Two years ago, the Providence, R.I., Water Supply Board’s system exceeded the action levels set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lead and copper rule. In response, the utility will need to replace 7% of its lead service lines each year—a total of 1,800 annually. This massive replacement program is in its second year, with another 13 years scheduled to complete a total of 25,600 lead services.
“In our area, many lead services were installed before the turn of the century, and continued to be installed until the late 1930s. We are updating these today with copper pipes,” said Paul Gadoury, P.E., director of engineering for Providence Water. “With our infrastructure renewal programs of our various facilities in good shape, we have expanded our focus to include lead service replacements and are now working in the streets of our service area.”
“The streets” are where many other infrastructure projects are being conducted simultaneously. When these tasks are not coordinated, utility projects often conflict with municipal roadway projects, causing delays in work, additional costs and excessive street cuts. The negative impacts on traffic and the public are also residual effects.
“Providence Water is responsible for the pipes from the water main to the curb stop. As a part of this replacement program, we must also offer to do the customer side of the service,” Gadoury said. “So you can see the logistics involved in every job, and then multiply that by 1,800 jobs a year.”
At the beginning of the program, Envista Corp. knocked on the door with a new Web-based software concept for project coordination. This map-driven technology was being developed to help utilities, municipalities and highway agencies exchange construction and maintenance project information. For utility companies, it would provide valuable information concerning planned roadway projects and street excavation moratoriums. As an early adopter, Providence Water worked as a Compass partner to help hone features for its usage requirements. Today, the group has nearly 3,600 projects loaded into the software.
The Providence-area “ecosystem” of Envista users includes the Rhode Island cities of Providence, Cranston and Pawtucket and three local utility companies: Providence Water, Narragansett Bay Commission (NBC) and Veolia Water North America. Along with Providence Water, all are currently planning and implementing various water, sewer and road infrastructure projects that will affect nearly 750,000 Rhode Island residents and more than 10,000 businesses.
Integration into Providence Water’s Workflow
Providence Water will take full advantage of the project coordination solution in 2009 for another 1,800 lead replacement jobs. Norm Ripstein, project manager for the agency’s lead service and water main replacement programs, has been working closely with Chris Labossiere, who is setting up the group’s GIS system, to fully implement the solution.
“Essentially, Envista is a go-between for municipalities and utilities, so we are all on the same page,” Ripstein said. “We can see what projects are being worked on now or what is planned for the future, so we are not in each other’s way. The project management system is quite user friendly, especially if you have used map-based programs such as MapQuest. The system is set up so when you find an interference with another project, you can instantly troubleshoot the conflict.”
“Each project in the system is defined by an icon bearing pertinent information: owner, project description, time frame and more. I can click on the project owner’s e-mail address and immediately send them a notification of the problem, so we can resolve it before any time and money is lost. This is a big leap for us,” said Ripstein.
Once a road has been newly paved, municipalities often respond with street cut moratoriums, or guarantees, to limit utility access to the public right-of-way. Without adequate notice or information, these moratoriums can prevent needed maintenance work and limit the ability to add service lines to new customers.
“We will also be able to see street moratoriums, which are generally for five years, set by the city to protect newly paved roads,” Ripstein said.
Coordination to Maximize Budget
Gadoury has more than coordination up his sleeve. He envisions making the most of cost sharing and strategic planning to maximize his budget. “While some users of this system may only input a year or two of their infrastructure renewal projects, our plan is to enter all 25,600 lead service replacement projects,” Gadoury said. “The future projects will have an intermediate date assigned to trigger everyone using the system that there are coordination possibilities in those areas. We want all stakeholders to know our intentions when it comes to our lead replacement projects. By coordinating work in a specific area, we could partner with gas and other utilities to cost-share on paving costs, which translates into thousands of dollars for a single city street.”
Closer coordination would also minimize the encroachment on each other’s facilities and streamline the completion of their projects. “If we know there are plans to repave specific roads, we could select those areas to work in prior to their paving dates. In this case, we would just need to patch the road instead taking on the expense of fully paving the road,” Gadoury said. “When we approach our lead service replacement work, outside of our 45-day citizen notification mandate, the work locations are discretionary in nature.
We will clearly be able to take full advantage of opportunities as they present themselves.”
At Providence Water, six people in the engineering department will be users of the new system, and other departments such as Transmission and Distribution can take advantage of the information.
“The key to success is keeping all information current, and there is a feature in the software that tells us when a project record was last updated so we can see how fresh the data is. It would be easy to see who is not staying current,” said Gadoury.
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