Utility begins its SRF project
by RICK NORTON, Associate Editor
Jul 26, 2013 | 710 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
“Significant progress” in reducing stormwater collection overflows is already being detected in less than two years since the launch of the SCOPE 10 sewer rehabilitation program, but Cleveland Utilities President and CEO Tom Wheeler believes the massive overhaul’s biggest boost is yet to come.

That’s because of the low-interest, $10 million financing package that is headed for CU in two pieces through the State Revolving Fund Loan program.

The first is a $1,826,000 loan that includes a debt forgiveness of $451,022, and the second is for $8,174,000. Both loans are 20-year terms and are set at a fixed rate of 1.15 percent.

Until now, they were just numbers, albeit really big numbers.

That all changed Thursday when the Cleveland Board of Public Utilities gave it a face. On a motion by Joe Cate and second by board vice chairman Eddie Cartwright, the board voted 4-0 to award contracts to Littlejohn Engineering Associates for the coordination of a series of pivotal pre-construction initiatives.

Also favoring the action were board chairman Aubrey Ector and board member Chari Buckner. Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland, who represents the City Council on the utility board, could not attend the session.

Littlejohn is no stranger to SCOPE 10, which is an acronym for Strategic Commitment to Protect the Environment, a 10-year sewer rehab that could cost as much as $30 million. In its first two years, SCOPE 10 has been led by Littlejohn engineers working in close partnership with CU crews and subcontractors.

On the recommendation of Wheeler and his staff, the board granted Littlejohn both initial contracts.

The first award is for the amount of $422,790 for the Sanitary Sewer Evauation Study (SSES), Design and Bidding Services, Construction Administration and Resident Project Representation Services for the sanitary sewer rehabilitation project in the area of Wildwood Avenue and Inman St. S.E.

The second award is for the amount of $377,400 to provide the same services for sewer rehab project areas designated as basins 10-36 and 31-45.

Both are integral pieces of the $10 million SRF funding package.

“We are prepared to significantly impact I/I (inflow and infiltration) within the system,” said Greg Clark, CU engineer who is managing the SCOPE 10 initiative.

Clark agreed with Wheeler’s assessment — that CU has already come a long way toward impacting its wastewater collection woes, but that this newest funding piece will assure continued progress over the next few years. As CU Water Division Vice President Craig T. Mullinax did before him, Clark pointed to the stringent deadlines imposed by the SRF program.

Establishing Littlejohn Engineering as the lead consulting engineer will be a major step in launching the SRF-funded initiative, according to Mullinax, Clark and Wheeler.

Much of Thursday’s CU board session was dedicated to project details about how the SRF funds will be used.

“We want the board to know exactly how we are spending the money and how we’re arriving at what we’re doing,” Mullinax said, referring to the planning that is required to launch such extensive projects.

Clark’s report included statistical data like the number of manholes that will be inspected and repaired, the linear feet of sewer line that will be inspected and the types of testing that will be conducted prior to the start of physical repairs and construction. These include smoke tests and use of closed circuit TV from inside the lines, both of which are techniques that have proven effective in the first two years of SCOPE 10.

Wheeler told board members SCOPE 10 — although in name it is a new and more aggressive approach to reducing I/I — is an extension of an ongoing maintenance program that CU had employed for the last two decades.

“I’ve been observing this for a long time,” Wheeler said. “We’ve spent probably 20-plus years doing point repairs ... and we’re doing this (SCOPE 10) on top of what we’ve been doing.”

He used that point to make this point — that SCOPE 10, if it provides the kind of results that are expected — should take a major chunk of I/I issues out of the CU sewer system. I/I is described as unwanted water that seeps into aged, cracked and damaged sewer lines, thereby creating the potential for manhole overflows — especially during periods of heavy rainfall.

“We’re in a year that is unprecedented as far as rainfall is concerned,” Wheeler said. “We’ve already had a year’s worth of rain after only seven months. This is just a casual observation, but it seems like we’ve made some progress. I think it’s fair to say we’ve made some significant progress.”

Wheeler said in spite of the heavy rainfall recorded by the Cleveland Filter Plant in June (7.31 inches), CU recorded no street overflows.

“That’s with groundwater levels where they are,” he said. “I don’t know that I’ve ever seen that under the conditions we’ve had.”

As of July 23, CU had recorded a whopping 10.33 inches of rain for the current month. More could be on the way before the Dog Days of summer begin their late-season howl.

As of Tuesday (July 23), the Cleveland Filter Plant had recorded 53.60 inches of rain for 2013. The average annual total is 54.25 inches through all 12 months. According to Mullinax, the Cleveland area is already almost 20 inches above its normal for this time of year. At this rate, by year’s end Cleveland could receive almost 92 inches of rain, which is about 38 inches above normal.

“I’ve never seen numbers like this,” Mullinax said. “It’s been extremely wet, but we have no control over that.”

But CU can control its level of I/I, and that’s one of the objectives of SCOPE 10.

Wheeler called SCOPE 10, and its expected success, an extension of CU’s ongoing sewer rehabilitation program, but he acknowledged — as he did two years ago when he announced its launch — it is far more aggressive in its quest to reduce I/I and in its approach to resolving potential health hazards created by isolated flooding and occasional sewer backups.

According to SRF timetables, as explained in an award letter to CU from Sherwin N. Smith, SRF program manager, CU must be prepared to start construction on or before Jan. 23, 2014. Construction must be completed on or before Dec. 5, 2016, with system operation initiated by the same date. Start-up services should be completed on or before Dec. 19, 2016.

In two other developments Thursday, the CU board:

- Approved the purchase of a new sewage pump from Nedrow & Associates for the Chatata Creek Pump Station.

- Announced the next formal board session will be held Thursday, Aug. 22, at 3 p.m. in the Tom Wheeler Training Center.