Water Online

MAR 2017

Water Innovations gives Water and Wastewater Engineers and end-users a venue to find project solutions and source valuable product information. We aim to educate the engineering and operations community on important issues and trends.

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By Blair Lavoie S ubstantial reductions in state and federal funding for public infrastructure projects is the new reality facing municipalities and utilities across the country. At the same time, aging infrastructure continues to be a key topic for municipal leaders and remains a critical concern for communities and residents. In fact, according to a 2016 survey from MWH Global, now part of Stantec, 35 percent of Americans think that their community's current water infrastructure will last less than five years. With the need for updates and rebuilds to major infrastructure projects, many communities and utilities are looking for new options to help with funding and building. The construction management at risk (CMAR) delivery method has become a go-to choice for large-scale infrastructure projects thanks to start-to-finish collaboration between the agency/owner, the design firm, and the CMAR firm. Using this efficient and cost-effective method, the CMAR firm serves as a consultant during the design phase, then acts as the general contractor during the construction phase. The Challenge: City Of Fremont, OH The city of Fremont, located in rural northwest Ohio, turned to the CMAR approach when it faced aging water infrastructure along with financial constraints and federal compliance requirements. The Sandusky River, which travels through the heart of the city before emptying into Lake Erie, has important recreation and economic value to the community and is a spawning area for Lake Erie walleye game fish. It's also the source for Fremont's drinking water and the destination for its treated wastewater and combined sewer overflow (CSO) discharges. Fremont relied on an aging and increasingly ineffective wastewater and stormwater collection system with many sections originally constructed more than 100 years ago. The city-owned wastewater treatment plant, the Water Pollution Control Center (WPCC), was constructed in 1949, with the last significant upgrade in 1988. This combined sewer system conveys dry weather flow to the WPCC at approximately 6 MGD. The plant was sized to effectively process the dry weather flow, but during heavy rain or snowmelt the combined raw sewage and stormwater volume far exceeded the collection system and plant capacities, causing a regular overflow of this discharge into the Sandusky River. This occurred 70 times in 2013 alone. Pollutants from these CSO discharges can include bacteria and other pathogens, organic loading, solids, floatable debris, and nutrients. Yearly summer algae blooms in Lake Erie fed by farm runoff and nutrients released from the aging wastewater collection and treatment systems were identified as a significant environmental threat. Under the Clean Water Act, the U.S. EPA issued a policy in 1994 requiring municipalities to make improvements to reduce or eliminate this type of CSO-related pollution. The implementation and enforcement of this policy was furthered by the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit program administered by state environmental agencies, including the Ohio EPA. After years of sidestepping compliance, in 2012, Fremont was required to take action by state and federal agencies imposing NPDES discharge permit requirements that the liquids treatment phase of the WPCC be rebuilt by the end of 2015 and other costly long-term control plan improvements to the collection system be completed by 2028. Because no long-term asset management plan for water and sewer systems had previously been developed, Fremont faced a number of hurdles. For Fremont's leaders, paying for the project was a significant challenge. The diminished presence of manufacturing companies — a previous driver of the local economy — had negatively impacted Fremont's income tax base, which once helped subsidize water and sewer operations. State allocations for infrastructure projects had also been reduced substantially. To further complicate funding, Fremont's construction of a new reservoir to store water taken from the Sandusky River went tens of millions of dollars over the initial project budget by the time it was completed in 2012. This situation required Fremont to implement a plan for substantial yearly increases in water and sewer rates for local residents, who have a median household income 30 percent below the state average. An Ohio EPA Sewer and Water Rate Survey showed a 20 percent increase in Fremont's annual residential water rates from 2010 to 2011 and a nearly 30 percent hike in sewer rates over the same period. Expansion and enhancement of the WPCC became the focus for a newly elected city administration and city council. The project would become the largest public project ever undertaken by the city. 8 wateronline.com n Water Innovations Construction Management At Risk: Rebuilding Infrastructure Through Collaboration What's so great about construction management at risk (CMAR)? The story of Fremont, OH — and a description of four key CMAR benefits — sheds light on the alternative delivery method.

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