Category Archives: Utilities

Water and sewer utilities – Medians – Financial performance signals continued stability

Source: Steven Goodman-Leibof, Matt Jaffe, Orlie Prince, Leonard Jones, Moody’s, Sector Profile, Water and sewer utilities – US, May 29, 2019
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Municipal water and sewer utilities continue to demonstrate a stable to modestly improving financial performance, according to our fiscal 2017 medians data. Operating results are primarily driven by utility systems’ (water, sewer and combined enterprises) willingness and ability to raise rates to support debt service coverage and liquidity. Declining asset conditions across the sector, however, indicate an underinvestment in capital infrastructure. These trends are reflected in our stable outlook for the water and sewer utilities sector…..

Endotoxin and Hydrogen Sulphide Exposure and Effects on the Airways Among Waste Water Workers in Sewage Treatment Plants and Sewer Net System

Source: Kari K Heldal, Åse D Austigard, Kristin H Svendsen, Elin Einarsdottir, Lars Ole Goffeng, Liv Ingun Sikkeland, Karl-Christian Nordby, Annals of Work Exposures and Health, Volume 63, Issue 4, May 2019
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From the abstract:
The purpose of this study is to investigate whether airborne exposure to endotoxins, hydrogen sulphide (H2S), and inhalable particles negatively impacts the respiratory system and inflammatory blood proteins in sewage plant and sewer net system workers and, further, to determine dose-response associations between exposure and health outcomes.

In total, 148 waste water workers (WWWs) from urban and rural sewage plants and the sewer net system participated. One hundred and twenty-one workers were exposed to sewage, 46 from sewage plants and 75 from the sewer net system. Twenty-seven workers were characterized as little or not exposed and served as an internal reference group. Personal inhalable samples were analysed for endotoxins (Limulus assay), particle dust (gravimetrically) and Salmonella and Yersinia spp. (polymerase chain reaction method, PCR). Levels of H2S were measured using personal electro chemical sensors. Intercellular adhesion molecule 1 (ICAM-1), interleukin 8 (IL-8), surfactant protein D (SP-D), club cell protein 16 (CC16), and macrophage inflammatory protein (MIP) were determined by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay and C-reactive protein (CRP) by an HS-MicroCRP assay in blood samples.

Workers in sewage plants were exposed to significantly higher levels of endotoxins compared to workers in the sewer net system [median 55 EU m−3 (4–262 EU m−3) and median 27 EU m−3 (1–304 EU m−3), respectively]. The estimated H2S index showed higher values when working in the sewer net system [median 3.1 (0.5–78.1)] compared to workers at the sewage plants [median 1.3 (0.5–9.3)], and the most excessive exposure was collecting sewage from cesspools (273 p.p.m.). No viable airborne Salmonella and Yersinia spp. were detected. The exposed workers had significantly higher CRP compared to the referents [1.2 µg ml−1 (0.1–19.0 µg ml−1) and 0.8 µg ml−1 (0.1–5.0 µg ml−1), respectively] and lower forced expiratory volume in 1 s (FEV1)% [92.6%, standard deviation (SD) 14.6 and 102.0%, SD 10.1, respectively], with numbers given as mean and SD. The serum concentration of CRP was significantly and negatively associated with FEV1% (β = −7.7, R2 = 0.05) and forced vital capacity % (β = −8.5, R2 = 0.08), and the serum concentration of ICAM-1 with the estimated exposure to H2S (β = −19.9, R2 = 0.07).

Despite moderate levels of endotoxin and H2S exposure, the results indicate an impact of these agents on lung function and the adhesion molecule ICAM-1, and a low-grade systemic inflammation was indicated in increased levels of CRP.

Water and sewer affordability in the United States

Source: Manuel P. Teodoro, AWWA Water Science, Vol. 1 no. 2, March/April 2019
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From the abstract:
The ability of low‐income families to pay for basic water and sewer services is a subject of increasing concern. Large‐scale assessments of affordability across large numbers of American utilities are rare, however, and are limited by poor measurement and biased samples. The present study uses improved metrics and data from an original, representative sample of water and sewer utilities in the United States to calculate the affordability of basic single‐family residential water and sewer service for low‐income households. Results indicate that low‐income households must spend an average of 9.7% of their disposable income and/or work 9.5 h at minimum wage to pay for basic monthly water and sewer service but also that these values vary considerably across the country. Community‐level demographic and economic data are used to identify some correlates of affordability. Region, utility size, and local income inequality emerge as strong correlates of affordability.

Organizational Dissolutions in the Public Sector: An Empirical Analysis of Municipal Utility Water Districts

Source: Tima T Moldogaziev, Tyler A Scott, Robert A Greer, Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, Advance Articles, February 17, 2019
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From the abstract:
The proliferation of special-purpose districts and the increasing complexity of local governance systems has been well documented. However, even as new special districts are created, others are being dissolved. This article investigates the extent to which both internal and external factors are at play in municipal utility district dissolutions. Decades of existing empirical studies on private, nonprofit, and interest organizations show that factors internal to organizations, such as institutional structure and resources are significant covariates of organizational mortality. Equally important are external factors, where density dependence and resource partitioning pressures influence organizational survival. Public sector organizations, such as special-purpose water districts, operate in relatively well monitored and statutorily constrained environments, however. Drawing upon the organizational mortality literature, we examine when and why municipal utility water districts that operate in fragmented service delivery systems dissolve. The results show that the relationship between internal and external organizational variables and special-purpose organizational dissolutions is more nuanced than existing research suggests.

U.S. Public Power and Electric Cooperative Utilities 2019 Sector Outlook: Ratings Stability Persists In A Difficult Era

Source: S&P Global Ratings, January 22, 2019
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S&P Global Ratings believes the U.S. local government sector remains stable and resilient for now. Local governments benefited from positive economic trends in 2018 (such as higher GDP growth and low unemployment), but 2019 already show some signs of slowing…

U.S. Municipal Water And Sewer Utilities 2019 Sector Outlook: Stable, Although Potential Disruptions Are Not Making Planning Easy

Source: S&P Global Ratings, January 15, 2019
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As the calendar flipped to 2019, many market participants did not use the word “happy” to precede “new year.” January unfolded with a federal government shutdown, the uncertainty related to a new Congress, and a potential debt ceiling due date by August….

US Survey Reveals Gaps, Opportunities for Health, Safety, and Environment Programs

Source: Frank Milligan, Journal AWWA, Vol. 111 no. 1, January 2019

Overall findings related to health, safety, and environment programs and practices are encouraging, but there are opportunities for significant improvement.

In today’s litigious environment, where the consequences of employer safety decisions have never been greater, there is an ever‐increasing need for comprehensive, effective health and safety programs. These organizational initiatives have three primary goals: reducing potential risks and costs; improving workplace morale and performance; and minimizing work‐related injuries, illnesses, and stress. While the majority of US water utilities now have formal health, safety, and environment (HS&E) programs in place, these programs require continuous evaluation to ensure that their metrics and measures are consistent with current best practices….