For years, the City of Gulfport, Mississippi, knew they were missing out on unbilled, under‐billed or unaccounted for sewer processing fees. But without knowing a reliable way to measure the sewer flow in their particular situation, they were at a loss.
Referring to one of the City's largest customers — a large governmental agency with over 5,000 employees — Mike Necaise, CFO and Contract Administrator with the City of Gulfport, reflected, "I remember posing the question to a local engineering firm about why we couldn’t measure the sewer flow that is being discharged (from this customer).The answer was that there was no good technology out there at that point in time that they could provide to us."
Unwilling to accept that answer, Gulfport hired Water Company of America (WCA) to figure out a solution. For over 23 years, WCA has been helping municipalities recover lost revenue by identifying sewer flow to wastewater treatment plants that, for a myriad of reasons, goes unmeasured. And the first thing Gulfport asked WCA to do was to review and scrutinize the integrity and accuracy of this large customers' billing.
For over 30 years the City had been relying on data provided by their customer— the large governmental agency — to bill them for their sewer processing fees. According to Necaise, "With our long‐standing agreement with our customer we basically have relied on their equipment to measure the flow of the water to calculate their own processing fees." And making the arrangement even less balanced, the data used for billing was based on the amount of water being pumped from wells for use by the customer. In other words, it was based on the flow going into the customer, and not the waste coming out. So it never accounted for any other inflow or infiltration. Knowing that new technologies could, indeed, gather billing data directly from effluent locations, WCA provided Gulfport their recommendation: Data Delivery Services (DDS).
Steve Hooper of WCA explains, "I was at an Alabama & Mississippi WEA/AWWA Joint Conference and I was digging for new technologies (that would meet Gulfport's needs). I met with Hach and learned what DDS is all about. I felt that the application of DDS was a natural fit for the projects we would be working on with (Gulfport)."
DDS is a highly efficient flow monitoring service where, for a fixed monthly fee, Hach provides all of the equipment, data transmission, and technical support customers need to acquire flow data—delivered in real-time so customers can immediately perform data analysis. Through the DDS Preferred Program, Hach even handles all equipment installations and maintenance, removing the challenges inherent with flow monitoring from custome'’s already overflowing plates. This program was ideal for WCA's project because it provided an unbiased solution to all parties involved. All equipment and maintenance was provided by a 3rd party (Hach) and both Gulfport and the customer had access to the real-time untouched data. Following WCA's recommendation, the City of Gulfport implemented a successful short-term DDS ‘pilot’ program in May of 2012 and then, pleased with the results, expanded the program for a full 3 years. The set-up included wireless Hach FL900 Series Flow Loggers for automatic, real-time data transmission and non-contact FLO-DAR AV Sensors. These FLO-DARs, positioned downstream from effluent discharge locations, collect flow data with a high degree of accuracy. And because Hach has a 95% monitoring uptime guarantee, Gulfport could be certain that their billing data would be correct and completely accessible.
Necaise and the City of Gulfport are very impressed with the results. Necaise said, "We feel that it's possibly going to be several hundred thousand dollars a year in enhanced revenue with DDS. Several hundred thousand dollars a year is significant to us!"
This increased revenue will allow the City's Public Works Department to more accurately plan for sewer capacity and, with an aged infrastructure, help them accommodate future growth by upgrading their collection system and treatment plant and remain compliant with their EPA permit. Moving forward, Gulfport's DDS program will continue to help them understand the origins of their sewer flow and more accurately and efficiently plan for collection system changes.
As Steve Hooper from Water Company of America says, "If you understand from where cost originates and can quantify it, you can better plan for future capital improvement programs. For this very large customer alone, we are talking about a very significant increase in revenue that the City will be able to realize. And they are going to be able to put that revenue to work."