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Clean water program headed toward successful completion

Thursday, September 11, 2008 by Mark Richardson

Officials with the Austin Clean Water Program, begun in 2001 in response to an Environmental Protection Agency order to bring the city’s sewer system up to standards, are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. And they have dug a lot of tunnels — about 65 miles of them.


Gopal Guthikonda, manager of ACWP, made his biannual report to the Environmental Board Wednesday night, noting that 11 of the 14 tasks required by the EPA administrative order have been accomplished.


“Of the 100 projects, all of them have been designed, advertised, awarded and are in construction,” he said. “In fact, 81 of the 100 projects have been  substantially completed or are complete.”


The EPA ordered the city to undertake the $250 million project in March 1999 to eliminate sanitary sewer overflows from the city’s wastewater collection system. The program began in November 2001 and has an EPA-decreed deadline of June 30, 2009.  Guthikonda said city officials plan to complete the project well ahead of that date.


“We hope to finish everything early next year, and leave a few extra months to deal with any last problems that might arise,” he said.


He said that 2008 will be the most work-intensive year of the program, which has rebuilt and relined the sewer system and rebuilt a number of creek channels and other systems improvements. ACWP will install some 200,000 feet of pipe during 2008, more than the other eight years of the program combined.


“That’s mainly because all the prep work has been completed, and the funding is here,” he said.


Guthikonda noted a list of improvements to the city’s sewer system achieved during the program, including:


·        A reduction in sewage overflows from 13 million gallons per year in 2001 to less than 126,000 gallons in the first half of 2008;

·        Improvements in response times to reported problems;

·        Significant improvements to water quality in urban waterways;

·        Spent more than $6 million to restore and stabilize stream banks; and

·        Improved system inspection techniques and coverage.


He said the program has installed about 56 miles of pipe using open cut construction, another 10 miles of pipe using tunneling, and repaired more than 73 miles of pipe by cleaning and relining.


Guthikonda said other highlights of the past six months included bringing in low bids at more than $36 million below the engineers’ estimates. The ACWP Contactors Assistance Program ended with a total of $12.5 million in savings between CAP contractors and other low bidders. And the program exceeded its MBE/WBE participation goals in all categories.


He also said that the number of change orders to projects has been reduced to 3.3 percent during that last six months, and stands at 4.6 percent for all completed programs. The program’s goal is to keep change orders to less than 5 percent.

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