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Infrastructure Summit for Owners – Strategizing Funding for Lead Service Line Replacement

e-Builder for infrastructureIn this infrastructure summit for owners webinar, experts from Newark Water and Sewer Utilities and CDM Smith discuss infrastructure funding sources for lead service line replacement, community engagement challenges associated with an expedited project, and strategies for using the funding effectively.

The Water Infrastructure Project

The City of Newark water service supplies drinking water for just over 315,000 residents. In 2018, it was discovered that there was lead in the pipes that was outside of compliance. Overnight, their lead pipeline replacement project with a projected lifespan of 10 years was condensed into a project with a 30 month projected completion timeline. Led by Kareem Adeem, Director of Newark Department of Water and Sewer, the department had to pivot quickly to implement the expedited water infrastructure project timeline.

Funding Lead Services Infrastructure Projects

In this instance, the huge lead pipeline replacement project was prior to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL). The funding they did not have already was provided primarily by the county.

For owners with similar infrastructure projects, going forward, the BIL has set aside about $15 billion of funding for lead service line replacement. 49% of this funding is targeted for grants. While a significant amount, this is still only approximately a third of what the country needs in terms of replacing all lead service lines.

Lead Services Funding ClipThe American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding distributed last year can be used for lead service line replacement, as well as the U.S. Department of Housing Community Development Block Grant Program (HUD CDBG) program.

City, county, or state infrastructure funding can typically provide additional funding to support these lead services programs.

6 Ways to Maximize Infrastructure Funding for Lead Service Line Replacement Projects

The experts from CDM Smith, Trimble, and Newark Department of Water and Sewer discuss what made the lead service line replacement project a success:

1. Get the Staff Members in Place. Brian Farrelly from CDM Smith said, “​​putting the resources in place, our inspection team and our tools was a challenge for us.” By reaching out to local womens’ and minority owned Newark-based firms, they were able to bring on additional support staff. Newark Department of Water and Sewer was able to share staff members. Getting creative with staffing an infrastructure project, hiring early, providing training, and supporting local residents by providing jobs can help offset the skilled labor shortage challenge.

2. Get the Stakeholders on Board Early. Contractors, council members, the mayor of Newark, the Department of Environmental Protection, and community outreach leaders were all involved in the project early on. The coordinated response to the pressing need of such a large project supported the expedited project timeline. With government leaders involved in the process, they were able to support funding efforts, helping keep the money available for the project.

3. Put in the Work (and Budget) to Start Community Outreach Before the Project Begins. The Newark Department of Water and Sewer put the funding and resources into community outreach before the project began. By using local businesses, hiring a local workforce, and making the community aware of the project with community meetings, signs, people on the ground, and websites, residents became invested in the successful completion of the project. Homes and businesses within the project boundaries had to “sign up” to approve the lead pipeline replacement on their properties—with successful community outreach, the timeline of getting the residents on board was shortened.

Lead Services Community Outreach Clip4. Hire the Right Contractors. By hiring local contractors with a competitive bidding strategy, costs were cut on the contracts and allowed the city to stay within the project budget limits, and additional locals became invested in the outcome of the project.

5. Embrace Construction Project Management Technology. Whether that technology is in the field, such as trenchless piping systems used in the Newark project, or a cloud-based project management system such as e-Builder, embracing technology correctly can cut project costs and keep the project on schedule.

6. Coordinate the Lead Service Replacements with Other Local Projects. The team leading the lead pipe replacement were not simply laser-focused on their project alone - they coordinated with management and leaders of other infrastructure projects to consolidate their efforts. By synching the timeline and budgets of related projects, costs for traffic control, mobilizing project teams, and efforts involved with paving roadways all contributed to reducing inconvenience to the locals. Funding sources were carefully considered, saving project owners both time and money.

“The three things I would recommend to any utility listening today, get your inventory, put together your replacement plan and start figuring out your community outreach strategy.”

Amrou Atassi, Principal, CDM Smith