Programs
Joint Sewer Inspection and Maintenance Bids

In the early 2000s, the Allegheny County Sanitary Authority (ALCOSAN) and its member municipalities were subjected to intense scrutiny by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PA DEP) for compliance with the Federal Clean Water Act.  The ultimate determination that sanitary sewer contaminants were adversely affecting area creeks, streams and rivers mandated corrective action.  For the municipalities, this resulted in their entering into consent decrees which created a series of obligations that dictated the examination and maintenance of their sanitary sewer systems.  This multi-year commitment required that initially an assessment of the municipal sanitary sewer system would be made and that immediate corrective action of certain discovered problems would be undertaken.  This was to be followed by the undertaking of routine inspection and maintenance activities of a portion of the sanitary sewer system each year for an extended period of time.

Many SHACOG member municipalities are affiliated with ALCOSAN.  Already exploring the possibility of building on the proven advantages of joint purchasing, the SHACOG Board of Directors had already ordered a survey of the municipal members to determine interest in pursuing  a joint bid for pipe lining.  A process that involves inserting liners through the manholes, it is frequently used to preclude disruption of lawns, driveways and street surfaces, as well as to resolve many problems where the depths of sewers are deemed excessive.  Since research already revealed that a quantity purchase, premised on standardized specifications, could produce significant savings when compared to an individual municipal bid, it appeared to be a natural candidate for a multi-municipal bid.  The results of the survey were unanimous and a program was formalized to receive bids for this activity on a routine basis. 

An Engineers Working Group, consisting of the engineer from each municipality, was established to develop the common specifications.  Recognizing that closed circuit televising and inspection, commonly referred to as CCTV inspection, was needed to properly identify the sections of sanitary sewer to be lined, the engineers developed those specifications first followed by those for pipe lining.  Validation of the entire process was had when the first bid for CCTV inspection produced a thirty (30%) percent savings when compared to the best individual municipal bid in the area.  Following that success, as the obligations of the consent decree required, the bids were expanded to include point (open cut) repairs and preventive maintenance activities.

Now into its second decade, this program follows an annual schedule that sees the release of bids for CCTV inspection, pipe lining, point repairs and preventive maintenance at designated times throughout the year.  For each bid, SHACOG canvasses its members to determine the participants, gathers estimated quantities for the work to be accomplished, refines the standard specifications for the particular project through its engineer, advertises the undertaking, releases the bid, and procures bid concurrence from the participants when a low bidder is identified.  Unique to these joint bids, however, is that SHACOG is the official contracting entity so it enters into the contract with the low bidder.  Work in the individual participating municipalities is supervised by that municipality’s engineer, but after approval, all payments for work completed are made through SHACOG.   In addition, therefore, to reduced cost based on volume, the municipalities also save through the efficiency of single point contract administration.  Although still of most interest to consent decree municipalities, the bids are open to all SHACOG municipalities that have a need for any of the services that are the subject of the various bids.

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