The Nation's Wastewater Infrastructure is Crumbling
In its annual Report Card for America's Infrastructure, the American Society of
Civil Engineers (ASCE) says the nation's 16,024 wastewater systems face enormous
needs. "Some sewer systems are 100 years old and many treatment facilities are
way past their recommended life expectancy." Giving the wastewater industry a
"D" grade, the report notes "our existing national wastewater infrastructure is
aging and in need of repair, replacement and upgrading."
Echoing Tom Jackson's warning of a crumbling infrastructure, Ken Kirk, executive
director of the Association of Metropolitan Sewerage Agencies said, "The nation
is facing a looming crisis regarding wastewater infrastructure. Without a
serious, long-term funding commitment from the federal government, the shortfall
will continue to grow in the coming years and we will have missed our
opportunity to secure the water quality gains for future generations."
Determining estimated costs for the necessary investment in the nation's clean
water infrastructure has been a task undertaken by the EPA's Office of Water and
the Water Infrastructure Network (WIN). In the recent WIN report and the EPA's
Clean Water and Drinking Water Infrastructure Gap Analysis, the wastewater
renewal and replacement need is estimated to range from $331 to $450 billion (in
Senior Environmental Scientist Robert Bastian in the EPA's Office of the Water
estimates the total U.S. wastewater flow at 35 bgd from 16,024 wastewater
treatment plants (WWTPs) serving 207.8 million Americans, or 75 percent of the
population. He estimates that 24 of the 35 bgd total flow comes from the 500
plants in heavily populated areas that pump more than 10 mgd.
Bastian says that these large collection systems, big trunk sewers and huge
pipes for handling peak flow periods encourage increased corrosion rates.
Frequently planned for a 50-year design life, these collection systems are often
20 to 30 years overdue for replacement, and communities are hard-pressed to keep
up with the demands for infrastructure maintenance.