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Financial Assistance Programs: Water Quality
A Community's Guide to the Utah Water Quality Project Assistance Program
Chapter 6: Building Your Project
Now that your loan has been awarded, you are ready to proceed with construction. After all the hard work has been done to get to this point, it is important to remember that building the facilities correctly can make the difference between a successful and an unsuccessful project. Also, construction rarely proceeds exactly as planned during design, so changes are to be expected. However, changes can add up to increased costs, so it is also important for you to monitor progress during construction and not leave everything in the hands of your engineering firm.
To get your project off to a good start, your construction management engineer will usually set up a pre-construction meeting. At this meeting, your engineer will discuss your respective roles during construction, a schedule for regular progress meetings, any special provisions in the contract documents or specifications, how change orders will be handled, and how to coordinate with the treatment plant operator if work is being done at an existing wastewater treatment plant. Utah DWQ, as well as other funding agencies, is often invited to participate at this meeting.
Construction Progress Visits
During construction, DWQ will visit your construction site to observe the work being performed. During these progress visits, we will review the construction status, get an update on the construction schedule, discuss the status of any project changes, check to see if the standards designed to prevent environmental impacts are being implemented as required, and make sure that inspection is being provided by the construction engineering firm. Normally, these visits are scheduled to coincide with scheduled meetings with you, your engineering firm, and your contractor. If there are any concerns following the visit, we will follow up with you and your engineering firm to discuss these issues, and will also help you find solutions and develop a schedule for correction. These site visits are an excellent opportunity for you to ask questions and receive assistance from us during construction.
Operation and Maintenance Program Follow Up
Before you received your loan, we worked with you to develop a plan for your O & M program. Now that construction has started, it is time to implement the plan. We will have meetings during construction as scheduled in the plan to help you develop your O & M program and implement it. By including us in these meetings, we can contribute technical assistance if you need it, help identify minor problems before they become major ones and help you to keep from overlooking the O & M program during the busy construction period.
Changes to your original project design are bound to occur during construction. These changes may result for any number of reasons such as an error or omission in the original detail plans and specifications or site conditions that were not anticipated during design. Many of these things are to be expected in a complex construction project. All of these changes will require review and approval from Utah DWQ.
Construction Change Orders
A change order is the legal document that is used to change the terms of your contract with the contractor after the bid contracts have been signed. We review all change orders for your project to determine if the proposed change is technically and environmentally acceptable, and if the work included in the change order is eligible for funding through the WQPAP. If the change order satisfies these two items, we will approve and fund the work from the contingency line item of your loan. If the change order satisfies only the technical and environmental review, but is not eligible for funding, the work can be completed, but another source of funding will have to be used.
Engineering Agreement Changes
Depending on the type of change to your engineering agreement, the change may be in the form of an agreement letter or a completely revised contract. If there is any change in cost or a change in the substance of the contract, the revisions are to be sent to DWQ or review. Again, the change is reviewed to determine whether it is acceptable, and if the work included is eligible for funding. Increases in cost are funded from the contingency line item of your loan.
After you complete construction, you (or your official community representative) must notify us in writing when you initiate operation of your new facilities. After this date, you have the responsibility to monitor the operation of your new facilities for one full year. This year is intended to give you time to learn about and operate the new facilities and identify and work out any problems that arise after you start operating. After this one-year period is over, you must certify whether your project operates as intended during planning and design and that your User Charge System is generating enough money to cover expenses. DWQ refers to this requirement as the Performance Certification.
The certification you need to submit is included in your loan agreement. Your certification will indicate whether or not the facilities are operating as intended. If your project is not operating as intended, you need to indicate what you are doing to correct the problem and provide a schedule of when corrections will be completed.
Financial Management Over the Life of the Loan
Once your project is complete, we will check back with you on your financial management of the system. Your WQPAP loan agreement requires you to maintain the approved User Charge System for the life of the loan. Conducting an annual review of the User Charge System will let you see if your wastewater service charges are still adequate. The service charges must generate enough revenue to operate, maintain, and replace equipment or parts of your system, to support a capital improvements program if your community has one, and to repay the WQPAP loan.
Also, you will receive a request from DWQ for a report on the income of your wastewater treatment system. The request will come with your July semi-annual bill, to be submitted with your July payment.
Congratulations! Your project is finally complete and operating, but now you have new wastewater treatment facilities to maintain and operate. Collecting sufficient revenues to properly operate your system, not to mention pay back your WQPAP loan, is essential for the long-term success of your project. Although your project is done from a construction standpoint, Utah EPA is always here as a resource for your questions and problems. We can help with operational questions or questions about your rate system and finances.
Building Your Project Checklist
Things that should be done by the end of Building Your Project:
- Instituted your Operation & Maintenance Program;
- Enacted your approved User Charge System and Sewer Use Ordinance;
- Notified DWQ when your project initiated operation;
- Operated and evaluated your project for a one-year period;
- Certified to DWQ whether your project is operating as intended, or if it is not, and that you are taking the necessary steps to correct any problems; and
- Signed a contract with your engineering firm for construction supervision and initial operational assistance.
Things you should be working on by the end of Building Your Project:
- Collecting revenues.
- Repaying your WQPAP loan.
- Operating and maintaining your new facilities.