A New Year?s Resolution for Mayors: Save Millions in the New Year

At the end of every year, it is a tradition to review the past 12 months and to identify ways to do better in the coming year. Often, we make resolutions, like committing to exercise more or to quit smoking in order to benefit us or those we care deeply about. For mayors across North America, I submit that one resolution they can, and should, make is to save their community millions of dollars in 2012. Actually, it’s not that hard to do. Let me tell you how.
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All you need to do is to look to your aging and degrading water, sewer and stormwater systems for opportunities. Every mayor knows that their deteriorating underground infrastructure requires immediate attention and investment. And with capital resources tighter than ever, new strategies need to be employed to make those dollars go farther than ever. Tested and proven technologies exist today that have shown time and time again to save substantial expense while providing totally leak-free and water-tight, long-life, sustainable infrastructure options. Systems with superior resistance to rust, abrasion and deterioration are readily obtainable. Use of high-density polyethylene (HDPE) pipe enables deployment of greener solutions that conserve resources now and yield long-term savings. Resolve to rehabilitate or expand pipe systems in enlightened ways that are environmentally responsible and forward thinking. These choices will serve generations.

For nearly 60 years the Plastics Pipe Institute has been providing real-life examples of technically enhanced pipe systems that also save millions of dollars. The status quo is not good enough ? older materials like concrete, iron and steel along with conventional methods of installation were not developed for the demands of current times in mind. As they seek to improve the lives of their constituents, while balancing budgets, mayors should demand that their cities make wiser decisions that consider current alternatives and the long-standing impact of each option.
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Examples of forward-thinking cities that have actually prospered from acting similarly will help to solidify choosing to accept this challenge and acting upon this 2012 New Year’s Resolution:

Mayor Jack Kirsey, Livonia, Mich.

Project: Potable Water System

We experienced an increasing number of incident reports of broken water mains that required digging up the streets to do the repairs, and it reached a catastrophic stage. Not only were we losing water, a valuable resource, but the cost to our taxpayers was significant. We had to find the best system that would last the longest and have the most realistic cost.
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Nearly 27,000 feet of our aging, deteriorated water system needed to be replaced with new and larger diameter pipes to provide for our increasing population. HDPE pipe is typically less expensive than ductile iron pipe. We saved more than $200,000 just for the pipe, not including cost associated with the labor and time that would be needed to handle and install the much heavier iron pipe. The end result is that we were able to do this project without raising the rate for water.

Mayor Jack Hoffman, City of Lake Oswego, Calif.

Project: Wastewater Interceptor Line

A safe and reliable infrastructure is one of many components of a great community. Our city, like tens of thousands of cities across our nation, has an aging infrastructure. If we don?t responsibly invest and maintain it, we risk potential loss of property or life that could financially burden our citizens. Clean water, safe sewerage systems and good roads are just part of our paramount responsibilities.
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Our concrete and cast iron in-lake interceptor system needed to be upgraded. The system was corroded, undersized and at risk of failing in an earthquake. If a collapse was to occur, millions of gallons of untreated wastewater would enter the lake and millions of gallons of lake water would drain downstream to the receiving treatment plant and overwhelm its hydraulic capacity. The cost of the in-lake portion of the new system using HDPE pipe is estimated at $95 million, which is $25 million less than an around-the-lake pumped system.

Mayor Barrie MacMillan, New Glasgow, Nova Scotia

Project: Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO)

We are upgrading our infrastructure at every chance we get because it’s important. The major area being upgraded to separate the storm water is a tidal estuary for salt and fresh water, and is the centerpiece of our riverfront revitalization. This combined sewer overflow reduction is a critical project for us. The large diameter, corrugated HDPE pipe is interesting because it seems to be a better product and is sustainable. Our engineer told me the thing that he liked about it was that it provided a good, tight seal. My engineering department is very confident about the plastic pipe and, most importantly, the project is within budget.

Mayor Keith Cain, Princeton, Ill.

Project: Moving Overhead Electric Lines to Underground

Our population loves the idea of making power lines disappear to reduce eye pollution. No one wants the poles and the wires sticking up through the trees throughout our community. Plus, because we?re eliminating the overhead lines, we don?t have near the maintenance or the downtime due to ice storms, strong winds or other severe weather events. I see a lot of cost effectiveness. There is an upfront cost, but in the long run it will end up paying for itself and will give better, more confident service to our residents and businesses.
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By going underground and using HDPE pipe it?s definitely improving the quality of life. We also use HDPE pipe in storm sewers and for potable water service lines for many of the same reasons.

Many other cities are charging ahead and taking care of their underground systems and their pocketbook. The City of Houston saved $2 – 4 million by using HDPE pipe and pipe bursting installation to replace a failed 42-in. pre-stressed concrete cylinder pipe (PCCP) water line. Miami-Dade will save an estimated $10 million by sliplining 1.5 miles of a failing 72-in. PCCP sewer force main with 63-in. HDPE pipe. Yet another example is in the city of Palo Alto, Calif., which is converting its entire municipal potable water system to HDPE materials. For many years the city used HDPE pipe in its gas system because it could be installed by boring instead of the open-trench method.
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According to Greg Scoby, P.E., manager of water, gas, wastewater engineering for the City of Palo Alto Utilities Department, “We have been using this installation method since around 1997, which has enabled us to increase our replacement rate by half with the move to directional drilling. Not only is the installation time much faster, but we’ve also reduced costs since we no longer have to tear up our streets, re-route traffic or replace surfaces. Directional drilling with HDPE pipe allows us to do a better, faster job and install more feet of pipe for about the same dollar amount.”
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So, mayors, let?s start the New Year off right. Make it your resolution to save your city millions of dollars in 2012 while giving your constituents peace of mind. It’s an easy thing to do!

Tony Radoszewski is Executive Director of The Plastics Pipe Institute. For information visit: www.plasticpipe.org.

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