Aging infrastructure and lack of capacity due to population growth are straining sewer collection systems, leaving agencies vulnerable to potential spills and resulting fines.
“Municipalities face increasing public pressure and regulatory requirements, such as the statewide waste discharge requirements, to have reliable, responsible infrastructure management in place,” said Steve Jepsen, a Dudek capital improvement program (CIP) manager specializing in water and wastewater projects. “Sewer spills are not tolerated and the resulting emergency repairs and fines are costly.”
Jepsen is helping the City of Vista and the Buena Sanitation District implement an accelerated sewer improvement program after the aging wastewater infrastructure experienced multiple spills.
Dudek initially prepared a sewer master plan that identified 20 sewer capacity projects. A GIS-based inventory query identified material-related replacement needs indicating that up to 40% of the city’s sewer lines were approaching the end of their reliable service life.
For CEQA compliance, Dudek also prepared a programmatic EIR. Subsequently, the city performed a system-wide CCTV condition assessment that identified condition-relatedreplacement/rehabilitation needs.
Together, the studies provided the roadmap for implementing the city’s $117 million, 5-year program to improve the aging wastewater infrastructure.
Managing Successful Implementation
Jepsen recommends that agencies facing similar issues consider the following measures:
Assemble an experienced team. With constrained budgets, agencies may not have adequate in-house technical and regulatory staff available. In addition to contracting engineering and environmental projects, Vista decided to contract out the CIP manager role for a 5-year period. Dudek’s Jepsen was selected through a competitive process to serve as the extension-of-staff CIP manager.
Determine project priority. Key criteria are capacity deficiencies, severity of defects type of material and age. Other important considerations include consequences of a spill, permitting lag times, right-of-way acquisition and funding sources.
Establish accurate preliminary project parameters. Projects let through RFPs prior to the project being accurately defined can lead to expensive redesigns and contract amendments. Changes are particularly problematic when they involve additional land surveying, geotechnical investigations or biological surveys.
Understand the funding sources. State and federal loans or grants as well as bonds have a variety of project requirements, such as CEQA plus, NEPA, prevailing wage, public outreach and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) outreach. Identifying these requirements early will avoid funding delays or project ineligibility.
Evaluate environmental constraints early. Environmental permitting should move on a concurrent track with engineering planning and design to help avoid delays and construction stoppages.
Bring in a contractor early for constructability issues. Insights on construction methods and phasing considerations can lower risk and provide potential savings.
Maintain project momentum. Running multiple projects concurrently is the best way to maintain momentum. Jepsen said having contracts in place with diversified firms or multiple sub-consultants assures the program manager can efficiently procure as-needed access to a range of disciplines.