We can all agree that wastewater treatment doesn’t make for a great conversation starter.
Simply put, “sewage isn’t sexy,” but it is essential to the modern health of a thriving community. Connecticut received that reminder loud and clear in July when 2 million gallons of raw sewage spilled out of a collapsed 50-year-old pipe contaminating Mill River, New Haven Harbor, Long Island Sound and several shoreline town waterfronts causing many closures.
From a clogged sink to a massive multi-town waterfront shutdown, there is an underlying common threat below the surface — aging infrastructure.
For decades the No. 1 challenge facing water and wastewater utilities has been aging infrastructure. But don’t just take my word for it — the American Water Works Association (AWWA) annually surveys water professionals to identify the industry’s biggest challenges, and in 2019 aging infrastructure, once again, topped the list.
As CFO of a waterproofing and infrastructure restoration Connecticut business, Savy and Sons, we have seen it all, from leaking wastewater clarifiers to collapsed sewer mains spewing thousands of gallons of sewage into the environment.
I can confidently say that it makes sense financially to take preventable measures instead of waiting for something to break down. Too often towns and large complexes, like apartment buildings or manufacturing facilities, wait for the latter, costing them up to 95% more than it could have, had they taken precautionary actions.
Far too often people have the perspective out of sight, out of mind, but that is a costly perspective.
Most of Connecticut’s infrastructure is more than 50 years old and beyond its intended lifespan. While our water infrastructure is still functioning and safe, many of the pipes are worn out and less reliable.
Investing in infrastructure is a win for Connecticut residents who rely on clean water to keep them safe, especially as washing our hands has been shown to be a critical line of defense against the coronavirus.
For years we have been talking about tolls and how it is essential to have dedicated funding streams for our roads and bridges, but when have you heard a similar push for water and wastewater pipes? Waiting for pipe failure, which can result in closing facilities and costlier replacement, cannot be the answer.
It’s not just towns that struggle to tackle how to pay. AWWA’s survey shows the water industry is very concerned with how to finance the much-needed renewal or replacement of vital infrastructure.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates $271 billion is needed for wastewater infrastructure over the next 25 years. While the federal government provides some funding through the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF), according to the U.S. Conference of Mayors, 95% of spending on water infrastructure is made at the local level.
In 2015 the annual assistance agreement for the CWSRF was…