Better Planning Can Reduce Size of Wastewater Treatment Facilities, Saving Millions in Construction Costs

Gao ID: CED-82-82 July 8, 1982

GAO conducted a review to evaluate the effectiveness of the facility planning process for constructing wastewater treatment plants and to determine whether changed conditions, such as increases or decreases in population projections or industrial flow for proposed service areas, were recognized and incorporated into the facility plans before the plant was designed or before construction started.

GAO estimated that about $30 million in grant funds could be saved if the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) 1978 facility planning regulations were applied to the 13 facility plans reviewed by GAO. These facilities were developed under pre-1978 regulations, but are not yet under construction. Current regulations limit the engineering judgment in calculating domestic and industrial flow allowances. However, under the 1978 regulations, EPA stipulated that state population projections would be the sole basis for estimating future population levels to be served by a proposed treatment system. If the 1978 regulations were applied, 11 of those 13 proposed plants would be smaller and 2 plants would be larger. The Municipal Wastewater Treatment Construction Grant Amendments of 1981 provide that no federal grant will be made to construct treatment works which provide reserve capacity in excess of the needs which existed on the date of grant approval. In addition, the amendments reduce federal participation from 75 to 55 percent of the construction costs. Many facets of facility planning are not covered by guidance or regulation. As a result, engineering judgment, which varies considerably from project to project, becomes the deciding factor in determining plant size and project cost. Additional criteria are needed to assist in the determination of proper plant size and to provide plan reviewers a basis on which to evaluate the adequacy of a plan.


Our recommendations from this work are listed below with a Contact for more information. Status will change from "In process" to "Open," "Closed - implemented," or "Closed - not implemented" based on our follow up work.

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