A Program Of The

City Of Columbia

Introducing the CW2020 Program

January 16, 2013

Over the last month, the City of Columbia’s Department of Public Utilities has begun to role out a new program that will result in the rebuilding and modernization of the entire Wastwater Collection and treatment system. As many have heard across the country, the nation’s infrastructure is getting old and crumbling and is in need of major upgrades. The City of Columbia’s infrastructure is aging as well. Some of our wastewater collection and treatment systems have served us for well over 100 years in many areas of the City and now need to be substantially upgraded to meet the growing needs of our community and our citizens. In addition, the time has come to upgrade the overall management, maintence and operational systems that we use to manage our infrastructure, in essence deploying new state of the art management practices that will ensure that the City’s investments are maximized and protected for the next hundred years. 

Columbia’s infrastructure including our sewers is a lifeline for the City and the foundation of our economy that needs to be protected. The sewer system is important to the City preventing untreated sewage and stormwater from contaminating our neighborhoods, surrounding water, and green spaces. Failing and clogged pipes can shut down the flow of the sewers and cause backups and overflows that can flow into our homes, neighborhoods, and rivers, causing potential health hazards to our environment and our personal surroundings. Our quality of life in Columbia is dependent on a sound and efficiently operating system.

Additionally, The Clean Water Act and regulatory requirements enforced by the SCDHEC and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have been contributing factors to Columbia recognizing and understanding the need to adhere to a plan for our future. Clean Water 2020 is a program with a vision which will be implemented over the next seven to 10 years.

The Clean Water 2020 Program was introduced to Wastewater and Engineering staff in December of 2012. The CW2020 mission is to “provide the City and its customers with a sustainable, well-maintained, and reliable wastewater system that fully complies with regulatory requirements. The Program implementation will be efficiently, well-documented, and effectively communicated to meet internal and external stakeholder expectations.”

While this program now has an official name, CW2020 initiatives have actually been in progress for several years. Sewer overflows and backups peaked back in 2008, and since then the city staff has taken the task at hand to seriously reduce SSOs. These improvements and reductions are the result of a combination of things and include educating the public about their responsibilities. We have also initiated regulatory requirements for restaurants and industries’ fats, oils and grease reductions, and are implementing a more proactive inspection and cleaning program, as well as standardizing the overall maintenance program.

As SSOs are continually being reduced, Columbia City Council has recently contracted with CDM Smith to serve as the Program Manager for CW2020. CDM Smith will be working with the City to develop updated Management, Operations, and Maintenance procedures, reflecting Industry Best Practices. CDM Smith will be serving as an extension to City staff, supplementing internal capacity and will be responsible for assisting the City in the implementation of CW2020. Their role will include tracking schedule and budgets related to CW2020; provide technical support and capacity; provide additional staff to help manage the temporary increase in workload; develop design and construction standards; defining work processes; recommending  improvements; and developing tools and information systems to assist City staff.

While the saying “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” may have worked in the past, Columbia’s wastewater staff can be proud to say they recognize that just because it’s not “broke,” doesn’t mean it doesn’t deserve some attention anyway. With this preventive maintenance attitude and with the CW2020 program, the City will continue to reduce overflows, and provide all of the areas stakeholders with a clean, healthy environment. 

Kick off meetings with many of the Departments employees have already been initiated and the CW2020 team will be meeting with many of our employees to get further input into the ongoing development of the program. Your participation and input are important to the success of the program and we look forward to working with all of our employees to make our vision a reality.