News Briefs: Utility Delays Overflow-Control Project to Help Ratepayers

In this week’s news briefs, the Narragansett Bay Commission in Rhode Island is putting off completion of a multi-phase CSO project for at least three years to keep rates down, and Florida’s drought has Lake Okeechobee at its lowest level in six years
News Briefs: Utility Delays Overflow-Control Project to Help Ratepayers

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The final phase of a major Rhode Island CSO project has been delayed for at least another three years.

The Narragansett Bay Commission was initially scheduled to begin the final of three large tunnels in 2018. According to a Rhode Island Public Radio report, the commission is in discussions with the state’s Department of Environmental Management to extend the project timeline in order to make it more affordable for ratepayers.

“We’re not surprised that with a project of this magnitude, nearly $800 million, both the Narragansett Bay Commission and the Department of Environmental Management would want to take the time in front of the construction to really work all of these things out,” Jamie Samons, a commission spokesperson, told Rhode Island Public Radio. “We really do want to make sure that we’re proceeding in the best possible way, not only for the health of Narragansett Bay, but also for our ratepayers.”

An agreement is expected by the end of the summer, with construction slated to start 2021 at the earliest. The first phase of the project was completed in October 2008. The second phase was completed in December 2014.

Source: Rhode Island Public Radio

Canadian City Upgrades its Leak Detection
Waterloo, Ontario, is upgrading its leak detection capabilities thanks to the Canada-Ontario Clean Water and Wastewater Fund.

“What we really rely on now is when the road caves in or somebody spots it, and that could be weeks,” Waterloo Mayor Dave Jaworsky told the Waterloo Chronicle.

New sensor technology is being installed on 60 fire hydrants across the city. The Canada-Ontario Clean Water and Wastewater Fund is covering $657,504 of the nearly $900,000 project.

“Having this new technology will detect how much water is moving and if there’s more movement than usual, and staff will be able to address the issue earlier,” Jaworsky says.

The city anticipates that the system will eventually pay for itself.

“If you look at your water bill every month, you’re going to use roughly the same amount of water. If your toilet or water softener starts leaking, it will go up by hundreds or thousands of liters,” Jaworsky says. “It’s similar with us, except we’re moving millions of liters, and when you see a water main break, that’s real, fresh, processed water that has to be paid for just running down the street.”

Waterloo’s leak detection system is one of 38 projects receiving funding in 25 communities across Ontario.

Source: Waterloo Chronicle

Big Rate Hikes Coming for Virginia Utility's Customers to Meet CSO Project Deadlines
Alexandria, Virginia’s 2025 deadline to reduce CSOs is going to cause a significant rate hike for utility customers, according to a Washington Post report.

The city had recently asked for more time, but the Virginia General Assembly upheld an order to complete the necessary work by 2025. To meet that timetable, monthly rates are expected to rise at least another $25 to $35 every year for the next five years for utility customers. The figures were shared with residents at a recent community meeting.

According to Bill Skrabak, deputy director of the city’s Transportation and Environmental Services Department, the latest construction costs for the large tunnels and storage tanks are estimated at as much as $400 million.

Source: Washington Post

Florida Lake at Lowest Level in Six Years
Florida’s Lake Okeechobee is at its lowest level since 2011 because of the state’s current drought. It could trigger emergency pumping to keep water flowing south, as well as tougher watering restrictions to conserve water supplies.

“Farmers are praying for summer rains to begin on time,” U.S. Sugar Corp. spokesperson Judy Sanchez told the Sun Sentinel.

The state’s rainy season typically begins by early June. Lake Okeechobee serves as South Florida’s primary backup water supply. It recently dropped to 10.98 feet above sea level, about 2 feet below normal. Emergency pumping would kick in at 10.5 feet.

Even though the lake’s water level is declining, underground water supplies remain in good shape, according to Pete Kwiatkowski, head of the South Florida Water Management District’s water shortage response team.

“We are on the cusp of the wet season,” Kwiatkowski told the Sun Sentinel. “The primary water supply is in good shape. I don’t think we are going to need to rely on Lake Okeechobee.”

To help conserve water supplies, the district has already asked the public to voluntarily reduce water use, primarily landscape watering. About half of South Florida’s public water supply goes toward landscape watering, the district says.

Source: Sun Sentinel


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