army Corps spokesman Garman said. To qualify, projects must not cause the loss of more than a half-acre of water or wetlands.


Eight Texas Cities Partner for New Water Line

The city of Houston is partnering with seven cities and water authorities to build a new southeast transmission line that will transmit up to 75 million gallons a day (MGD) of surface water from the Southeast Water Purification Plant.

The new 54-inch water line, which will be completed in 2025, will serve the city of Houston and its partners, including League City/Gulf Coast Water Authority, Clear Lake City Water Authority, City of Webster, City of Friendswood, Baybrook Municipal Utility District (MUD) No. 1, Harris County MUD No. 55 and City of Pasadena.

Approximately, 10 MGD of water will be distributed to the City of Houston’s customers and its partners will receive 65 MGD of water.

The new water line will replace an aging 42-inch water line that currently runs from the Southeast Water Purification Plant to League City’s booster pump station along Highway 3 in Webster. The existing nine-mile water line, constructed in the early 1970s, is nearing the end of its expected design life.

The waterline will be built in four construction packages. Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam, Inc. (LAN), a planning, engineering and program management firm, will serve as technical advisor, providing design and easement acquisition support services.

Houston has selected four firms – Gunda Corporation, Binkley & Barfield, Inc., Nathelyne A Kennedy & Associates, Texas American Engineering, LLC – who will serve as the design engineers on the four construction packages.

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