City of Raleigh Laboratory Evaluation and Business Case Analysis: Centralization or Privatization


  • Mary Sadler PE, Whit Wheeler PE, T.J. Lynch

The City of Raleigh Public Utilities Department (CORPUD) operates a laboratory at the E.M. Johnson Water Treatment Plant (WTP), a laboratory at the Neuse River Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP), and laboratories at the Smith Creek and Little Creek WWTPs. The four certified laboratories conduct water and wastewater analyses for three wastewater treatment facilities and two drinking water facilities owned and operated by CORPUD in addition to the collection and water distribution and storage systems. The City made an investment over twenty years ago for independently operating laboratory facilities and the associated technical expertise.

The City’s laboratories are an integral part of the operation of the City’s treatment, collection, and distribution and storage infrastructure. However, the E.M. Johnson and Neuse River laboratories are aging, have significant technical issues associated with the existing building infrastructure, and are lacking in sufficient space. To address these concerns, the City commissioned a Laboratory Evaluation and Business Case Analysis to evaluate alternatives for laboratory upgrades and expansion. Five alternatives were evaluated to include a no-action alternative, maintaining existing facilities with capital improvements, consolidating facilities in a central location, privatization, and a hybrid of privatization and maintaining the existing facilities. The economic analysis included capital costs, 10-year present value of equipment replacement, and the present worth of operation and maintenance with and without commercial laboratory surcharge fees. The evaluation of non-economic factors played a significant role in the selection of the preferred alternative.

The Laboratory Evaluation also included an in-depth categorization of sampling and analyses, laboratory efficiency, laboratory performance and benchmarking, and a business case analysis to identify work flow areas of concern. Key performance indicators were developed to include batch optimization, cost per analysis, sample turn-around time, evaluation of discretionary tests, and data quality. Additionally, a southeast regional survey was conducted to benchmark actual municipal laboratory staffing with EPA and New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute (NMWRRI) staffing curves and the number of laboratory analysis conducted versus total infrastructure design capacity.

This paper will present the findings of the Laboratory Evaluation and Business Case Analysis to include the alternatives analysis, business case findings, key performance indicator development, and benchmarking data.

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