News Briefs: New Technology Helps City Cut Water Usage During Routine Flushing

In this week’s news briefs, in the ongoing effort to conserve treated water, a California city finds a way to significantly limit how much water is lost to storm sewers during hydrant flushing, and a Florida city nears the end of a 12-year consent order to reduce overflows
News Briefs: New Technology Helps City Cut Water Usage During Routine Flushing

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During the height of the California drought, Ventura residents had a chronic complaint to the city as they had to increasingly cut their own water usage — the gallons of water being flushed via hydrants to clear drinking water pipelines of particulates.

According to a report in the Ventura County Star, in response to that wasting of water — although during a necessary process — the city has started using a new piece of equipment that captures the water being flushed, filters it, and sends it immediately back into the system.

“We estimate at a minimum 10 million gallons a year, and it could be much more than that,” Joe McDermott, Ventura Water’s acting general manager, said of the potential water savings in the Ventura County Star report.

That new piece of equipment is a $495,000 truck equipped with the Neutral Output-Discharge Elimination System, which attaches to a hydrant with a hose to take water, filters it, then returns the water through a second hose attached to a different hydrant. McDermott says that Ventura has been working to diversify its water supply in recent years, but the cheapest water still ultimately comes through conservation, making the new equipment worth it even if the process is more time-consuming than traditional flushing methods.

“This is a big game changer,” McDermott told the Ventura County Star.

Source: Ventura County Star

City Expected to Divert More Money Away From Sewer Infrastructure Repairs
Residents of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, have seen their water and sewer bills hiked by 38.5 percent since 2012, but large sums of the money have not been spent on needed infrastructure repairs, according to a report in the Sun Sentinel.

In that time, $90.4 million has been removed from the water-sewer fund to pay for unrelated city services and another $16.2 million is expected to be removed this fall. The Sun Sentinel’s report states that the practice, which is legal, has dramatically increased starting in 2012, when the city faced a budget crisis but didn’t want to raise the property tax. The $16.2 million transferred this year would ensure that the property tax rate remains the same for the 11th straight year.

But an engineering consultant’s report states that the money should remain in the water-sewer fund to help repair a system that is on the “brink of failure.” The state is currently pursuing a court-enforced order against the city because of 20.6 million gallons of sewer overflows in the last two years.

City Manager Lee Feldman told the Sun Sentinel that the consultant’s assessment of the system has been exaggerated, and referenced a different consultant’s report that described the system as “well maintained, well managed and overall in good operating condition.”

Source: Sun Sentinel

Puerto Rico Water Infrastructure Upgrades Stall Amidst Debt Crisis
The main provider of water and sewer services in Puerto Rico has lost the ability to borrow money, a consequence of the island’s debt problems, according to a report by Bloomberg Bureau of National Affairs. It means construction on pipes, filtration systems, and other key water infrastructure projects is at a standstill, putting the island’s water quality at great risk. Several construction and engineering firms have shut down most of their operations on the island.

The EPA has cut off Puerto Rico from accessing its State Revolving Fund loan program, and Peter Grevatt, head of the EPA’s drinking water office, says the island may never be able to fully repay the hundreds of millions of dollars in loans it has taken out from the EPA. Puerto Rico has also lost access to financing through the private bond market with investors scared off by the island’s debt load.

“At some point, something is going to give,” Alberto Lazaro, who ran the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority (PRASA) until last year, told Bloomberg BNA. “It’s impossible to run a water utility if you can’t have capital expenditures.”

Drinking water violations have increased since 2013 after seeing a decline in the years prior. That’s when the authority’s health reserves sitting in Puerto Rico’s main infrastructure bank started going south. Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla transferred $245 million out of the bank into a special fund to cover budget shortfalls, and in 2014, he signed a law restricting how much agencies like PRASA could access from the bank.

“We didn’t see this coming,” Lazaro told Bloomberg BNA. “We had sufficient income and revenues to maintain our financial plans, but the rating agencies said, ‘Even though they have all this, they’re Puerto Rico and it doesn’t look good there,’ and we got degraded.”

Source: Bloomberg BNA

Florida City Makes Progress on Eliminating Chronic Overflow Problems
In the last month, two major capital projects in Largo, Florida, have become fully operational, greatly easing sewer overflows that have plagued the city for the past decade.

“So far it’s been night and day,” Gary Jones-Glascock, manager of the city’s wastewater reclamation facility, told the Largo Leader.

Environmental Services Director Irvin Kety says there have still been some overflows, but they haven’t been caused by the capacity of pipes, which had been the major issue in the past. Instead, the recent overflows were caused by a lightning strike at a lift station and problems with new communications technology installed at lift stations.

One of the recently completed projects is a $44.2 million sanitary sewer expansion that will help get sewage to the treatment plant faster. It consists of 14 miles of pipeline and seven new lift stations. The second project is a 5-million-gallon holding tank at the plant. A third overflow-related project is still being finished up, but Kety says it will be completed by the Jan. 31, 2018 deadline on a consent order the city entered into in 2006 with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

Source: Largo Leader


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