One of the many areas that we need to look at closely is our water and sewer infrastructure. There are several things going on here. I could write out all of this in one blog post, but you’d have to take a day off work to read through everything going on. I’m going to present this in pieces, so please don’t freak out until we get to the end of the explanation… yes, it is going to be expensive….
First, we have combined sewers in many older parts of the City. This is not unusual for cities of our age. It was the way sewer systems were designed across the country during that era. We have been negotiating with the EPA for several years on how to correct the problem over time. In Cincinnati, the problem will require billions of dollars to fix. We do not have the final negotiated sewer fix and therefore, the final dollar cost, to make those renovations in Middletown, but for planning purposes, our current estimate is somewhere around $120 million. Part of the EPA negotiations will focus on what needs to be done to make repairs. The other part will focus on how long the EPA will give us to make the changes. Typical other agreements have been somewhere in the 20+ year range. All of this is in flux and negotiation at this time, and the final dollar number, the style of changes required, and the time table for completion are all unknown at this time. All that we know right now is that sometime probably sooner than later, we will come to an agreement with the EPA to resolve this issue. Ultimately, the users of the system will pay for the EPA required upgrades over the negotiated time period.
Second, much of the water and sewer pipes under the older parts of the City are 50+ years old. The City completed repairs to 91 water mains during 2015. We know that at least some of those older pipes are at the end of their useful life and will need to be replaced. My guess is that there are 50 year old pipes that are about done and other pipes that are 75 years old that might still be in decent shape. We are starting the process now to decide the best way to evaluate the older water and sewer distribution system (the pipes) and determine which sections need to be replaced and when. Developing that process and then implementing an inspection and evaluation process will take more than a year to complete. Until we develop and complete that process, we are utilizing the age in years of the existing pipe system to develop a beginning model of what needs to be replaced and a cost associated with replacing worn out water and sewer pipes. Using only the age of the pipes as an estimating tool, we believe there are about $242 million in upgrades that will be required in the water distribution and the sewer collection system. When we evaluate the pipes properly, that number may go up or down with actual pipe conditions.
Third, our Water Treatment Plant was built in 1971 and the Wastewater Treatment (Sewer) Plant is over 50 years old. The Wastewater Treatment Plant is going to need a major overhaul in the next decade or so and the Water Treatment Plant will need continuing maintenance to remain viable for the next 50 years. This will include upgrades in equipment, upgrades in technology, upgrades in the buildings themselves, etc. We have estimated those repairs to be in the neighborhood of $92 million. Timing, bidding, and the final scope of work will all influence the final numbers, but again, it is a beginning model to evaluate how to bring our water and sewer system up to modern, sustainable standards.
Finally, there are a few areas of town that could see new development if we added water and sewer infrastructure to support the new development. We’ve added $2 million in new infrastructure to our overall water and sewer estimate to open those areas to future development, which in turn, means new families and/or jobs in the City. In addition, our quick analysis of piping replacement suggests that up to $25 million in paving would be completed as part of the ongoing water and sewer pipe upgrades. We will have to repave the roads we tear up when we replace the water and sewer pipes.
Keep in mind that every single number above is an estimate derived from a model and that none of these dollar numbers have been established. This is for planning purposes only. I want to create a plan that sustains all of our water and sewer infrastructure into the future. This is Part 1. Let me get through the other parts and then you can cut loose and comment freely. If you do it now… I’ll likely be answering your questions over the next several posts anyway… Please be patient.