Thursday, October 25, 2012

Water Board Authorizes Director to Negotiate New Supply Contract with City of Flint (UPDATED)

The Board of Water Commissioners yesterday authorized Director Sue McCormick to negotiate a new 30 year water supply contract with the City of Flint.  The new contract would allow the City of Flint to blend DWSD water with water taken (and treated) from the Flint River, but with at least one caveat.

A condition of accepting the City of Flint's blending request is that the water from Detroit be treated as "source" water and pass through Flint's own water treatment plant (WTP), where it would be added to treated water from the Flint River. Detroit water would comprise 2/3 of the final output.  DWSD currently delivers treated water through Flint's distribution system. The City of Flint would be responsible for any capital costs associated with re-routing DWSD water through the Flint WTP. (Note: This condition might be a deal breaker for Flint, whose Emergency Manager is quoted here as saying that these additional capital costs could off-set any anticipated savings.)

In another interesting development, Director Sue McCormick reported that DWSD had received a written request from the Genesee County Drain Commissioner's Office to purchase up to 85 million gallons per day of untreated (raw) water. In an October 17, 2012 letter, Deputy Drain Commissioner John O'Brien requested the cost and terms and conditions under which DWSD would agree to sell raw water to Genesee County under a 30 year contract.  

Comment: Genesee County's request to buy raw water from Detroit, coming at this point in time, is a very odd request. The Genesee County Drain Commissioner (Jeff Wright) spearheaded the creation of the Karegnondi Water Authority in 2009 (here), with the stated desire to break away from Detroit. The KWA has developed plans to construct its own $600 million pipeline in 2011 (here), and announced just two weeks ago that it planned to sell $35 million in bonds to begin construction of its own raw water intake.  

With the enormous head of steam that's been built up by elected officials pushing for a new $600 million (raw) water pipeline, why would Genesee County suddenly seek an agreement to buy raw water from Detroit? Something doesn't add up here. Does anyone know what's really going on here?

If you're interested in a copy of Genesee County's recent request to purchase raw water from DWSD, I'd be glad to e-mail it to you. Just write me and put "DWSD Raw Water" in the reference field.

Update (10/26): Earlier today, journalist Ron Fonger with hosted an online Q&A with Genesee County Drain Commissioner Jeff Wright (here). I was unable to participate live, but I e-mailed Mr. Fonger earlier this morning and asked if would ask Mr. Wright about the timing of Genesee County's recent request to purchase raw water from Detroit. In short, why now? Mr. Wright responded to my question  during the online chat session:
"For three years, we've asked Detroit to consider selling us raw water so we can treat it ourselves, supply it to our people and save dollars. They've refused, up until three weeks ago when the new director of DWSD, Sue McCormick, made a public statement that Detroit would be willing to sell raw water.  
"So our request is twofold: 1. if they are willing to sell raw water, at what price? 2. Could this be cheaper than building our own intake. 
"We want to know what their terms would be because it may be more cost effective to buy water from them instead of building a new intake."   

For more about DWSD Update, click here.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

J. F. Cavanaugh Submits Low Bid on Hubbell-Southfield CSO Improvements Project (UPDATED)

J. F. Cavanaugh Company submitted the low bid on October 18, 2012 for the project known as DWSD Contract PC-788 “Hubbell-Southfield CSO Control Facility Improvements and Rouge River In-System Storage Gate Improvements.”

Hubbell-Southfield CSO
Here are the as-read bids. It does not appear that equalization credits will change the outcome.
  1. J. F. Cavanaugh  . . . . . . . . . $17,669,555
  2. Weiss/Bruner, JV . . . . . . . .$18,648,000
  3. Walsh Construction . . . . . .$18,889,000
  4. De-Cal Mechanical  . . . . . . $19,590,000
  5. DeMaria Building Co.  . . . .$19,697,000
  6. White Construction . . . . . . $22,323,000
The Hubbell-Southfield CSO facility has an existing storage capacity of 22 million gallons. It was constructed in 1999 by Ellis-Don Michigan. For more information, click here.  

Update (12/19): The Board of Water Commissioners approved a contract with J. F. Cavanaugh Company today at its regular monthly meeting. 

For more about DWSD Update, click here.

DWSD Extends Deadline for Submitting Biosolids Proposals to January 23, 2013 (UPDATED)

The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) earlier this week extended to November 29, 2012 January 23, 2013* the due date for design-build, operate and maintain proposals for Contract PC-792, "Biosolids Dryer Facility." 

DWSD is now seeking proposals for a single, 20 year O&M contract, rather than a 5 year agreement, with a series of 5 year options.  The capacity of the new sludge drying facility is also being reduced slightly to 220 dry tons per day, from 250 tons. These changes are outlined in Addendum 1. 

According to the RFP, as amended:

The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) is seeking a qualified firm to provide design-build-operate-maintain services under a negotiated, fixed‑price contract to provide all design, obtain all necessary permits, furnish all materials and equipment, perform any required demolition, removal or relocation, construct, start-up, and test a biosolids dryer facility with a firm capacity of 250 220 dry tons per day, as well as providing new and/or modified sludge cake conveying capabilities. 

The PC-792 Contractor will also be responsible to operate and maintain the new dryer facility and to load, haul and sell or otherwise beneficially reuse and/or dispose of all biosolids and residuals transferred to the dryer facility for a period of up to twenty (20) years after Substantial Completion consisting of an initial five (5) year operation and maintenance (O&M) period and up to three (3) succeeding five (5) year O&M periods, that may be exercised in the sole discretion of DWSD unless terminated in accordance with the Contract provisions.

Update (11/12): The response deadline for this Biosolids RFP has been extended to January 23, 2013, per Addendum No. 4

For more about DWSD Update, click here.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

EPA Notifies Court, Seeks Time to Evaluate DWSD Plans to Cut its Workforce

On October 12, 2012, the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) asked Judge Sean Cox for 45 days to evaluate DWSD's recently-announced plan to dramatically cut its workforce and  to take no further actions toward implementing the plan during this evaluation period. 

In a two page document(*) filed with the U. S. District Court captioned "Notice of the United States Regarding the DWSD's Motion for Interim Order," EPA Attorney Annette M. Lang, and Assistant U. S. Attorney Peter A. Caplan request that the Court give the EPA time to evaluate DWSD's proposal and whether it would affect compliance with the Clean Water Act:
"The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality ("MDEQ") recently informed EPA about a proposal that the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department ("DWSD") was considering that recommended, inter alia, a dramatic reduction in staffing level within DWSD's wastewater treatment plan and combined sewer overflow operations. EPA has not had the opportunity to review and evaluate the potential impact and implications of the proposal on DWSD's compliance with the Clean Water Act, 33 U.S.C. 1251, et seq, and its NPDES permit, including the operation and maintenance requirements contained therein. To the extent that actions by this Court on DWSD's Motion for Interim Order may open the way for DWSD's initiation of the implementation of that proposal, EPA seeks to notify this Court and the parties of its interest in having the opportunity to meaningfully undertake an evaluation of the proposal prior to any such action. 
"During the period of its evaluation of the proposal, EPA plans to work with both MDEQ and DWSD. To that end, managers and staff from EPA are already planning to meet with managers and staff from MDEQ on Tuesday, October 16, 2012, to discuss and evaluate the current situation. The meeting is intended to provide further clarification on a path forward. 
"With this notice, EPA is not taking any position on any aspect of the proposal before DWSD.  
"Accordingly, EPA seeks a period of forth-five (45) days to evaluate the potential impacts of the proposal on CWA compliance and asks this Court not to take any actions that would open the way for DWSD to initiate the implementation of the proposal prior to that time. DWSD has not reported any violations of its NPDES numeric limitations on solids since November 2011 and has not reported any other NPDES numeric limitations since March of this year [2012]. Therefore, nothing in the record would indicate that immediate commencement of the implementation of the proposal is required." (emphasis added)

Note: The case that Judge Cox currently presides over was originally filed in 1977 by the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency to enforce compliance with the Clean Water Act. The EPA has not played an active role in the case, however, for a number of years. The EPA's request that Judge Cox 'take no action' for 45 days is an interesting development. Judge Cox is not bound to comply with the EPA's request, but it is unlikely that he would simply ignore it. Stay tuned for how the Court and DWSD responds to the EPA's request.

(*) For readers with a PACER Account, the EPA's Notice was filed 10/12/12 in Case No. 2:77-cv-71100-SFC at Dkt #2492. If you're interested in a copy, I'd be glad to e-mail it to you. Just write me and put "EPA Notice" in the reference field.   

For more about DWSD Updateclick here