Virtual Water/ Wastewater Industry Powerhouse
- By: Norelis M. Florentino, PE, MBA, PMP
- On: 09/22/2020 12:52:18
- In: Committee Chair Comments
- Comments: 0
ACEC/MW Water Infrastructure Vice Chair, Norelis Florentino, discusses the Water / Wastewater event.The August 27th ACEC/MW Virtual Water / Wastewater Live Event was a powerhouse and featured some of the finest Civil Engineering professionals in the nation. While many hoped for an in-person meeting, the virtual meeting format due to COVID-19 proved to be a success for 191 attendees. The event focused on learning more about the water authorities in the Washington Metropolitan Area including their current projects, 10-year Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), and future project opportunities. Representatives from DC Water, Loudon Water, Fairfax County DPWES, and WSSC Water gave presentations, the ACEC/MW Meritorious Award recipient was recognized, and the event concluded with an engaging moderated panel discussion.
Kishia L. Powell, P.E., DC Water Chief Operating Officer and Executive Vice President, kicked off the presentations with her first official speaking engagement since joining DC Water in May 2020. DC Water distributes drinking water and collects/treats wastewater for 670K DC residents and 17.8 million visitors annually. It has the world's largest advanced wastewater treatment plant and treats wastewater for a population of 2.1 million in DC, Montgomery & Prince George's counties in Maryland, and Fairfax & Loudoun counties in Virginia. Like many utilities across the country, their distribution and collection systems are aging with an average pipe age of 81 years and 82 years, respectively. Before Kishia came on board, the engineering team talked with the Board of Directors about a concept of “Intergenerational Equity” which involves leaving 50% of the service life of their pipes for future generations. This concept is now an actual goal as evidenced by their $0.5 billion increase in investment for the water and sewer linear system.
The DC Water's 10-year CIP (FY 2020-2029) is $4.9 billion and has an Operating Budget of $618 million. It attempts to balance infrastructure renewal and affordability. Its major initiatives consist of the DC Clean Rivers Program, Wastewater at Blue Plains, Water Program, Sewer Program, Combined Sewer Overflow, Stormwater, and Non-Process Facilities. Procurements for capital and goods and services have now been combined in a new program handled by the Department of Procurements. DC Water continues to support business diversity and inclusion and they are committed to ensuring that local, small, disadvantaged, and women business enterprises have equitable access to procurement opportunities at all tiers on DC Water projects. All future opportunities will be available in the supplier portal at www.dcwater.com/procurement.
Loudoun Water's Thomas Lipinski, P.E., Director of Planning & Engineering, and Sarah Lothman, P.E., Manager of Capital Design, were grateful for the opportunity to speak at the event. Thomas mentioned that “we all lean against each other equally” and that consultants help them be successful. Loudoun Water is split into a suburban area on the east and a rural area on the west. They provide water, wastewater, and reclaimed water in the suburban area, and they run small water/wastewater plants to serve small communities in the rural area. The average age of their sewer pipes is 60 years and their main challenge is growth. The population is forecasted to increase by 1/3 and jobs by 2/3 by 2040. The Washington DC metro will connect to Loudon by 2021 bringing in additional people. There are currently 20 million S.F. of data centers, 5 million S.F. under construction, and millions S.F. more in development. In 2019, they had a service area expansion that resulted in changes to their county plans.
Some of their current water and wastewater projects encompass reservoirs, an emergency water supply connection, a Water Reclamation Facility expansion, and pump stations. Their 10-year CIP (2020-2029) is $797 million and involves projects that were identified using a 5-caterory prioritization system that evaluates resource and competing needs. The categories include the Level of Service, Regulatory or Mandated Requirement, Implication of Deferring, Alignment with Strategic and Master Plans, and Funding and Other Opportunities. In addition, the analysis obtained from their Asset Management Program helped them to better size and scope the capital projects. There are many new projects on the horizon including water/sewer main designs, pump station designs, water treatment plant expansions, and community systems ammonia removal upgrades. There are also some opportunities with the “One Water Strategy” to help them assess future surface water augmentation. Their primary means of obtaining engineering support are through the Basic Ordering Agreements (BOAs). There are three active 5-year BOAs including an Environmental BOA (October 2020 RFP release), Community Systems BOA (November 2020 RFP release), and a Civil BOA (Selection process is complete).
Matthew J. Doyle, P.E., CCM, Branch Chief for Wastewater Design and Construction at the Fairfax County Department of Public Works & Environmental Services, started his presentation by mentioning that their wastewater collection system consists of 3,400 miles of sanitary sewer that can stretch from Fairfax, Virginia to Juneau, Alaska, and the average age of their pipes is 60 years. Their system has 61 pumping stations, 90 flow meters, 135 grinder pumps, and the Norman M. Cole Pollution Control Plant that treats 67 MGD in Lorton, Virginia. Their Reclaimed Water Reuse System treats 6.6 MGD, has 2 pump stations, and has a 0.750 MG storage tank. Their Wastewater Management Program is overseen by the Planning & Monitoring, Collection, and Treatment business areas. The Capital Facilities Wastewater Design and Construction Division is divided into the Wastewater Treatment Branch and the Collection System Branch which manage $900 million and $530 million, respectively.
Matthew said that it seems like they start new projects every year and the capacity and condition upgrades projects are increasing. There are approximately 50 active wastewater projects including pump stations, a filter rehabilitation, and a countywide Wastewater Master Plan. Their 10-Year CIP (FY-2021) has a forecast of $60 million for wastewater collection, $70 million (+/-) for wastewater treatment. Their goal is to accelerate their infrastructure's repair/replacement rate to match the rate of the original construction which was faster. Examples of typical upcoming projects include pump station renewals/replacements, condition assessments, pipe replacements, planning studies, emergency engineering, and construction services. Matthew mentioned that the project complexity determines the project type. CMAR is preferred for large projects and Design-Bid-Build for projects under $10 million. There will be total of $264.8 million worth of projects with a June 2020 through May 2021 start date. To learn more about the future projects visit the DPWES website (https://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/publicworks/) and eVA (https://eva.virginia.gov/index.html). In addition to having great project opportunities, Fairfax County is embracing new technologies that range from condition assessment models, BIM, to LIDAR Scanning. They are also active in the community and provide several outreach programs such as the Sewer Science Education Program for K-12 and internship opportunities for university students.
Michael T. Harmer, P.E., Chief Engineer for WSSC Water, discussed their status and vision for the future. They have 1700 employees and provide water and sewer for Montgomery & Prince George's counties. They serve 1.8 million people or 480 customer accounts in a service area that is nearly 1000 square miles. They have maintained AAA Bond Rating since 2001 with all three bond rating agencies. Their budget is recommended by County Executives and approved by County Councils. Their rates are established annually to recover costs and WSSC Water does not make a profit or receives any tax dollars. Their strategic plan or “Journey to World Class” has several priorities such as protect their resources, transform employee engagement, spend customer dollars wisely, optimize infrastructure, and enhance customer experience.
WSSC Water's core values are accountability, environmental stewardship, innovation, collaboration, and excellence. Their guiding principles are to simplify, focus, and connect. Michael mentioned that he is good at simplifying things and is working on improving the customer experience by implementing technology and restructuring the division. He is also looking at succession planning for his staff because 50% or more are eligible for retirement. Michael said that even though there were some budget reductions due to COVID-19, the work continues to flow, and a lot of work is forecasted for the future. The Engineering & Construction, Production, Strategy & Innovation, and Utility Services Departments have millions of dollars-worth of BOAs with advertisement dates from 2020 through 2023.
Arthur Jones-Dove, ACEC/MW Board Member, presented the Meritorious Award to Michael T. Harmer, P.E., WSSC Water Chief Engineer, for his leadership and outstanding public service. Michael was beaming with joy and thankful for the award. He mentioned that he has enjoyed collaborating with ACEC/MW and the organization could count on his support. He said that they are successful when the consultants are successful. Michael also thanked James A. Price, Jr., WSSC Water Deputy General Manager, and Carla A. Reid, WSSC Water General Manager and CEO, for their confidence in him as Chief Engineer.
The event concluded with an engaging panel discussion moderated by Aaron Briggs, ACEC/MW Water Infrastructure Committee Chair. There were a lot of great questions and the panelists provided a variety of insightful responses. The discussion questions were as follows:
What are you doing now to position yourselves for a post COVID-19 recovery and to be ready for infrastructure funding from the federal government if it is available?
DC Water is following their phased recovery plan, providing additional assistance to customers, and they have a list of “shovel ready” projects that can be presented for funding opportunities. WSSC Water will be looking for funding opportunities for the numerous “shovel ready” projects that are on the shelf due to lack of funding and resources. They are currently using the Clean Water State Revolving Fund and are focusing on their customer affordability program. Loudoun Water does not have many “shovel ready” projects, but they are always looking for funding. Their limitations are due to lack of resources instead of funding.
Do you plan to incorporate sustainability in your projects and are you considering using the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure's ENVISION rating system?
Loudoun Water is always considering sustainability. They always look for the best value and not always the least expensive solution. They have started looking into ENVISION and would like to expand its application. WSSC Water is on board with sustainability and thinks about it when possible. They are evaluating their water reclamation projects and they have a progressive design/build project for their bioenergy or solid disposal process to produce energy and a sellable product. They are also working on water use regulations, Environmentally Sensitive Devices for stormwater, and conflicts with their water/sewer/stormwater infrastructure. Fairfax County had a few projects go through the ENVISION program, but not many. More projects are going through the process on the building side, like the fire department, libraries, etc. DC Water has done a lot of work on sustainability, they have implemented programs across multiple areas to evaluate it and are looking at long-term plans. They used ENVISION for the Potomac Interceptor and recently received a Platinum rating for the new Headquarters building.
The WSCC BOA that was recently advertised has a 25% price evaluation component which is higher than usual. Is this the new normal? Are you are moving away from the quality-based selection process?
WSSC Water will revisit the terms for this BOA.
Any other major impacts from COVID-19? Any new normal for the future?
Fairfax County has increased their efficiency by 20%-30% because they do not have to drive to meetings. Their projects are going out faster than ever before. Loudoun Water is more efficient, but they like to collaborate and are finding it difficult to do so. On the financial side, they are assessing the long-term impact of the suspension of collections. WSSC Water misses the face-to-face meetings, but they have met or exceeded all their metrics. Half of Michael Harmer's staff will continue to telework through the Christmas Holidays, but the other half will be out working in the field. They are trying to address the back-to-back meetings without a break, issues with billing, and limitations with field inspections. DC Water has gained greater efficiencies in some areas, but teleworking is interfering with their personal day. They are looking into providing support for those with school aged children and loved ones with challenges. They are continuing to support their front-line/field workers, but there are still concerns. On the financial side, they have a payment assistance program, some projects have been delayed, revenues have decreased, and they are evaluating the long-term impacts of the service interruption suspension.
What are the changes to minority and small local business opportunities resulting from the Pandemic and are you finding ways to increase their participation?
DC Water has an established program and will focus on it when spending money under a stimulus. WSSC Water has a strong program and is constantly ensuring compliance. Fairfax County does not have a program and it is not something in their forecast.
What else can consultants do to help you or make your job easy?
Fairfax County would like consultants to be part of the team, work with them, let them know when they are wrong, and be flexible because they have a lot of pressure on the owner's side and competing interests on multiple sides. DC Water wants consultants to understand their mission and how they are attempting to serve their stakeholders. They must think about the basics, be cost conscious, provide a high service delivery, and understand that in addition to the CIP, they also have the day-to-day operations. They would also like to collaborate and think outside the box to obtain solutions for existing issues. WSSC Water needs to see improvements in the type of work they have been receiving. Please send your A-teams, follow the directions on your contract, and meet all contract conditions because their budgets are limited.
The event provided attendees a wealth of information to help them understand the needs and opportunities of the water/wastewater infrastructure industry in the Washington Metropolitan Area. There are many projects worth millions of dollars currently being executed. The 10-year CIPs for all authorities illustrate substantial investments to improve the water / wastewater infrastructure in the area. There are countless project opportunities for consultants. Michael Harmer received ACEC/MW's Meritorious Award for being a great industry role model. The panel discussion elicited a lot of candid responses to current issues such as COVID-19, sustainability, and project funding. Overall, the event provided a great overview of the industry status and guidance for companies that want to do business with the water authorities. To learn more, join the ACEC/MW Water Infrastructure Committee today!
Thank You Sponsors!
This event would not have been possible without the support from our sponsors.
AECOM, ARCADIS, Carollo, EBA Engineering, ECS, HNTB, RVE, American Geotechnical & Environmental Services, Inc., ATCSCI Capital Infrastructure, Century Engineering, Haley Aldrich, JMT, Stantec, AMT, ATKINS, Delon Hampton, HDR, Michael Baker International, Weston & Sampson.
Norelis M. Florentino, PE, MBA, PMP is a Senior Manager for Shrewsberry and Associates. Her experience includes resource/project management, hydraulic/hydrologic modeling and design for water/wastewater/stormwater projects, and training over one thousand engineers in various engineering software applications. She has a B.S. in Environmental Engineering from the University of Central Florida, an MBA from the University of Florida, and a Master of Project Management from Georgetown University. She is the current Vice Chair for the ACEC/MW Water Infrastructure Committee.
- ACEC/MW Immediate Past President Rizwan A. Siddiqi, P.E.
- ACEC/MW Staff
- Kyle Urda, P.E., Facilities Chair
- Arthur Jones Dove, PE, PMP, CCM, MBA, PgMP
- Hanif Drzal, P.E., CJP
- Michael A. Perrotta, P.E., AICP
- Aaron Smith, P.E., LEED AP, Maryland Municipal Committee Chair
- Erin Donovan, PE, CQA
- Mary Searing, PE, DWRE, CFM and Norelis M. Florentino, PE, MBA, PMP
- Pedro Capestany, PE
- Hanif Drzal, P.E., CJP & Jenny Bowers
- James Thomas, P.E.
- Norelis M. Florentino, PE, MBA, PMP
- Bryan C. Layman, P.E., L.P.S.S., A.O.S.E., LEED AP