March 2020 Vol. 75 No. 3



Feds to Fund Water Infrastructure Projects in Four States

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the availability of $2.7 billion for infrastructure projects that help protect surface water and provide safe drinking water to communities across the country.

The State Revolving Funds (SRF) programs assist states, tribes and territories by funding a wide range of water infrastructure projects, including drinking water treatment and distribution systems, wastewater treatment and collection systems, and a variety of other projects related to preserving water quality, pursuant to the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act.

The 2020 annual allocation for the four EPA Region 7 states totals $148.7 million of SRFs, including:

  • Iowa - $38.95 million
  • Kansas - $27.13 million
  • Missouri - $63.46 million
  • Nebraska - $19.12 million

Over the last three years, the EPA Region 7 states have been allocated approximately $150 million per year for their Drinking Water and Clean Water SRF loan programs, according to the EPA.

In 2020, EPA is providing approximately $1.6 billion in new federal grant funding for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF). This funding is available for a wide range of water infrastructure projects, including modernizing aging wastewater infrastructure, implementing water reuse and recycling, and addressing stormwater. More than $64 million in CWSRF grant funding is available to tribes, certain U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia for infrastructure projects.

EPA is also making available more than $1.07 billion in new federal grant funding for the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF). This funding can be used for loans that help drinking water systems install treatment for contaminants, improve distribution systems by removing lead service lines, and improve system resiliency to natural disasters such as floods.

In addition, more than $50 million in DWSRF grant funding is available to tribes, U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia to use for drinking water system upgrades.


CenterPoint Energy Sells Miller Pipeline, Minnesota Limited to PowerTeam Services

CenterPoint Energy announced an agreement to sell Miller Pipeline and Minnesota Limited to PowerTeam Services for $850 million in cash, subject to customary price adjustments.

Miller Pipeline and Minnesota Limited, which represent CenterPoint Energy’s Infrastructure Services business segment, are two of the premier natural gas distribution and transmission pipeline contractors in the United States, providing services to customers in 35 states.

“PowerTeam’s combination with Miller Pipeline and Minnesota Limited creates a powerful platform with nationwide scale,” said Brian Palmer, chief executive officer of PowerTeam, who will serve as the chief executive officer of the combined company.

In 2019, both Miller Pipeline and Minnesota Limited were acquired by CenterPoint Energy in the CenterPoint Energy-Vector Corporation merger.

Miller Pipeline is based in Indianapolis and employs more than 3,500 people. Minnesota Limited has its headquarters in Big Lake, Minn., with peak employment of more than 1,400 employees.

The sale is scheduled to close in the second quarter of 2020.


U.S. Equipment Rentals to Top $58 Billion in 2020

Equipment and event rental companies are expected to generate $58.1 billion in revenue in the United States in 2020, up 3.8% from 2019, according to the latest forecast from the American Rental Association (ARA).

Construction and industrial equipment rental are forecast to reach $40.1 billion in 2020 with general tool rental revenue accounting for $14.1 billion and party and event revenue expected to be $3.8 billion.

Total U.S. rental revenue is expected to grow by 4.1% in 2021, 4.2% in 2022 and 3.5% in 2023 to reach $65.2 billion.

“We are in a fairly steady growth pattern with the chances of recession relatively low, keeping rental revenue growth moving higher throughout the forecast period,” said John McClelland, ARA’s vice president of Government Affairs, and chief economist.

In Canada, total rental revenue is forecast to top $5.6 billion in 2020, up 2.1% from 2019. Rental revenue in Canada is expected to grow 2.3% in 2021, 3.3% in 2022 and 2.7% in 2023 to total $6.1 billion.

In addition to rental revenue, ARA also is reporting an increase in U.S. rental penetration over the last two years, ticking up to 55.9% in 2018 and 56.7% in 2019. ARA defines rental penetration as the percentage of construction equipment currently in use that is owned by equipment rental companies.


Texas Railroad Commission Adopts New Pipeline Safety Rules

The Railroad Commission (RRC) of Texas has adopted new natural gas pipeline safety rules regarding the type of natural gas distribution pipelines that are allowed to be installed.

The new rules prohibit natural gas distribution pipeline operators from installing underground cast iron, wrought iron or bare steel pipelines. Other new pipeline safety requirements require operators to more thoroughly assess the potential public safety risk of gathering lines.

The RRC’s new pipeline rules also require these natural gas distribution pipeline operators to replace any known existing cast iron pipelines
by Dec. 31, 2021.

Under the new measures, gathering line operators are also required to report incidents and accidents on gathering lines that result in a death or in-patient hospitalization, property damage of $50,000 or more, or estimated gas loss of three million cubic feet or more.

Operators must submit a corrective action plan to the Commission to remediate an accident, incident or threat that creates a public safety risk or address a public safety complaint.


Ameren Illinois Plans Natural Gas Pipeline Upgrades

Ameren Illinois said it will replace 12 miles of aging natural gas pipeline in two Illinois locations for a combined cost of $64 million as part of its planned system upgrades around the state.

The projects include replacement of about 5 miles of 1930s-era steel pipe at Pekin, Ill., south of Peoria, with new 16-inch steel pipe. The $32 million project is expected to begin service by early summer.

The projects also include the replacement of 7 miles of gas pipeline installed during the 1960s in the Glen Carbon area of Madison County with a combination of 16-, 12- and 10-inch pipeline. That project, also budgeted at $32 million, is the latest in a series of system upgrades in the southern Illinois county, which borders the Mississippi River near St. Louis.

Ameren Illinois last year spent $48 million to upgrade 14 miles of old Madison County pipeline between the towns of Troy and Highland. In 2018, the company spent about $18 million to replace 6.4 miles of pipeline.

Richard Mark, chairman and president of Ameren Illinois, said the upgrades are “part of an overall statewide plan to upgrade and improve our natural gas system.”

Collinsville-based Ameren Illinois serves 1.2 million electric customers and more than 800,000 natural gas customers across nearly 44,000 square miles of central and southern Illinois.


Victim’s Daughter: Severed Propane Line Led to Fatal Blast

A propane explosion that killed a firefighter and injured six of his colleagues and another person last year in Maine was caused by a post that was placed in the ground to protect an exterior heating unit, severing an underground gas line, according to testimony at a recent legislative hearing.

Danielle Bell Flannery spoke to a committee about the September blast as part of a public hearing regarding a proposed modification to the state’s “Dig Safe” law. The blast killed Flannery’s father, firefighter Capt. Michael Bell, and injured seven others, including six firefighters.

Dig Safe laws prohibit digging around certain underground utility lines. In Maine, liquefied propane gas lines are not covered, according to a statement from Rep. Seth Berry, who submitted the proposal.

“If it was an electric line, a water line or even a sewer line, the contractor would have been required to contact Dig Safe, and this tragedy would have been prevented,” Rep. H. Scott Landry Jr., one of the bills co-sponsors, testified.

The head of the Propane Gas Association of New England, Leslie Anderson, testified in writing that Maine businesses shouldn’t be subjected to unnecessary rules and regulatory costs and that training is held throughout the state to educate excavators on how to avoid propane lines.

An investigation by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration remains open.


Middlesex Water Company Investing $11.2 Million To Upgrade New Jersey Water Mains

Middlesex Water Company has announced plans to invest $11.2 million to improve drinking water infrastructure in New Jersey. As part of what it calls its RENEW 2020 program, the company will replace over 2 miles of water infrastructure in the Township of Edison and the City of South Amboy.

The Edison construction, which was scheduled to start in mid-February, includes the replacement of 14,000 linear feet of water main in the Township at a cost of $6.7 million. The South Amboy project involves replacing 10,200 linear feet of water main and will cost $4.5 million.

The work will also upgrade service lines, valves and fire hydrants and is being performed to improve fire flows and to enhance overall service quality.

RENEW is part of Middlesex Water’s overall Water for Tomorrow® Program, a $295 million infrastructure investment initiative that consists of various projects to strengthen its water distribution infrastructure.

Other projects underway include construction of a large-diameter transmission main through parts of Edison and Metuchen, conversion to ozone disinfection at the company’s largest New Jersey treatment plant, and the addition of standby electrical generation.


Water Company Pleads Guilty to Hazardous Waste Violations

A California company that produces Crystal Geyser bottled water pleaded guilty to illegally storing and transporting hazardous waste and agreed to a $5 million fine, federal prosecutors said.

The waste was produced by filtering arsenic out of Sierra Nevada spring water at CG Roxane LLC’s facility in Owens Valley, authorities said.

The company entered the pleas to one count of unlawful storage of hazardous waste and one count of unlawful transportation of hazardous material, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. The office said the $5 million fine was included in a recently filed plea agreement.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office statement noted that the investigation focused on handling, storage and transportation of CG Roxane’s wastewater, “not the safety or quality of CG Roxane’s bottled water.”

Prosecutors say the company used sand filters to reduce the concentration of naturally occurring arsenic in the spring water to meet federal drinking water standards.

“To maintain the effectiveness of the sand filters, CG Roxane back-flushed the filters with a sodium hydroxide solution, which generated thousands of gallons of arsenic-contaminated wastewater,” the office said.

CG Roxane was accused of discharging the wastewater into a manmade pond for about 15 years.


U.S. Indian Bureau Violates Water Repairs Order

Federal environmental regulators say the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs violated an order to repair a public water supply system serving about
1,300 people on the Crow Indian Reservation in southeastern Montana.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials said in a letter obtained by The Associated Press that the bureau has repeatedly missed deadlines to complete repairs following concerns last spring about potential water contamination.

The Crow Agency water system provides drinking water to about 1,300 people. In March, a main line on the system broke, prompting an advisory for users to boil water or use alternate supplies as a precaution.

In 2018 the EPA Inspector General’s office issued a report raising concerns about potential human health threats after evidence of contamination was found in water from the Little Bighorn River that supplies the Crow Agency system. The river water is treated before entering the network of pipes that delivers water to Crow Agency residents.

Still unfinished are repairs to a control system that would allow plant operators to monitor water levels, according to the Jan. 14 violation letter. An EPA spokesperson, however, said enough required work has been completed and there is no longer an imminent health threat.


Mexican Farmers Take Over Dams to Stop Water Payments to U.S.

A dispute over water payments to the United States widened in Mexico last month after President Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador said Mexico has to pay its debts but angry farmers pushed back National Guard troops guarding a dam.

Under a 1944 treaty, Mexico and the United States are supposed to allow cross-border flows of water to each other, but Mexico has fallen badly behind and now has to quickly catch up on payments.

But the government of the border state of Chihuahua said Mexico should give the water to local farmers and hope that heavy summer rains will fill dams enough to repay the United States. Mexico has long used that wait-and-hope strategy, but it has led to problems in the past.

Mexico’s federal government dispatched National Guard officers to protect the La Boquilla dam, but hundreds of farmers pushed and shoved them back hundreds of yards in a failed bid to take over the dam’s control room.

Farmers took over a first dam near the border town of Ojinaga in early February. The National Water Commission said they broke open locks and could put the downstream population in danger if they tried to open flood gates at the dam.

Both dams are located near the Texas border, west of the Big Bend area.

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