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Photo Courtesy Of The Monroe County Water Authority

Tidal Shift In Water Market

Funds are tight for big water projects but work is progressing

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Aging infrastructure and new regulatory requirements to improve municipal and industrial wastewater treatment plants are driving investments in clean water and wastewater infrastructure around the region.

Capture And Treat In Astoria, Queens, a green infrastructure project is building a bioswale to absorb and treat stormwater before it can enter the city sewers.
Photo Courtesy Of Nick Furtado, Savin Engineers, P.C.; New York City Dept. Of Environmental Protection
Capture And Treat In Astoria, Queens, a green infrastructure project is building a bioswale to absorb and treat stormwater before it can enter the city sewers.
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About 25% of New York State’s 610 wastewater facilities are operating beyond their useful life and others are using outmoded and inadequate technology, according to a 2008 New York State Dept. of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) study. Many clean water systems, including New York City’s, are more than 100 years old and still use some original infrastructure that is often overwhelmed during storms.

“Whether it is sewer overflow control, nutrient control or new stormwater regulations that have been put into place, you are seeing a whole host of new regulatory requirements that are adding to the already costly investment that needs to be made in the infrastructure itself,” says Adam Krantz, managing director, National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA).

NYSDEC calculates the cost of repairing and updating the state’s clean water and wastewater infrastructure at close to $75 billion over 20 years. Nationwide estimates place that cost at $300 billion to $500 billion over 20 years, according to the NACWA.

Treatment Options

Many older urban centers use combined sewers that transport sewage and stormwater runoff in a single pipe. During heavy storms, water volumes can exceed treatment plant capacity, causing a combined sewer overflow (CSO) that discharges raw sewage and polluted stormwater into waterways.

Capacity issues and regulatory demands for cleaner systems are pushing the 15-year, $5-billion upgrade at Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant in Brooklyn. Upon completion in 2013, capacity will expand from 310 million gallons per day to 700 mgd, which is expected to bring the plant into compliance with the Clean Water Act. More than $1.5 billion worth of work is under way, with more likely to be awarded.

A component of the Newtown Creek project, the $245-million Avenue D Pump Station in Manhattan, is scheduled to complete this year. Other major projects include the $200-million main building north modification, the $350-million central residual building and the $700-million South Battery project. A project to build a new sludge loading dock and dredge areas around the facility will be awarded this year.

Westchester County is working under a consent agreement with state officials and NYSDEC to expand and upgrade the New Rochelle wastewater treatment plant by 2014. The work would increase capacity from 13.6 mgd to 20 mgd and reduce nitrogen levels of effluent discharged into Long Island Sound. The first $121-million phase of the project is under way. Bidding for the second phase, valued between $120 million and $130 million, is also under way. It will include work to construct biological nitrogen removal facilities.

The New York City office of Gilbane Building Co. is managing Phase I upgrades to the Norwalk Water Pollution Control Authority Plant in Norwalk, Conn. The $35-million project will upgrade the plant’s headworks to treat up to 90 mgd, improve treatment of extra stormwater flows and substantially reduce nutrient discharges. Phase I is scheduled for completion in early 2012. Gilbane will also serve as construction manager-at-risk for the $60-million Phase II project.

New York City’s Dept. of Environmental Protection (NYCDEP) is wrapping up work on the $437-million Paerdegat Basin Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) abatement project in Brooklyn. Tanks storing up to 50 million gallons of CSO during storms will allow for treating the stored water once the storm subsides.

In September 2010, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced the NYC Green Infrastructure Plan that calls for controlling CSOs by integrating green infrastructure with grey infrastructure through the use of holding tanks and tunnels. The plan is expected to reduce CSOs by 40 percent .

In Queens, work is under way on a project to capture and treat at least 200,000 gallons of stormwater runoff in a bioswale along North and South Conduit avenues in Queens. When completed later this year, the bioswale, built within an existing 13,000-sq-ft roadway median, will absorb rainwater in below-ground vegetation, sand and soil before it enters the sewers.

“It’s really about the simple stuff like stormwater capture and retention, pervious pavements, planting more green space and rooftop capture,” says Kathryn Mallon, NYCDEP’s deputy commissioner for building and construction.

Keep It Clean

Along with aging infrastructure, federal regulations to lower contaminant levels in drinking water are pushing municipalities to upgrade water treatment systems.

New York City’s $3-billion Croton Water Filtration Plant in the Bronx, which broke ground in 2004, is projected to treat up to 290 mgd when completed in 2013. The $1.4-billion Catskill and Delaware Ultraviolet Light Disinfection Facility near Mount Pleasant, N.Y., which started in 2008, aims to treat two billion gallons per day by completion in May 2012.

In Webster, N.Y., the $150-million Eastside Water Supply Project will convey and treat water withdrawn from Lake Ontario. LeChase Construction, Rochester, N.Y., is leading construction of the 50-mgd plant. Additional projects are under way for an intake tunnel, pumping station, filtration and treatment processing building and interconnecting pipelines. Work began in 2009 and is scheduled for completion in 2013.

New Jersey American Water is commissioning a $72-million treatment plant in Millburn, N.J., with CDM Constructors, Cambridge, Mass., building the 14-mgd facility. Construction, which started in October 2010, is scheduled for completion in June 2012.

As water demand rises and resources remain limited, Peter Tunnicliffe, CDM senior vice president expects more agencies to focus on water reuse and reclamation in the next five years.

For example, in areas where new water sources are hard to attain there is a push to use brackish water, Tunnicliffe says. CDM is working on a project in New York to use brackish water pulled from the Hudson River. The $100-million to $150-million project will likely use low-pressure reverse osmosis to remove dissolved solids with the brine from the water. Planning and permitting is under way. Bidding is expected to open in 2012.

“We are concentrating on value engineering and prioritization to make sure every dollar is spent in a very focused way.”
—Kathryn Mallon, NYCDEP

Ensuring reliability and redundancy of aging water distribution systems is another source of work. New York City is looking at its dams, water tunnels and water distribution systems to keep them in a state of good repair, says Paul Storella, vice president, AECOM, New York City. He expects to see tunneling work to upgrade water transmission lines. “Building in redundancy allows the tunnels to be shut down for maintenance and repairs,” he adds.

In Staten Island, NYCDEP announced a $240-million project to construct a water tunnel to replace two pipelines running beneath New York Harbor that back up the borough’s main water supply tunnel. Dredging to deepen the harbor’s shipping channel could dislodge this backup system, requiring the new pipeline to ensure redundancy and reliability. Work is scheduled to start this year with completion in 2013.

NYCDEP expects to start phase three of City Tunnel 3, an 8.5-mile section in Manhattan, in 2013. Mallon says the project is expected to bid this year.

murky futureAlthough observers see clear demand for future water and wastewater work, the funding picture remains cloudy. With public dollars being squeezed, firms have seen many projects put on hold. Tunnicliffe says that as local governments balance their budgets, they will be able to take on more debt and projects will proceed.

“The timing is a function of how long it takes municipalities to return to a positive fiscal state,” he says.

“[Clients] are looking to prioritize projects and just fix what is broken.”
—Porie Saikia-Eapen, CH2M Hill

Porie Saikia-Eapen, vice president and senior client sales manager for CH2M Hill Cos. in New York, forecasts a flat year. “Even our smaller clients in Long Island and Suffolk County are holding on to their projects,” she says. “They are looking to prioritize projects and just fix what is broken.”

Mallon says tighter budgets are forcing the NYCDEP to optimize projects, but the program will remain active. The agency’s capital plan calls for spending $1 billion to $1.5 billion annually during the next 10 years. “We are concentrating on value engineering and prioritization to make sure every dollar is spent in a very focused way.” m

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