It’s Really All About Community

There’s far more to these stories than the physical assets of a water or wastewater utility.

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Sometimes the stories of our underground infrastructure go way beyond pipes and valves. They are stories about the environment we live in, the resources we rely on and the communities we all call home. Because at the end of the day, we all depend on our water, wastewater and stormwater infrastructure to help us live the lives we enjoy.

This month’s issue of MSW includes three municipal utility system profiles that each reflect this sentiment in their own way. Each shows a side of how we rely on these systems, and how the work being done in your departments has an impact on everyone’s lives.

In Carlsbad, N.M., water is a precious resource, more so than in many communities because Carlsbad is a desert community. Their water reserves are limited. On top of that, an oil and gas boom has put added stress on the water supply and brought explosive population growth to the area. The utility isn’t required to supply the water for these drilling activities, but it does to raise revenue and to encourage economic growth.

Now, the utility is embarking on a $45 million project to expand transmission capacity from a secondary water source with 26 miles of 24-inch pipe to be installed along U.S. Highway 62-180. Approximately 13 miles of existing 12-inch water line will be upgraded to 16-inch. The project will go a long way toward establishing a solid foundation for the community’s future.

In Henderson, Ky., a combined sewer system had plagued the community and local environment for many decades. Combined sewer overflows were common, as were unpleasant odors, especially in the busy downtown area. Local leaders recognized the problem, and long before the EPA stepped in with a consent decree, the community was already supporting the local utilities department in working toward resolving the issues.

The City of Henderson has spent over $40 million to resolve its infrastructure issues, and the impacts have been far-reaching. One of the city’s largest endeavors was a sewer separation project covering a large section of the downtown. The disruption caused by the work, which included installing new sewer and water lines and converting the old combined lines into a new stormwater system, caused significant disruption for downtown business owners.

The city was aware of the inconvenience and went above and beyond to keep business owners well informed and to listen to all their concerns. The result was a remarkably smooth project, despite months of disruption. At the end, the business owners were so pleased with the results, and the elimination of the foul odors they had long endured, that they threw a party to celebrate the end of construction and the new look of the downtown. Now it may become an annual event.

Much further north, the Regional Municipality of York in Ontario, Canada, is doing its own part to help the community grow and prosper. York is experiencing rapid growth, and the York Region Environmental Services Department is working carefully toward expanding its sewer system and waste treatment infrastructure to accommodate an expected 50 percent population increase over the next 20 years by redoubling its efforts to inspect and remediate its trunk sewer system.

Some municipalities within the region are entering into developer-funded programs to reduce I&I in exchange for increased wastewater servicing allocations. In 2011, for example, York Region, the town of Markham and developer Upper Unionville Inc. signed an agreement to reduce I&I in Markham at no cost to the community in exchange for a wastewater servicing allocation to support a new residential development.

All of these utilities are working to make their communities healthier and stronger for the years to come. I hope their examples can help you in your own endeavors.

Enjoy this month’s issue.

Comments on this column or about any article in this publication may be directed to editor Luke Laggis, 800/257-7222;


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