Contract Water Operations Produce Savings, Compliance

Article excerpt

Aging infrastructure and environmental concerns at New London, Connecticut's, water and wastewater treatment plants were stretching the performance abilities of municipal systems.

The city was grappling with a lack of technical expertise at the plants, unaccounted water losses, old water meters, and operational problems that were hampering efforts to improve water quality. At the same time, the city had a limited budget to solve these problems.

City officials analyzed all available options to remedy the situation, including contracting the operation, maintenance and management (OM&M) of water and wastewater treatment systems to a private firm.

Under OM&M, the municipality retains ownership of the facility, and the firm assumes responsibility for operating the facility and guarantees the performance, including compliance with all regulatory requirements.

New London, a coastal city of 29,000 residents that is best known as the home of the United States Coast Guard Academy, wanted to have an OM&M agreement that addressed both the city's water and wastewater systems.

The city's drinking water system includes a 9 MGD water treatment facility, a 649,000 linear feet water distribution system, 1,686 water hydrants, and 12,463 water meters.

The wastewater system includes a 10 MGD wastewater treatment plant and a 70-mile sewer collection system.

Following a thorough city budget review two years ago that raised concerns about unexplained water losses and increasing technical demands of operating the city's water and wastewater systems, New London officials took a second look at the benefits of private OM&M services.

The mayor and representatives of the New London Waterworks and Sewer Board traveled to Bridgeport, Conn., and New Bedford, Mass., to discuss with their counterparts in city government the pros and cons of contracting out the OM&M of the water and wastewater treatment systems. City officials also toured the privately operated plants to observe such operations in action.

The tour led to the development of a Request for Proposals (RFP) for private OM&M services, and six firms responded to the city's RFP. After narrowing the field down to two, the city ultimately selected Professional Services Group, Inc. (PSG) of Houston, Texas, to provide OM&M of New London's water and wastewater treatment systems.

In March, 1997, PSG became responsible for the city's wastewater treatment facility, wastewater collection system and pumping stations, water distribution, water treatment plant, as reading, billing and collections.

The agreement is expected to save New London $6 million over the term of the contract--a savings of 27 percent from the city's previous budget--and $1.2 million during the first year of the contract. …