Industry Trends: The Rising Costs of Crumbling Infrastructure, Part III

Government Intervention

Numerous times in recent years, the federal government has attempted to address the problem of crumbling water and wastewater infrastructure. From funding assistance, to creating new offices to help communities, to conducting Senate hearings and publishing EPA reports, the federal government is aware of the problem and is working to figure out how best to solve it.

Government Organization

In January of 2015, the Obama Administration launched a new Water Finance Center at the EPA to assist cities and towns in securing funding and contractors for providing safe water, rebuilding sewer systems, and keeping rivers and streams clean. 1  Success of this new office remains to be seen, especially after recent problems surface such as the water quality in Flint, Michigan.

Government Hearings

In July of 2013, during Senate hearings, Dr. Gerald Galloway, a professor of engineering at the University of Maryland, warned of the high cost of government officials’ standard “fix-as-fails approach”:

“The nation must take steps to address the aging infrastructure problem. It is another case of ‘pay me now’ or ‘pay me a lot more later.’ A failure to act on aging infrastructure will have serious consequences now and will increasingly burden our children and grandchildren. Delay only drives up costs. Priorities must be established based on the risks to public safety and the national economy. A fix-as-fails approach is unsustainable and short sighted.”2

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If our elected officials continue to ignore the need for water and wastewater infrastructure improvement, the costs—both with finances and with the public’s well-being—will continue to rise at a high rate and to a dangerous degree. This is why RJN and similar engineering firms aim to conduct condition assessments and predictive analyses, like hydraulic modeling and asset management programs, that catch problems before they happen and prepare municipalities to take the proper preventive measures.

Then, as stated with our last blog post, in April 2016, Erik D. Olson, Director, Health Program, Natural Resources Defense Council, gave testimony that corroborated the facts about the current state of the nation’s water and wastewater infrastructure—the pipes are often 100 years old and nearing the end of their useful life.3

Hopefully, in gathering such information during Senate hearings, the federal government will realize that this is less of a minor problem and more of a major crisis. RJN has known about this daunting challenge facing our nation’s cities and has been working for the last 40 years to solve this problem everywhere we contract.

February 2016 EPA Report

Meanwhile, the statistics continue to mount. Back in February of this year, the EPA released a report that explained just how challenging the infrastructure improvement funding issue is, saying that our federal government is not properly allocating the funds necessary to solve the growing water and wastewater infrastructure problems. 4  In addition, the EPA reported that, “Some $48 billion is needed to prevent discharges of stormwater and untreated wastewater during wet-weather events.”5

The EPA survey also reported the following infrastructure needs, among many other needs:

  • $51.2 billion to rehabilitate and repair conveyance systems.
  • $44.5 billion to install new sewer collection systems, interceptor sewers, and pumping stations.
  • $48 billion to prevent periodic discharges of mixed stormwater and untreated wastewater during wet-weather events.
  • $19.2 billion to plan and implement structural and nonstructural measures to control polluted runoff from storm events
  • $6.1 billion for conveyance and further treatment of wastewater for reuse.5

 

Understanding the Situation

RJN understands these needs and has been working with cities and towns around the country to upgrade and improve their infrastructure. These efforts have resulted in the reduction of 1,000s of sewer overflows.  We have decades of experience performing 1,000s of projects in conveyance system rehabilitation and repair, sewer collection system design and installation, inflow/infiltration analysis, and hydraulic modeling. But we do not just solve problems; we look for the best method to save money with our solutions without sacrificing quality or sustainability.  That is how we are doing our part to solve these ongoing problems.

The final part of our series, “Part IV: How RJN Can Offer Sustainable Solutions,” will discuss what makes RJN well-suited to take on the rising costs of infrastructure improvements with skill, efficiency, and innovation, offering solutions that are pragmatic, sustainable, and ultimately affordable.

Part III Endnotes

  1. The White House. “FACT SHEET: Increasing Investment in U.S. Roads, Ports and Drinking Water Systems Through Innovative Financing.” January 16, 2015.
  2. Galloway, Gerald E. Testimony. “Senate Hearing on Aging Water Infrastructure in U.S.” July 25, 2013.
  3. Olson, Erik D. Testimony. “Senate Hearing on the Federal Role in Keeping Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Affordable.” April 7, 2016.
  4. Lubetkin, Jordan. “New EPA Report: Nearly $80 Billion Needed for Wastewater Infrastructure in Great Lakes States.” National Wildlife Federation. February 4, 2016.
  5. Engineering360 News Desk. “EPA: $271b Needed for U.S. Wastewater Infrastructure.” February 9, 2016.