Water & Wastewater News Roundtable 2007
- By Water & Wastewater News Staff
- Jun 01, 2007
Despite the roar from the municipal water
and wastewater industry about the lack of
funds for infrastructure, Water & Wastewater
News’ roundtable participants
seemed to agree that the money is “out there,”
it is just a matter of finding the right source.
The real issue, they suggest, seems to be the need to educate ncity officials and plant managers on innovative financing. nthe public on the true cost of providing water and wastewater
“Education,” in general, kept surfacing as a key part of the solutions
to the problems posed in questions at the March 6 event in
Dallas, Texas. That’s not to say that education will convince people
that they need to change the way they think about water.
At the conclusion of the roundtable, one participant remarked:
“That was a very interesting round of discussions. It got me thinking
about many things. Not sure we resolved anything or came to
any conclusions, but it was good food for thought.”
We offer the following information not as an endpoint, but as
a beginning of many interesting discussions on topics that are important
to you. Feel free to weigh in on any of these topics and others
by sending e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The roundtable transcript has been edited for length and style.
Show Me the Money
Water users in the United States have paid very little for a long
time. Now communities are raising rates, passing bond issues, taking
out state revolving fund loans, and developing asset management
strategies to comply with federal regulations. Do you think
these strategies will address the billion dollars’ worth of repairs and
replacements needed for America’s aging infrastructure, and do you
think the federal government should provide more support?
CURTIS: here was a recent article about the city of San Angelo,
Texas, in desperate times right now with regards to their total
infrastructure falling apart, and they’re having to add $4 or I think
it’s $5 a month to everybody’s water bill and $8 for sewer. Bucks
a month is causing an enormous uprising for many in the community
because they’re unaware of the magnitude of what they
have to address.
I think there is definitely going to have to be more from the
federal government as well in providing additional funding, especially
with the state revolving funds. But that is even being cut
from what we’ve seen in the latest budget proposal from the
administration. So I think it’s falling well short of what is the
immediate need, and it’s only a small portion of what needs to
be done on what is available of funding out there.
HUGHES: There needs to be a way to educate the consumer on
what they’re getting for their fees, because if they had to go dig
up their sewer and fix it all the time, all of a sudden that $8 or
$20 or whatever gets really cheap, and it’s not so bad. So there
needs to be some kind of an education method where people
realize what they’re getting for their fees.
BEARDSLEY: I think that AWWA [American Water Works
Association] and WEF [Water Environment Federation] are
doing a better job of lending information out and working
GEORGER: I get the impression that there’s plenty of money
and resources out there for financing. I think it gets back to
public education. But in brief meetings with Siemens, Kruger,
I’m sure IDI, GE, they’re all looking at—correct me if I’m
wrong, guys—but financing these projects or financing just
the equipment at rates similar to the state revolving fund.
So I think inexpensive money is available. People just don’t
want to pay the extra couple of dollars a month. We’ve gone
into several plants showing a blower technology that we know
will cut their bill 20 percent in some plants, if not 40 percent,
and we can’t sell it.
DeCAMPLI: Siemens Water Technologies has a
tax-exempt municipal leasing program. You can
get the money really quickly, usually in 30 to 45
days. You can finance the equipment and other
soft costs. You can fund the construction and the
engineering costs along with it. So I’ve seen a
move to municipal financing. And through
the federal government, the state revolving funds
and the bonds, they’re always going to be there,
but these are local issues. I mean, these are regional,
state, and local issues that we have to address
in our water management programs.
GEORGER: These municipalities are set in their
ways. When you start introducing these new
financial packages, even though they’re substantiated
and proven, it’s a real paradigm shift
for them. They’ve got to bring in their attorneys
and their accountants, and they’re afraid to take
that step and do something differently. They fall
back on the municipal laws of competition. You
know, I can’t sole-source any product. If you
guys are funding it, that locks in your equipment.
You know, there’s a real fear for that kind
of financial package.
WINFREY: I’m speaking now of GE Finance,
but there’s a lot of money available in the United
States that is looking for a safe place to go.
One of the things GE Finance has done is
formed a partnership with a private developer
in Atlanta where they provide 90 percent of
the money and none of the operating expertise.
All the liability is his. They feel like that is
a huge market for backing private companies
that own design/build, own and operate plants
with very limited liability, and the liability all
goes to their partner.
It kind of gets public pressure off of them
[city officials]. They’re not going to get voted
out of office the next election if they do that,
where if they raise the rates $7, oh, heck, you
know, things are horrible.
MANESS:With regards to most municipalities,
again, the city/state mentality, it’s bringing them
to the table. Last year, I had a [presentation to
make] in New Mexico, and I had a board, a
joint-use board, almost as big as this many people
. And I got up and talked about, gee,
financing. And I had so many people just shaking
their heads, I mean, physically shaking their
heads no at me. Like, “Don’t even want to hear
it, don’t even bring it to us.”
I was sent some stuff on private activity
bonds [PABs], and there seems to be a lot of legislature
supporting PABs where, say, these
major companies and their big banks, and
they’ve got a lot of money—that they could get
credits. And that the interest paid on these bonds
would be tax exempt. Or they’d get credit, the
The state revolving fund, the U.S. Department
of Agriculture, there’s a lot of load on
them, that’s for sure. And we can’t forget we’re
at war too, and we’ve had some major disasters.
So the government is pretty well-tapped. I mean,
there are some major projects that I’m looking
at that were appropriated in the Clinton administration,
and the Bush administration continued
But the money is just not there. These are
major, major water projects. They’re getting
funded at small percentages. And at just the rate
of escalation, the cost of the project, they’ll never
get there. They just can’t catch up. So yeah, I
think municipalities are going to have to become
open to more innovative forms of financing.
You know, you look at the numbers, whether
it’s pipe or infrastructure or water or wastewater,
through the year 2019 I think the congressional
board determined, we’re looking at basically
$25 billion a year in infrastructure for all of this.
MYERS: What I noticed last year was even if you
did have money allocated for a project, there
wasn’t a single job that we were a small part of
that didn’t go over the budget. So even if you
do have private financing, you know, state
revolving funds or however you’re going to get
your money, if you come in and your project
is over the budget, how do you go back? You
either have to cut out part of your design or
see if you can allocate more funding. And so
then that puts you back in kind of a Catch-22.
So I mean, we’re talking about funding projects,
but how do you keep growing your infrastructure
if your budgets that you’re making may
be two, three years in the works before you finally
go to bid on a project. It’s not going to cover
the cost of what it’s actually going to be when
you install the project.
Fear of the Unknown
GEORGER: I think on the municipal side—and
correct me if I’m wrong—it’s still just a lot of
talk at this point. We’ve got to find a way to sell
it. And I think some of the fears are if we use
the word "privatization," people don’t want outside
entities owning and operating their equipment.
They’ve tried that, and it didn’t work.
They may not want to be in debt to major
equipment; you know, the GEs and Siemens
and the big people of the world. We’ve got to
put those fears to bed.
MILES: They don’t like the debt, but the taxpayers
don’t like the burden of paying for it. You
know, when you talk about the cost of sewering
homes in the United States now, you’re looking
at about $28,000 per household. So they
need a way for a long-term funding program to
[finance these projects] and some kind of abatement
program or something that you’re going
to pay over time for every homeowner to do a
lot of this stuff. The financing people are pretty
creative, and cities and towns are used to this
stuff now. They’re really not footing the bill on
taxpayers as much as they can. They’re trying to
defer costs through creative financing.
DeCAMPLI: Again, I just think we need to do a
better job. You call it fears, I think it’s just misperception.
And I think we need to do a better
job in educating the marketplace.
When you do the math, it [a product] pays
for itself under a lease program. With a sludge
dryer, you can look at the handling cost of taking
that sludge, handling that sludge, transporting
it to the facility, and paying your tipping
fees at the landfill versus buying a sludge
dryer for a million dollars and having it pay
for itself in seven years. So there is no additional
outlay of money. You look at that lease
payment and you look at what it cost you before
to buy and store—it’s a wash.
GEORGER: Yeah. It is a huge misperception, and
it’s an unsubstantiated fear. You know, it’s not
like it’s been tried and it didn’t work. It’s new,
and we really have to educate people better, and
they have to understand it before we can sell
DeCAMPLI:We have a good example in Colorado
where a community was growing very rapidly,
and they needed to provide drinking water to a
development community. They don’t have time
to mess around with the state revolving fund.
So we sold them a membrane plant under a lease
program, financed the engineering costs and the
construction costs, and they got a membrane
plant to filter their drinking water.
GEORGER: The sad part is it works when it’s an
emergency. They can find a way to make it work
when there’s an emergency. But if there is time,
you go through state funding, and your job you
want completed in a year takes five years.
DeCAMPLI: Another thing you can do with taxexempt
leasing is you can work on a job that’s
over the budget by pulling some equipment out
of that project and paying for it through a leasing
program so that the municipality doesn’t
have to go back to square one and redesign and
re-establish the funding.
CURTIS: I’ve been in the business since ‘82, and
San Angelo has had water issues ever since. And
it’s just finally reached critical mass whereby there
are 33,000 users down there, metered customers;
22,000 were without water for about a month.
COX: At Christmas time.
BEARDSLEY: So it goes back actually to what
many of us have said throughout this—education
and proper marketing and creative financing
is really where you need to be and what we
need to strive for.
MILES: The Passaic Valley Sewerage Commissioners
is a good example. They spend a lot of
effort educating the community on their water
and wastewater issues, even when it comes down
to residential consumption and wastewater.
These guys actually go in the schools, you
know, educate people. So the next time these
kids are home, and one of the parents is cooking
bacon or something of that nature and is
getting ready to just take that bacon grease
and put it down their drain. But the kids are
actually stopping the parents from doing things
like that, saying “No, no, you can’t do that.”
CURTIS: Las Vegas Valley Water in Las Vegas has
an excellent program as well. They’re in the middle
of a desert, and it’s pretty much a known fact
that there’s no water there. It’s just everybody
has to be piped in. They do a good job, I think,
of educating their consumer about their product
with respect to why they’re doing the things
that they do, like you can’t water your lawns and
all these other things. It’s amazing.
You’re in the desert and there’s no water, but
yet it’s one of the fastest growing communities in
the entire United States. It still keeps growing.
What Is “Reasonable”?
Water and wastewater treatment customers want
reliability, best life-cycle costing, and service
and tech support. Can this be delivered today at
GEORGER: I think the problem now is they think
they’re already getting that. They have reliable
water, they have wastewater discharge. The water
may taste a little funny seasonally, but why pay
more? If I don’t like it during February, I’ll buy
some bottled water. They don’t see the need yet
to spend a little more to protect themselves.
WINFREY: And most of them think a reasonable
cost is $10 a month less than they’re spending
right now. And right now the United States
has probably one of the lowest water rates of
anybody in the world. France or England
spends three to four times what we do. So we
just have to realign people’s thoughts on what
is a reasonable cost, and droughts are probably
the driver or lack of water is going to be
the driver that does that, or some kind of
MILES: I think what it falls into is cities and towns
are looking at doing now is like a pay-as-yougo
type of deal.
My kids are in public school, but I still have
to pay a bus cost. You have to pay an added cost
for sports and other activities, whether your
child’s a musician or something. So I’m starting
to see that there’s a trend now for pay-as-yougo
type of programs where a lot of people are
screaming "foul" because our generation is used
to having all that encumbered into what we pay
our taxes for—private trash pickup and municipality
and dumping fees and transfer stations
I think that we are in for a rude awakening
as tax-paying Americans.
BEARDSLEY: And if I want to water my lawn and
if I want to use fertilizer and pesticides on my
lawn, then I should pay more. There should
be some stipulation for me to pay more for the
harm that I may be doing to the economy or
for the extra water that I may be using.
And conversely, if somebody else is not
watering their lawn and they are being more
conservative, maybe there should be a credit
there. So it should work both ways.
COX: How many times have you been driving
down the street and somebody’s sprinkler is
on at midnight dumping water out in the middle
of the street. I mean, every municipality, if
you’re a licensed irrigator, you can be fined for
not installing the correct spray heads going the
right direction at the right gallons per minute.
But nobody ever fines anybody.
Now, I think in some areas they’re getting to
where they’re enforcing the water sensors and
freeze sensors in the wintertime and things
like that. But that all kind of goes hand- in-hand
with it. It’s bad to be overcharged for stuff, but
it’s also irritating for people doing what they’re
not supposed to get away with.
MILES: That’s an important point, because what
we’re talking about here is municipality versus,
again, free enterprise. Free enterprise is profitdriven.
Municipalities are cost-driven. They
want to continue to reduce their costs so that
they don’t have to burden the taxpayer anymore.
I’ve had different ways where I showed a
municipality, well, if you use this product, let
me show you the revenue streams, I can get you
back to your tipping fee.
“Oh, no, no, no. We’re not allowed to
I say, well, you are, and you can put it into
a general fund and reduce the tax burden in
other areas. And I’ve had many conversations
with many legal city attorneys on this, but they’re
in different departments, whether it be their
department of public works or their water
department, they don’t know these rules.
So it’s almost kind of like a communication
gap there. City attorneys understand that
they can make money and they can put it into
a general fund or they can put offset costs in or
aborted costs in. And these other people are not
looking at technology that way. They’re looking
at it as a break-even scenario where they have
to start looking at it more on a private enterprise
basis, on a profit-margin—or profit-sharing basis
with the taxpayer.
MANESS:Well, Ed, I think that a lot of municipalities
do look at their water/wastewater revenues
as end of the general fund. It’s just maybe
not necessarily profit per se, but that pays for a
lot of things in the community in general.
I face a lot everyday talking to city administrators
and just saying you can reuse this water,
you can charge something. I mean, right now
you’re dumping it back in the river or whatever
in your NPDES [National Pollutant Discharge
Elimination System] permit. If you can
capture this water and—let’s just say you treat
it, municipal water is a dollar, you know, whatever,
and you can charge 70 cents or whatever.
Well, you know, we just don’t have a market
for that. We don’t have a market for that,
because you don’t have the product. If you had
the product, you know, then you can—I think,
you know, again, it just comes back from education
Too Many Rules, Too Little
What regulatory trends do you predict for the
water and wastewater industry? Do you think
there will be less enforcement on the local, state,
or federal levels, for example?
WINFREY: In terms of wastewater, I would say
there’s more stringent nutrient removal. You
have the Chesapeake Bay Initiative, the Puget
Sound Initiative. All over the country, and the
Colorado River, they’re expecting much greater
nutrient removal of total nitrogen, phosphorous;
very, very low limits. In fact, I would say
that these limits have been set because the technology
is now available to accomplish them,
and it wasn’t a few years ago.
COX: I think we’ll see a lot more energy pushed
toward the enforcement side of this. We’re in
the stormwater part of it. And with the NPDES
initiatives and the things that go into effect there,
I think they’re going to be a lot stronger controlled.
What we have found in our industry
is there are a lot of stormwater management systems
in place, but in a lot of instances they barely
meet spec, they’re not being maintained, and
they’re simply not effective. And I think with
all of the changes coming up, you’re going to
see stricter enforcement, and the charge of policing
is going to be passed around a little better.
The government gave it to the states, the
states gave it to the cities, and it ends up with
the contractor, and he just puts the cheapest
thing in the ground he can find. So I think
you’re going to see a lot of this strengthen as we
BAILEY: You know, another sort of macro issue
at play here also is different regulation of the
way we do business. There have been significant
changes that have taken place over the
last three years or so, Sarbanes-Oxley probably
being the most significant one. And I
know for us at ITT Flygt, it has significantly
increased our cost of doing business. And
there are lots of pressures on all of us these
days to look at our processes and how can we
make internal improvements so that we can
keep the quality of our products and services
high and deal with all these cost increases.
So I’m looking for more regulation in the way
we do business.
MANESS:We have a lot of nutrients, we’re feeding
a lot of algae. We’re having new algae that
we haven’t necessarily seen in certain water
bodies. Those algae are generating toxins. Of
course, those toxins get into the water-treatment
plants, so we have to deal with those. So
I think it’s a very large issue in terms of wastewater
deposits, say, fertilizers from agriculture
into our water bodies, what those in turn
induce in terms of algae and whatnot, and then
regulation into water treatment. Part of the
problem with some of this is we’ve got a lot
of regulations now. When I started in the business
back in the mid ‘80s, we had basically a
turbidity limit for water treatment and something
called trihalomethane. And there was
hardly any way to even measure it back in the
mid ‘80s. And now we have a stack of regulations
Policing is going to be major. There’s a lot
of—the way we require that certain values are
measured, say, on DBPs [disinfection byproducts].
It’s only a couple of times a year depending
on the system size. So people can pretty
much determine when they’re going to sample,
turn things off to make it better. So the policing
is going to be a very difficult thing.
BEARDSLEY: Maybe it’s not so much adding
more regulations as it is enforcing the regulations
that are already in place. And either
way, there’s going to be a cost additive. That’s
the downside. And as long as everybody—and
I think there’s a marketing effect of that also,
because water is becoming a scarce resource.
But the cost that’s associated with that has to
be marketed correctly so that everybody
understands that they’re going to have to be
MILES:Well, I spend a lot of time working,
like I said, mainly in the sanitary and combined
sewer issues in the United States and seeing what
the U.S. EPA has done as far as trying to come
up with different programs to prevent infiltration
of other things that can cause blockages
and lead to sanitary sewer overflows. But they’re
in epidemic proportions.
Now the EPA is starting to take the gloves
off, and they’re starting to fine major cities,
because when we talk about a sanitary or combined
sewer overflow, we’re not just talking about
human waste; we’re talking about toxic waste,
things like medical waste and mercury-loading
and everything else that is in a sewer. So
they’re starting to levy some pretty heavy fines.
So [the cities] sign what they’re calling consent
decrees, promising to start doing what’s necessary
to repair the damaged sewer, expand the
capacity of the sewers, fixing the tributaries leading
into the mains, and things of that nature, to
try and prevent this from happening.
All of you are in the business of providing products
and services to the water and wastewater
industry. What do you think are the future trends,
say in the next five years in the industry in terms
REYES: I can say on wastewater transport, our
customers are already asking for products that
dovetail into ways to monitor and collect data
so that they have an opportunity to find out
where they stand today. There are some smaller
towns out there that are being proactive in
addressing this issue, and those are the types of
products I see that are really going to take off in
the coming years.
COX: I think you’re going to see the industry
go away from total suspended solids [TSS] and
go to the total maximum daily load [TMDL]
that a body of water can tolerate and still maintain
its integrity, because it’s more of a measurable
unit. With the TSS, the various BMPs [best
management practices] could adjust the way
they tested for that to make their particular unit
do what they said it would. I think in the
TMDL it’s not going to be as easy to manipulate
the numbers, and I think it’s going to be
something that you could regulate a lot easier,
and hopefully at that point all the manufacturers
can figure out a way to get together and
come up with a set of testing standards.
BAILEY:We at Flygt see a general trend toward
more energy efficiency, specifically with regard
to wastewater pumping and collection systems.
We see more efficient pumps evolving.
We see more significant opportunity in the
design and use of electric motors. It’s possible
to build an electric motor, for instance, that
has a power factor of right close to 1.0. So that
means that the motor is going to more effectively
use the power grid. You’re not going to
be having wasted reactive power. That may be
an opportunity. Another way to increase efficiency
is to come up with ways of designing
pumping systems, say that reduce power consumption.
An example is like a duplex pumping
station, where each one of two pumps is
designed for peak flow. That’s kind of wasteful,
because you’re pumping peak flow whenever
a pump turns on. So one of the simple
things that we have come up with to help
communities save power is to put in a jockey
pump, just a small pump to handle the flow—
and this is a retrofit thing. But it’s moving in
the area of energy consumption. And then
finally, the last area where we see spectacular
potential is in smart control systems, where
you look at what you’re asking these systems
of pumps and motors to do.
REYES: In the past, cities have had just networks
of independent, standalone wastewater pumping
stations operating individually. What we’re offering are ways and ideas to have these things
communicate to one another to reduce energy
consumption by having them operate when it’s
efficient. In other words, not having a particular
pump station pump into a force main where
it’s dead-headed and basically doesn’t have an
opportunity to move water because of the pressure
from that force main. So having these individual
stations now talk to one another, collect
information, reduce energy consumption by
eliminating some of the waste, the wasted energy,
the wasted pumping effort, reducing maintenance,
just all of those things combined.
MILES: I think in the last five years, I’ve seen a
tremendous increase in technology monitoring
and measuring and early warning systems for
stormwater or sewer overflows. I’m starting to
see a lot of new technology in the activated
sludge beds that are going out there. I’m starting
to see and become a lot more cautious on
how we’ll end up applying any kind of waste,
whether it’s municipal solid waste or whether it
be wastewater sludge.
The big thing that’s happening right now is
in the waste-to-energy sector. We’re starting
to find better ways. Instead of a mass burn
incineration, you’re starting to see technologies
called gasification, which can eliminate almost
down to nothing a lot of this waste that’s collected,
whether it be municipal solid waste or
activated sludge or sludge beds and composting
to produce energy.
DeCAMPLI:We’re seeing a tremendous opportunity
for integrated technologies. So to address
population growth, regulations, and energy
efficiency, integrated technologies, meaning
the addition of RO [reverse osmosis] with
membranes, with disinfection or in nutrient
reduction. So we’re adding polishing filters to
biological processes or membranes to biological
Municipalities know that they need to not
just meet today’s regulations but meet the
demands of the future. And the same we see
in biosolids for integrated technologies where we’ll have—
you know, we’re not just selling a centrifuge or a belt press,
we’re selling maybe a centrifuge or a belt press with a sludge dryer. And then in
addition to that, we’re providing the gas storage for the anaerobic
digester so that they can convert that methane gas to energy.
In California, there’s huge tax savings, I think
it’s $3,000 per kilowatt for fuel cell conversion—
to fuel cell and less for microturbines. So we’re
seeing a lot more opportunity in waste to energy,
taking that product and making it a marketable
product through sludge drying and selling
it as fertilizer, et cetera.
MYERS:We’re seeing a big trend in desalination.
Right now there are studies going on in southern
Texas, Florida, and southern California.
Desalination beforehand was, you know,
pretty much you had to use an RO type technology,
which hasn’t always been that energy efficient.
But there have been new technologies associated
with RO. Upfront processes associated
with the RO also that have allowed it to become
more energy efficient, allow it to be cheaper as
far as capital costs, and still be able to give you
the quality of water that you’re looking for coming
from either an ocean source or open-water
sea body or something of that nature.
WINFREY:Wastewater reuse is also an area, and
that ties in with the enormous lack of water
that we’re going to see in the next 20 or 30
years. And not only because they need water,
but there are places that you don’t think of as
being drought-stricken. Toronto gives 30 cents
a liter, an upfront one-time cost for reuse of
water in the LEEDS [Leadership in Energy
and Environmental Design] green buildings,
and that’s because the infrastructure is enormously
expensive to update in older cities.
We’ve got four or five buildings in downtown
New York City that reuse the water, and
there’s essentially zero discharge. That’s not driven
by drought; although, that’s a part of it.
But the main thing is the cost of the infrastructure
that they go on with. I think in the
American Southwest if you get west of Texas,
you can hardly get a permit to build without
at least having looked at reuse possibilities. That’s
not to say they always use them, but they have
to have looked at it. I think that’s going to be
nationwide in a very short order, and the
LEEDS movement is just taking off. The green
building movement is just accelerating enormously.
And it’s going to have to be—right now
it’s very hit or miss as far as incentives for green
buildings. That’s going to have to be a more
united effort on that.
HUGHES: Something we’ve been seeing is actually
a return to some extent actually of some of the
older technologies that have kind of fallen out of
favor with time. We’re seeing a resurgence and
interest in incineration. There was a paper done
a few years ago out on the West Coast at WEF
where an engineer took apart all the different
components of what it cost as far as a drying disposal
sludge versus incineration. Turns out you
can gain a lot of carbon credits by incineration.
So we’re seeing some tweaks on some old technology
to enable it to meet the new regs, and the
future looks good even for the old technologies.
What do you see as the big growth areas for products?
For example, would you consider membrane
technology a strong leader?
DeCAMPLI: I think that the growth rate for membrane
technology is about 10 to 12 percent. And
if you look at conventional technology, it’s about
4 to 6. But again, you look at the base of how
many conventional filter plants there are out
there and then how many membrane plants
there are, and there’s a huge imbalance. So mem-
brane technology is taking hold, but there are
still a lot of conventional plants existing today.
MYERS: There’s a huge growth that we see in
membranes, but yet that’s still segmented to certain
areas. You’re not going to see that, say, in
the wide open areas somewhere in the middle
of Southwest Texas, where it depends on operators,
the level of comfort they have. If you look
at the West Coast, they have all these degrees
and what level you are as an operator and how
your pay schedule and everything else is. Well,
you don’t have that everywhere across North
America. So I think it has a lot to do with your
education and what your permits are for your
local area that really drives our technologies.
CURTIS: We see people looking for products that
don’t continue to compound the challenges of
maintaining water quality. Things such as corrosivity,
how a product is affecting the corrosivity
of your internal infrastructure of a pipeline,
are the contaminants being emitted from it? A
lot of the materials that are being put into some
of the drinking water systems; for example, like
lead is a big issue, and they’re trying to get all
the lead out. So those kinds of products are—
that I see with respect to the manufacture of various
components, that’s where I see possible
growth areas on how to not continue to compound
our water-quality issues.
MANESS: What I think we’re going to see, in
general, is just more water treatment. In counties
just west of Fort Worth, [Texas,] it’s all
groundwater out there, and they’re already concerned
about the growth and the drop in the
aquifer and just where they go. Now, you put
this kind of population load on that, and I’ve
listened to experts say, well, those drops in the
aquifer, they’re natural, they always do that. But
I think eventually we’re just going to overtax
them because there are going to be more wells
and there’s going to be more load. So we’re going
to be looking at greater impacts on, say, surface
water sources. And there’s just going to be
more treatment in general.
[The city of Dallas’] combined drinking
water capacity is 900 million gallons per day. Its
wastewater treatment capacity is 260 million
gallons per day. If we would just take that 260
million gallons and treat it and insert a purple
pipe, because that’s the irrigation or reuse piping,
if we would just engage that, the mitigation
of the draw on our fresh water sources, if you
will, would be incredible. But there’s a whole
bunch of regulation that goes with that.
I cover nine states and I’ve met with regulators
in certain states and we talk about reuse,
and the regulators don’t like the purple pipe.
They’re really afraid that purple pipes run
through neighborhoods and the contractor is
going to come in and hook up the municipal
system to the purple pipe and—you know.
WINFREY: In Cary, North Carolina, they have
repiped the whole city for reuse water and sell
it—everybody is looking for increased revenue,
and they’re selling it at a discounted rate from a
potable water. You’re going to see more and more
of that as cities look to discount some of the cost
of treatment but also to decrease their water use.
COX: On the stormwater side, we’re trying to
take it to the next level to find better ways to
address the upcoming hot buttons, like turbidity
and phosphorous and some things like
that. We just introduced a new cartridge filter
type BMP that’s multiple layers of a sand media
type system encapsulated in geotextile fabric
and is able to accomplish some 50 percent
reduction in turbidity. And we’re able to address
the total phosphorus count as well. So we’re
moving away a little bit from the hydrodynamic
separator type systems in an effort to just capture
it. We can’t do anything about the bacte-
ria or the personal-care issues that you mentioned
or things like that, but we are trying to
ratchet it up to the next level to do a better
job in a more efficient manner.
Let Someone Else Do the Job
What are the growth areas for services? For example,
some cities are outsourcing their stormwater
management to consulting firms.
COX: That is true. You would think it would cost
more to pay somebody to do it, but when you
look at the fact that if you’re a city, a county, or a
state and you actually have to set up a crew or a
division to do that, the first thing you’d have to
do is hire a cadre of engineers to understand what
you’ve got to do, then train the people to do it,
then make sure it’s getting done, and then figure
out what to do with the materials or the contaminants
that you pull out of there. So I think
you’re going to see a switch to where people are
outsourcing that. You’ll see companies come into
existence that are more than just the vacuum truck
that goes around and pulls the contaminants out
of the hydrodynamic separator system.
I think it’s cheaper for municipalities, especially
on a small basis. If you have a town of
10,000 or so that’s falling into the Phase categories
of the NPDES mandates now, you’re
probably going to find where they want to outsource
this, and they could have a company that
would be a regional stormwater management
or disposal type company.
MILES: I agree. I really feel that it’s getting to be
more prevalent now that you’re starting to see
outside engineering companies coming in and
handling wastewater issues as well as water issues.
A company that works in the city of Boston
just had a re-compete for their bid to continue
to work for the city of Boston. And they are very
innovative. They have to stay on top of new and
best affordable technologies, and they have to
be able to propose to the city problems or issues
like that. So I think it’s a much more efficient—
and actually, in the end run, I think it’s more
cost efficient to see some of these engineering
companies working with the cities and towns
now to handle most of their problems.
HUGHES: We all know the issues are lots of towns
and lots of cities, people can take the samples
when they want to—to help them get the results
they want. We know people that do that. And
I think there’s going to be more of a push for
these privatized firms to do independent studies
so they get the real numbers, so otherwise no
one knows what to design for.
Out of Fashion
You talked about incineration coming back, but
are there other ways that we’re treating water or
wastewater that might become obsolete in the next
five or10 years?
MILES: I think land application is one area under
heavy scrutiny right now. I think there are areas
in Florida that used to land-apply quite a bit.
They [people] move into areas where they
had land-applied for years, and they just found
that that land is unusable for human habitat or
building or anything of that nature. So I think
they’re becoming a little bit more conscientious.
I know that New York City land-applies most
of their municipal solid waste as
well as everything else from their
treatment plants in places like
Ohio and Pennsylvania and Virginia.
And the state of Virginia has
just said, “We don’t want to anymore.”
So I think they’re trying
to protect their areas from foreign
infiltration of other people’s sewage
and sludge and waste. EPA is coming
up with a lot of new rules and conditions for
land application and making it a lot harder.
GEORGER: You would think today there would
be a lot more obsolete products out there. I don’t
think there are. I think consultants are still
tempted to pull the old specs, the old drawings
and still do things the old-fashioned way
in dealing with their clients, their owners. I think
it’s a real hard—somewhat hard push and struggle
for these new technologies and regulations
to become players, because they’re looked at as
equals. And typically, these new technologies
are more expensive.
BAILEY:Having been a consultant before I know
we share the same paranoia about being the
guinea pig and trying something new and it
doesn’t work, and, you know, you really don’t
have anything except your cash flow and you’re
out of business in six months if that’s interrupted.
It’s tough for consultants to take that first step.
MILES: I’m going to step out on a limb. The
United States is not really the best place to
launch new technology. There is terrible red
The European community—as far as wasteto-
energy, incineration, gasification—is so further
advanced than we are in the United States
because we tend to take that Yankee mentality
where it has to be proven out in so many different
ways that they won’t take a chance.
Reusable water is one of them, your purple-pipe
syndrome. I mean, they’re worried about such
small, little things affecting them down the line.
Waste energy, incineration, we threw that
off the books years ago because of the Clean Air
Act and the CO2 [carbon dioxide] and everything
else that we were emitting into the air as
in the gasification—or the global-warming issue
that is everybody’s topic today. But all of these
factors now have very, very strict emission controls.
But the same mentality is still out there.
New technologies are not readily adaptable
in the United States.
MANESS: Sometimes it doesn’t seem like things
are in sync. We have regulations which are driving,
say, more advanced technologies, and we
have consulting firms that are saying, “We need
to stick with what we know.”
You look at the regulations, and we have so
many requirements now under LT2 [Long Term
2 Surface Water Treatment Rule] as to how to
measure the performance of a membrane. And
if you were to take that same criteria and put it
on a conventional plant for a granular media filter,
there’s just no way. There’s no way you could
prove any kind of integrity with that existing
I think that, again, it’s the U.S., things just
kind of come in time.
Business as Usual?
What are the trends for how you as manufacturers
conduct your business? For example, are you working
directly with city engineers or with consultants?
HUGHES: All the above. At least from my standpoint,
it seems in many cases we’re working with
both whenever possible.
It’s good. An educated customer is a customer
that’s going to make a better decision, and he’s
also going to provide any information to make
the right decisions. No disrespect meant to any
part of the engineering community, but every
once in a while there’s information out there the
city has that doesn’t trickle down and in many
cases it may actually conflict with the information
that the engineers have. And unless—as long
as the people running the city plants, the water
plants, the wastewater plants, they’ve got a longterm
view, and often—in my career, I started
about as low on the rung as you can. I’ve been
in a lot of treatment plants in a lot of places. And
sometimes you get information from a guy down
there turning the wrench that the plant managers
and the engineers have no idea is going on,
and that may be one of the pivotal things you
need to know for proper design.
MILES: I think as manufacturers, we’re obligated
to educate a lot of different groups. We can’t just
count on the engineers to take our products to
fruition. You basically have got to educate the
municipalities and towns and government and
get the political aspect of it too to try to drive it
that way, to keep the engineering firms to continue
to look at new and better global technologies.
And it’s very costly to do that. But it’s
important. It’s an important way of doing business
I think now in the United States. And I
think this kind of forum and this kind of venue
is a good way to do that.
REYES: I think that’s especially key when you’re
trying to introduce new technology, whether
it be proven in Europe or in other parts of
the world, it still has to be Americanized, it still
has to work here. And by talking to the stakeholder,
the end user, the guy who has to live
with this thing from day to day, getting him
to feel comfortable and confident with that situation,
he has a lot of stroke, and he has the
ability to go back to the consulting engineers
and help them provide the services or prod-
ucts that he really needs to move forward. We’ve had a great deal of success working that
way with the end users.
COX: It’s a bit of a balancing act or juggling
act when you get all the parties involved from
the government entity that the job may be
going to—from the engineer who has to draw
it up to the contractor who has to install it,
work with it, whatever. The contractor, to some
extent, may know there’s a better way to do it,
but his hands are tied because of the dollars
that are available. The engineer has to be careful
what he’s doing because he’s signing off
on it saying this is the way to go. When is he
going to say, “I know, but that doesn’t work,”
or, “it won’t work on a long-term basis”? And
the city is sitting there with just so many dollars
to play with. So as manufacturers, we all
have to wear two or three different hats
depending on are you out in the field with the
contractor or are you in the engineering firm
or with the consulting engineer. So it’s interesting,
but if you get back to the government
regulations, that could help all of us a great
deal because that gets rid of a lot of the gray
areas. It gives the cities a reason to do what
they’re doing, the engineer can feel more comfortable
with what he’s doing, and then the
contractor, to some point, has to go along with
the regulations. But it’s up to us, like Ed said,
to educate all of them.
BEARDSLEY: I agree with that. And my comfort
level is quite high working within the confines
of the United States. When you stretch
and market outside the United States, particularly
in the Asian community, the regulations,
which are my comfort zone, tend to go by the
wayside there, not from my standpoint, but
from their standpoint. And I find myself conducting
business differently, yet I have my own
company that I’m supposed to be protecting
and my own U.S. laws that I’m supposed to be
working within. But outside these borders, it’s
different. And you have to conduct business
the way you would here, and that’s not preferred
beyond these borders in many countries.
It makes it very interesting.
BAILEY: Another way of looking at that question
is ways of doing business, not so much
ways to go to market or sell. Basically customers,
users want low prices. But they also
want dependable products, and they want reasonable,
responsive service. The problem is that
low prices frequently are a bit of conflict
between that and their other demands. And,
you know, we’re in an environment of continuously
increasing the cost of doing business—
government regulation, a litigious business
environment, rapidly increasing material
and labor costs.
And I think a lot of that’s due to China and
that Asian expansion over there. But what’s
happening to companies is that we’re having
to improve our processes to deal with these cost
increases. And the processes to which I’m referring
include product design, product production,
distribution, inventory control, order
entry, service shop procedures, your whole
business. And the way we’re doing it at ITT
Flygt is with VBSS [Value-based Six Sigma,
University of Michigan]. And we’re gaining
significant efficiencies in our business procedures
and processes. That, in turn, allows us
to increase our prices more slowly while we’re
improving our responsiveness and the dependability
of our products and everything else.
That’s the way we’re dealing with that trend.
But we do work both with consulting engineers
and city engineers and the guys at the
plant level that actually turn the wrenches
and know the real world, and we try to help
connect all those dots so that people are talking
to each other.
We didn’t finish talking about potential business
opportunities in foreign countries.
BEARDSLEY: [Other countries] are basically funded
by their federal government. Of course,
you have to work through that red tape. The
thing that’s nice is you can provide product there,
or at least my product, and you don’t have to
have intrinsic safety approvals.
HUGHES: Because Degremont is a worldwide
company, our four companies here in North
America are pretty much equipment and
process lines. In the rest of the world, we’re
design/build. Occasionally something comes
up from abroad and our design/build group
bid it and they lost it and we get a call from the
other end. I guess our company point of view
is that you’re going to see a lot more
design/build in the rest of the world, but we’re
really not doing design/build here because it
doesn’t seem to work as well.
MYERS: I just got through having meetings last
week with a couple of different consultant firms,
and there’s a huge flux of teams, huge teams going
out to Australia right now to handle the drought
situation. I know of three huge consulting firms
that are some of the largest in the world that have
sent teams of people over there right now. So
even though it’s in Australia, they’re still coming
back to our normal channels here. So I’m working
with these companies for projects in Australia,
which I do not cover. Even though we have
a design/build team working there, everything
is being funneled back here to me because they’re
within my normal territory.
DeCAMPLI:We set up an R&D center in Singapore
to handle the Asian market. But at the
end of the day, the China economy I think will
be by 2020 the second biggest, but the U.S.
economy will still be three times larger. So we
have to put it all into perspective, and the
opportunities in North America are still our
and Other Cost Factors
As far as manufacturing processes go, are your
material costs increasing? Is safety more important
than it used to be?
BAILEY: Absolutely. In our operating company
[safety’s] just exploded in its urgency in the last
few years. It may be some combination of government
regulation and our litigious culture,
who knows, but it is forcing companies to take
proactive measures. And there’s a whole environmental
safety and health—we just call it
ESH—that’s an industry unto itself now. You
can go out and hire consultants in most goodsized
towns to come in and take care of that function
for you. But it’s a good thing. It protects customers
and employees. But it also adds cost, and
it’s one of those issues that we have to deal with.
CURTIS:As a U.S.-based U.S. manufacturer
competing in a global world of competitiveness
with importers who are bringing in materials
into our primary market from the United
States and North America, it’s a constant
battle maintaining competitiveness with
respect to the various burdens as a U.S. manufacturer
has to comply with, to the point that,
yeah, we’ve even hired a specific person to
address the issues of all the aspects that are
affecting worker safety, from everything from
the air they breathe to how to handle products
and their processes. This has a definite
impact on our business abroad. We still are
continuing to fight to maintain U.S. manufacturing
and generating U.S. jobs. We feel
that it’s still an important aspect to our controls
to ensure that we can control it rather
than farming it out, but yeah, it’s becoming
ever more and more burdensome to the point
that it’s a big cost factor, one that you have
to adjust and monitor.
MANESS: Safety has definitely improved. One
of the first things [field service people] do is put
their harness on, just walking around. You know,
they could be doing any little thing, and they’re
tied off. And I think there’s just a greater focus
on safety. It’s a good thing.
Old Age Meets
The workforce of treatment facilities is aging, and
the industry is concerned about a manpower
shortage. Why do you think this is happening,
and what should we do about it?
DeCAMPLI: There was a 50 percent decrease in
engineers graduating over the past years. So that’s
a big issue. There aren’t as many children entering
the engineering field.
Why do you think that is? Is it money?
DeCAMPLI: Probably. Probably, if you look at
the salaries in comparison to some of the other
The projections are that there’s going to
be an increase in about 45 percent over the
next 10 years. So if you had a 50 percent drop
over the 15 past years in engineers graduating
and then the need in the next years of a
projected 45 percent increase, there’s a big
And then the municipalities are facing the
same thing with the aging workforce. And the
association, the American Water Works Association,
has a strategic committee set up to
talk about it, but I don’t think any programs
have materialized. And I think WEF is
addressing the issue as well from just talking
about it and trying to do more in education.
But I don’t see a whole lot of action as a result
of those talks.
BEARDSLEY: It’s not a sexy livelihood. And it
probably, in relation to other professions, doesn’t
pay quite as much. But neither does education
and teaching, and yet we’re churning out
a lot of teachers every year and there’s a need
there. So from an education standpoint
and teacher standpoint, that particular sector is doing something
right or there’s a need that’s known,
because the people who are graduating,
the kids that are graduating know that
they’re not going to make as much as a lawyer
or a doctor or a civil engineer. So something
along the same lines needs to be done within
the water industry, because I would think that
somebody within that industry might make
more than a first- or second-year teacher coming
right out of college.
HUGHES: I know of engineering firms looking
for people. Most of the students by the time
they’re starting their senior year, many of them
already have their job lined up because there’s
that much of a lack of new engineers. And I
know that one of the major engineering firms—
I was talking to one of their high-ranking officers
at a show last fall, and he told me they were
looking for a thousand engineers, just one firm.
And they’re not finding them.
MILES:Well, I’m surprised, because water and
wastewater and environmental issues are one of
the long-term safe jobs, almost, you could say,
because we’re always going to have issues in those
sectors. So I was surprised at that stat.
DeCAMPLI:Me too. I think that there are some
ideas floating around, like go to the automobile
industry, go to the steel industry. And a lot of
these workers that have lost their jobs for manufacturing,
plant shutdowns, et cetera. You
know, do a targeted campaign in those pockets
to show people that there are opportunities
in the environmental engineering field. Again,
I don’t know how many of these things are actually
HUGHES: I think the loss is not just environmental;
I think it’s across the board, not engineers,
period. Because it’s not easy. Take the easy route.
MILES: But this imbalance probably will correct
the salary—the income issue too, because I can
remember back when I was in high school and
thinking about what I wanted to do, I thought
being an engineer, you’re going to make a lot of
money. And I remember guys coming out of
school about the time I graduated, they were.
They were starting at the time [with] what were
really good salaries, and I think that’s kind of
tapered off some.
What about operators? What I understand is that
their pay scale has gotten better as time has gone on.
DeCAMPLI: Right. And there are also additional
requirements for continuing education units.
I think the requirements for certification from
the plant operational level are getting more
intense. So that’s an issue there as well.
MILES:Do you think it’s because maybe that we
are collectively as manufacturers manufacturing
more technologically advanced equipment?
We’ve become a plug-and-play society, and
maybe there’s not the need for that big high
salaried engineer anymore?
MYERS:Well, that’s a good point to bring. I had
a visit in Nebraska about three weeks ago, [and]
met with the plant superintendent who came
from Illinois. His plant needed a lot of optimization.
So we were trying to help him kind
of go over a game plan and everything else,
but his staff didn’t want to do that. They just
had a pump break, and they had to buy a new
pump. It was a six-week wait and a certain
amount of money.
I just found out last week he just got fired
because he was trying to rock the boat too much
to do something in a more proactive means to
keep the plant running optimized instead of fixing
something when it broke.
So—but that goes back to just different
regions, if you’re running some place on the
East Coast or the West Coast, I’m pretty sure
they’re a little bit more on top of how the
However, you’ve got a lot of lagoon applications
that have to go mechanical because of
new permits and stuff like that, and like you
mentioned, that requires a little more education.
Maybe these people don’t want to do
it, but yet they’re real good friends with soand-
so who got them a job, and so they stay
there. So yes, as you keep increasing your technology
to put in the field, I don’t know if your
operators are going to do the same.
MILES: How many of us have kind of found
somebody that might be young enough and
intelligent enough to understand new technology
and embrace it versus trying to talk to
somebody who’s from a different generation, an
older generation, that’s really just looking for
their pension in a couple of years? I think that
is a big factor.
And then when you do find that one person
who will try to bring it upstairs, there’s so
many tough hurdles from him to get it that he’ll
eventually just fall into that complacency situation
of just doing his daily job.
DeCAMPLI: I think as a result of that we’re seeing
a new construction. Engineers are building
in more automation, more remote monitoring,
more preventive maintenance contracts,
so that it’s maintained properly and less maintenance
is required down the road. So we’re seeing
it being addressed really upfront in the design
of the old plants.
REYES: That’s the sort of value some of our customers
are looking for that maybe they don’t have
the qualified staff or the time to take care of these
things. And that’s just another form of outsourcing—
by putting in intelligent components
and having the manufacturer quite possibly provide
them with maintenance reports or facilities
reports or whatever sort of data reporting.
HUGHES: Actually, I work up in the Provinces,
and they’ve got a very interesting situation where
they have established new guidelines for all their
certification over the past two years, and it’s to
the point they can’t find the people who can pass
the certifications to run the plants. So they’re
actually rebuilding. They’re going back and
building more regional plants and running a lot
more pipes, because that’s the only way they can
get the water from Point A to all the consumers.
WINFREY:One of the things that you were talking
about, the regionalization of the quality of
operators, relates directly to the enforcement
of the regulations. If enforcement is lax, the
guys can get away with cheap operations, and
that just drives the whole industry wage down.
In states like you were talking about, where
you’ve got high-quality operators, the money
is a lot better for them because the downside
is the city can get whacked with a large fine.
One of the problems, though, is a lot of those
states have got a real top-heavy, older, aging
operators’ list, and getting young operators is
a problem there.
Can Run the Plant
About 10 years ago, people in the industry were
worried about privatization. What do you think
about that now, and what kind of work in the
industry is being outsourced to the private sector?
CURTIS:Well, I think there have been case studies
already that have shown evidence that it’s not
necessarily going to work all the time. Atlanta
is a prime example whereby they turned over
the entire water operations and wastewater to a
privatization firm and failed. So I think that
there are certain services that will continue to
be outsourced because of just efficiencies or inefficiencies
of the water facility.
Also there’s the case of acquisitions of ownership
by the large water utility companies
that to begin with, they were the ones in France
and Germany, RGD in Germany to Lyonnaise
des eaux in France. And it just depends on
whether or not they start acquiring more and
more water providers in the United States.
I think the United States is unique in the
sense it is municipally run, for the most part, of
all the water utility companies, although there
are privately held, privately owned water
providers, mostly in the East and the Northeast.
MILES:There’s not enough money. Privatization
is really free enterprise. Free enterprise is all profit-
driven. OK? Municipalities run like the nonprofit
entities. There’s the burden to the taxpayers
to cover the cost. If I want to build a
treatment facility, I’ve got to make the money—
What trends do you predict in the area of water
WINFREY:Obviously, water reuse. But there also
has to be some coordination. There was an
instance last summer of a homeowner who
called the state and asked for dry-weather landscaping
help to tell him what to plant. He planted
it, and the city came around and fined him
because his lawn was greater than three-quarters
of an inch, or whatever the allowed grass is
supposed to be. He had to dig it all up and resod
it. There has to be some coordination where
there’s a statewide or some higher level to support
MILES: I think you’re going to start seeing more
on-premise or onsite water treatment type of
things to where you can take some of your water
and re-treat it. I know there are technologies now
in some countries close to the equator that can
capture rainwater now and use it as potable water
or use it for other different things, cooking.
GEORGER: I think too you’re going to see permanent
levels of conservation in place. Where
I live in Texas, [the city] started with a Stage 1
and a Stage 2 and a Stage 3 [water conservation
measures], and then they backed off. Well, I
think it’s been almost two years now where it’s
been a Stage 3, but I can’t see it ever dropping
down. So I think once they get people used to
conserving, it’s going to become a law or a mandate,
which will help.
CURTIS:Until there becomes either a catastrophic
event, like what we discussed earlier about San
Angelo and how 22,000 homeowners were out
of service, or until the price of the true value of
water goes up, I don’t think we’re going to see
severe conservation. But right now I contend
that water as a value is way undervalued.
WINFREY: Getting back to education, though,
look at smoking. When the federal government
in the ‘70s really went on a campaign—all the
TV for kids, all the kids’ shows had antismoking,
and they really went—it took maybe 30
years, but the rate of tobacco consumption went
down enormously. And I think something like
that could be done with water and will have to
CURTIS: It’s not going to get solved tomorrow.
MANESS: It’s a long-term program.
The 2007 Roundtable was edited by L.K.
Williams, Water & Wastewater News
editor; head shots by Melanie Chartrand;
transcription by Janet Argo of Preferred
Legal Services, Inc.
This article originally appeared in the 06/01/2007 issue of Environmental Protection.