Wastewater needs ripe for private sector solutions
by Mary Scott Nabers,
CEO of Strategic Partnerships, Inc.
In the world of government where budget constraints are becoming more difficult each week, one service area is particularly ripe for private sector solutions. Wastewater plants that are in dire need of upgrades are definite targets for public-private partnerships (P3s). Most plants have maxed out rate increases and lack the funding resources to implement much-needed upgrades. Throughout the country, the trend for these types of partnership engagements is getting stronger each month. For example:
- Falmouth, Massachusetts, hosted The SmarterCape Summit that focused on regional issues including wastewater. Throughout the event, discussions on the benefits and feasibility of public-private partnerships were discussed, emphasizing that with adequate research done by each party, the partnerships could ultimately increase efficiency and effectiveness for all.
- United Water was selected by Nassau County, New York, to operate, maintain and improve the county’s wastewater treatment plants. The company will help by reducing debt and improving its wastewater system through investments in infrastructure. Beginning in early 2013, United Water will operate and maintain three wastewater treatment plants, 53 pumping stations and 3,000 miles of pipes, delivering upgrades as needed in the county. Prior to this undertaking, United Water had P3 projects in which it managed the City of Indianapolis wastewater system, water systems throughout New York City and the West Basin Water Reclamation Plant near Los Angeles.
- Officials in Willcox, Arizona, are considering a public-private partnership to operate their troubled wastewater treatment plant after a recent study revealed the inefficiency of the current system and the inadequacy of the plant to properly treat water. To avoid violation notices and fines, it will be necessary to make major investments in the renovation of the water treatment facility. The city chose to work with Severn Trent Services for initial consultation, a firm which had previously worked on the water treatment plant in Safford, Arizona. Severn Trent Services’ on-site plant manager in Safford reported potential savings of $142,452 during the first year of operation due to a public-private partnership.
- The world's largest municipal Nutrient Recovery Facility at the Rock Creek Advanced Wastewater Treatment Facility in Hillsboro, Oregon, was unveiled in May. This marks the continuation of a very successful public-private partnership between the public entity Clean Water Services and Ostara Nutrient Recovery Technologies Inc., a private investor. The partnership benefits Clean Water Services and its ratepayers by reducing operations and maintenance costs, increasing plant capacity, providing revenue from the sale of the fertilizer and allowing the plant to reach stringent nutrient limits. The cost savings and revenue are projected to pay off the $4.475 million facility in six years.
- To replace water wells contaminated by carcinogen Dichloroethylene (DCE) in Lower Providence, Pennsylvania, construction will begin to install new water lines. Two contractors will work on different aspects of the renovation. Bulldog Construction will work on already existing waterlines and Joao & Bradley Construction Company will install new waterlines. In addition to a grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, funding from Pennsylvania American Water will be used to fund the $2.5 million project. This public-private partnership allows the city to form a permanent solution to the unavailability of clean and potable water.
Most large water contractors are eager to partner with governmental entities on critical infrastructure projects such as wastewater plants. Both parties benefit through successful initiatives and taxpayers and citizens reap the rewards related to clean water at a lower cost.