August 2022 Vol. 77 No. 8



Tampa Planning $200 Million Water Infrastructure Repair Project 

The City of Tampa, Fla, is replacing dozens of miles of aging underground pipes in several neighborhoods in an estimated $200 million project that is expected to take more than three years to complete. 

“We will be reducing water main breaks and reducing the number of cave-ins on sanitary sewer sites,” Tampa Infrastructure Administrator Brad Baird told Spectrum News 9, noting the project should improve water pressure and water quality. 

Baird said the construction will occur in three phases. Phase 1 includes the repair and relining of around 27 miles of underground pipes; Phase 2 will target the removal and replacement of at least 18 miles of pipes; and Phase 3 will address roadway and driving surface improvements in all four neighborhoods, according to the report. 

Detroit-area Utility Denies Responsibility for 2021 Storm Flooding 

A Detroit-area water utility said it will deny flooding claims stemming from a damaging storm last summer based on an independent review that found the flooding was caused by the amount of rainfall and not a defect in its wastewater collection and pumping system. 

The Great Lakes Water Authority said in a statement that Michigan law also holds that a public entity can only be held liable for a sewage disposal system event if a defect in the system caused at least half of the problem and damage. 

A state of emergency was declared for Detroit and surrounding Wayne County following a storm that began on June 25, 2021, and dumped more than 6 inches of rain, which overloaded the area’s wastewater systems. Some streets and hundreds of basements were flooded, causing widespread property damage. 

Sue McCormick, who ran the Great Lakes Water Authority at the time, said days after the storm that two Detroit water pumping stations designed to carry wastewater and excess storm water to treatment facilities experienced power-related problems but didn’t fail during the storm. 

The independent investigation ordered by the water authority’s board was completed by engineering firm AECOM. It “determined that widespread basement flooding was inevitable due to the unprecedented amount and intensity of the rainfall that occurred,” the authority said. 

ASCE Publishes Updated Utility Standards 

The American Society of Civil Engineer (ASCE) released updated utility standards in July aimed at reducing redesign, unnecessary utility relocations, and differing site conditions and associated costs. 

Standard Guideline for Investigating and Documenting Existing Utilities, ASCE/UESI/CI 38-22 and its companion standard, Standard Guideline for Recording and Exchanging Utility Infrastructure Data, ASCE/UESI/CI 75-22, designed to minimize risk, increase public safety and decrease costs, are now available in e-book form. 

“Utilities have long been a source of uncertainty during project development,” Tom Smith, ASCE executive director, said. “These two standards put control of significant constructability risks back into the hands of the design team.” 

The updated ASCE 38-22 has been re-issued and renamed from its previous edition to more succinctly convey its purpose. It guides engineers in performing utility investigations during project development work to help them design projects that have minimal impact to existing utilities, protecting engineers, project owners, utility owners and the public from utility related claims. 

Standard Guideline for Recording and Exchanging Utility Infrastructure Data, ASCE 75-22, is the result of recurring discussion among various agencies going back 30 years, for the creation of a utility “As-Constructed” or “As-Built” standard, to ensure that new utilities added to a project or relocated during a project, have accurate and useable records of their location and attributes going forward. Although produced as a project standard, it can also be used as a utility records development standard for utility owners. 

Navajo Leaders Finalize Plans for $215 Million in Water Improvements 

Navajo Nation leaders have finalized an agreement on spending priorities for more than $1 billion in federal pandemic relief to improve water, sanitation, housing and communications infrastructure. 

Under the signed resolution, the Navajo Nation will devote $215 million to water and wastewater projects, $97 million to extend electricity to homes, and $250 million on internet and housing projects. Another $210 million is set aside for local priorities determined by Navajo chapterhouse government units. 

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez signed the agreement from the Navajo Nation Council in July to deliver funding to improve infrastructure for water, electricity, high-speed internet, housing, COVID-19 mitigation and specialized hardship assistance to projects and residents across the reservation spanning portions of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. 

The coronavirus pandemic disproportionately hit Indian Country, underscored stark disparities in access to running water, sewage systems and internet communications amid interruptions in classroom teaching 

The spending at the Navajo Nation is linked to the American Rescue Plan Act, signed by President Joe Biden in early 2021. Additional aid is expected under a massive infrastructure bill, approved in November 2021, that set aside $20 billion for Indian Country. 

Rise in Trenching Deaths Spurs Feds to Boost Enforcement, Oversight 

In 2022’s first six months, 22 workers fell victim to the deadly hazards present in trenching and excavation work – surpassing 15 in all of 2021 – prompting the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to launch enhanced enforcement initiatives to protect workers from known industry hazards. 

OSHA enforcement staff will consider every available tool at their disposal to place additional emphasis on how the agency evaluates penalties for trenching and excavation related incidents, including criminal referrals for federal or state prosecution to hold employers and others accountable when their actions or inactions result in deaths or put workers’ lives at risk. 

OSHA compliance officers will perform more than 1,000 trench inspections nationwide where they may stop by, and inspect, any excavation site during their daily duties, said Assistant Secretary for Occupational Health and Safety Doug Parker. 

“The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is calling on all employers engaged in trenching and excavation activities to act immediately to ensure that required protections are fully in place every single time their employees step down into or work near a trench,” Parker said. 

A recent incident in central Texas highlights the dangers of trenching and an impetus for OSHA’s action. On June 28, 2022, two workers, aged 20 and 39, suffered fatal injuries in Jarrell, Texas, when an unprotected trench more than 20 feet deep collapsed on them as they worked. Trench shields, which could have saved their lives, sat unused beside the excavation, the agency said. 

NM Governor Allocates $30 Million for Water Pipeline 

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has announced state funding for the Eastern New Mexico Water Supply Project, a pipeline that will deliver water from the Ute Reservoir to the more than 70,000 residents of Clovis, Elida, Portales and Texico. 

The $30 million state investment, paired with local and federal funding, will provide a long-term water source for the community. The project is expected to be completed in 2029. 

The project is intended to serve as a model for statewide water conservation efforts. Many communities rely on groundwater as a primary source of water supply, but increasingly arid conditions are rapidly depleting aquifers. Utilizing surface water, which is recharged more quickly, will help ensure aquifers are preserved, officials said. 

“Without this pipeline, the aquifer the community relies on will be depleted within 10 to 15 years,” Lujan Grisham said. 

Michigan Panel Seeks More Detail on Great Lakes Pipeline Tunnel Plan 

A Michigan regulatory panel said it needs more information about safety risks before it can rule on an Enbridge plan to extend an oil pipeline through a tunnel beneath a waterway linking two of the Great Lakes. 

The state Public Service Commission voted 3-0 to seek further details about the potential for explosions and fires involving electrical equipment during construction of the tunnel beneath the Straits of Mackinac. 

The commission’s approval would be required for Enbridge to replace two existing Line 5 pipes in the straits, which connect Lake Huron and Lake Michigan, with a new segment that would run through the proposed underground tunnel. 

“This has been an extensive process,” Chairman Dan Scripps said. “We want to make sure that we get it right.” 

Enbridge and the state of Michigan are mired in legal battles over Line 5. The 69-year-old underground pipeline carries Canadian oil and natural gas liquids used for propane through northern Michigan and Wisconsin to refineries in Sarnia, Ontario. 

Enbridge is defying Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s 2020 order to shut down the line, a move long sought by environmental groups and Native American tribes who fear a rupture would devastate the lakes. The company says the line is in good condition and contends in a federal lawsuit that the Democratic governor doesn’t have the jurisdiction to shut it down. 

Arizona Governor Signs $1.2 Billion Water Infrastructure Plan 

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has signed legislation that will provide $1.2 billion over three years to boost long-term water supplies for the desert state and implement conservation efforts that will see more immediate effects. 

The legislation, which was hammered out over months during the just-completed legislative session, is viewed as the most significant since the state implemented a groundwater protection plan in 1980. 

The action, prompted by a lengthy drought, comes as Arizona faces cutbacks in its Colorado River water supply. The Central Arizona Project canal system is already delivering less water from the river to metro Phoenix, Pinal County and Tucson, and federal officials are warning of even steeper cuts soon. 

“These challenges made it necessary for us to act,” the Republican governor said at a signing ceremony in the historic Capitol rotunda. “So today we are taking action to do what the men and women of Arizona hired us to.” 

The legislation Ducey touted in January to allow the Department of Water Resources oversee the investments morphed over the session and now gives an obscure state entity the authority to leverage and dole out a new $1 billion appropriation. 

The entity is called the Water Infrastructure Finance Authority, which will now be a standalone agency with oversight from a new board and some from the Legislature. 

Calgary Responds to More than 7,000 Sewer Clogs in a Year 

Calgary, Alberta, is hoping to inform residents about the dangers of flushing single-use wipes down the toilet, as it is causing a strain for the city’s wastewater crews, CBC reported. 

The city responded to more than 7,200 sewer backups in 2021, the article states, adding that most of them were caused by unflushable items. This includes wipes marketed as “flushable.” A slew of municipalities has been spreading the word that they are not actually safe to flush, as they collect in clumps and block sewer lines. Some U.S. states have even passed laws restricting companies from advertising these wipes as flushable. 

“For the wastewater treatment plants and just even our collection system, they are becoming more and more of a problem,” says Marissa Mitton, leader of the city’s Wastewater Operations and Maintenance department, in the CBC report. 

When crews respond to these backups, Mitton said “more often than not, we do find a buildup of unflushable items, including flushable wipes.” The masses can take hours to remove. 

“You should only flush the three Ps: pee, paper and poo,” Mitton said.  

Penelec Starts Replacing Underground Cable, Equipment in Pennsylvania 

Penelec has commenced work to replace the underground electric cables, transformers and other equipment in Erie County, Pennsylvania, that have been worn down by water erosion, the company said. 

The work is part of Penelec’s Long Term Infrastructure Improvement Plans (LTIIP II), a $200 million initiative to accelerate capital investments over five years to help enhance continued electric service reliability for the company’s 585,000 customers. 

“The new wires encased in PVC conduit will help better protect the equipment and is expected to last for decades,” Scott Wyman, president of FirstEnergy’s Pennsylvania operations, said. “Underground cables housed in conduit are easier for line crews to repair, which can shorten the duration of service interruptions.” 

Over time, water and corrosive soil materials have penetrated underground wires through tiny cracks and fissures which can lead to reliability issues and potential service interruptions. Contractors are replacing more than a mile of the electric cable in the Rolling Meadows neighborhood, which was originally installed in the 1970s and 1980s. 

In addition, they will install 21 new transformers as well as equipment that divides the cable into smaller sections, helping to isolate damage and limit the number of customers impacted by service interruptions.  

Islip, NY receives $7.2 million grant to build new sewer pipe 

The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) has awarded a $7.2 million grant to the town of Islip, New York, for construction of a new sewer pipe to support local businesses, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo said on June 5. 

This grant is funded by the American Rescue Plan. 

“President Biden and this Administration continue to support community-led efforts to strengthen and grow regional economies,” said Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo. “This EDA investment will provide the wastewater treatment capacity necessary for local businesses to create jobs and build economic resiliency in the region.” 

The project will provide wastewater infrastructure capacity needed to service local businesses in the region. The EDA investment will be matched with $2 million in state funds and is expected to create 106 jobs and generate $8 million in private investment, according to grantee estimates. 

This project is funded under EDA’s American Rescue Plan Economic Adjustment Assistance program, which makes $500 million in Economic Adjustment Assistance grants available to American communities. UC 


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