WATER WORLD—Alcosan Executive Director Arletta Scott Williams lays out the authority’s $2 billion plan to comply with Environmental Protection Agency wet weather mandates. (Photos by Christian Morrow)
by Christian Morrow
Courier Staff Writer
While addressing the crowd at the African American Chamber of Commerce January PowerBreakfast, Alcosan Executive Director Arletta Scott Williams got the important items out of the way first by introducing her entire purchasing department and her finance director.
“A woman with a budget will always be hotly pursued,” she quipped. “Those are the people you want to talk to about that.”
Though she noted many in the room were already doing business with the authority, what they wanted to hear about was the latest on its Wet Weather Plan for dealing with sewage overflow during heavy storms.
“This will be the largest public woks project this region has seen, and is likely to see for years to come,” she said.
The wet weather project was born from a consent decree the authority signed in 2007 that took seven years to negotiate following a federal lawsuit brought by the Environmental Protection Agency. It stipulates that by 2046, the authority will be fully compliant with new standards for its combined sewer systems, which carry both rainwater and sewage.
That plan, which would build a series of tunnels as wide as the Northshore Connector only longer, to funnel water to multiple catch basins and then to a vastly larger treatment facility, carries a $3.6 billion price tag. However, using the EPA’s own criteria, the authority and the 83 municipalities it serves cannot afford that price. So the authority has revised its plan proposing a $2 billion “first phase” that passes the affordability test and does nearly everything the approved plan does.
But just getting to this point, submitting their revised proposal before the end of the month, the authority has spent more than $100 million on engineers, planning, analysis, program management, and coordination with each municipality.