Balancing Appropriate Innovation and Economics for Plant-Wide Biosolids Improvements

Last Modified: Aug 10, 2018


  • Matthew Van Horne, R. Clarke Wallcraft

Small utilities face many of the same challenges as large utilities: aging infrastructure, competing needs for capital, limitations in manpower, needs to maintain efficiency and needs to maintain safe working conditions. The Pepper’s Ferry Regional Wastewater Treatment Authority (PFRWTA), located in Radford VA, is a regional authority with a treatment capacity of 9.0 mgd. Over the past eight years, PFRWTA has undertaken a series of planning efforts on various biosolids and other critical plant projects to best define the needs of the facility moving forward. Historically, PFRWTA has undertaken capital projects on a “pay as you go” basis within their approximately $1.0 million annual capital improvement budget, and these improvements were identified for implementation in this manner over several years.

A key element for PFRWTA was to minimize capital costs as much as possible and this was to be addressed for these projects in three key approaches: continuing the “pay as you go” approach to reduce financing costs, pre-purchasing major equipment to reduce contractor markups and to perform as many projects with PFRWTA staff as possible. For a variety of reasons to be discussed in the presentation, these three approaches proved to be problematic and required a new way to think about these important projects. The new approach included one larger project with a decision by PFRWTA to investigate external funding, ultimately resulting in the award of a VCWRLF low-interest loan. This financing, as well as detailed evaluations of where to best incorporate innovation for a small and capital-limited utility, is providing significant benefits by allowing these important improvements to be accomplished while ensuring the long-term financial and operational health of the utility. This presentation will review the basis of the case study and provide several “lessons learned” for other small utilities in need of infrastructure recapitalization.

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