UPDATE ON THE CITY’S AGING INFRASTRUCTURES
By Ralph Zeltman
As previously reported in our August/September 2017 Imperial Point Association Newsletter, the City of Fort Lauderdale appointed an Infrastructure Task Force Committee (ITFC) pursuant to Resolution 17-46 adopted on 7 March 2017. I am honored to have been selected by the City Commission to serve as the civil engineer committee member along with eight (8) other committee members. Our objectives have been to review and examine the conditions and needs of the City’s aging infrastructures, the timetable for their being repaired and/or replaced, as well as the associated cost and financing alternatives for same. The City’s existing infrastructures include, but not limited to: roads, bridges, sidewalks, airports, seawalls, stormwater drainage, wellfields, water transmission and distribution mains, wastewater collection and force mains, treatment plants, parks and all City facilities and structures.
The wastewater gravity collection sewer system is in the worst condition with respect to the other City’s utility systems. The State of Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) has mandated the City to repair/replace many of the failed wastewater mains and pump stations. The City has begun an aggressive “Go Big, Go Fast” program to comply with the FDEP Consent Order as well as other projects requiring immediate attention. The older wastewater gravity collection mains have severe damage causing road depressions and sink holes caused by the undermining of the road subgrade material and sandy soil is being constantly depleted when the groundwater drains them into the damaged sewers 24/7. These damaged sanitary gravity mains, some of which have collapsed, must be repaired immediately to end the costly repetitive road damage, not to mention the damage caused by the sand grinding away at the pump stations and force mains. The groundwater being mixed in with the raw sewage increases the volume of the influent being pumped into the wastewater treatment plant increasing the treatment cost to the utility customers. Wastewater treatment plants will be evaluated to upgrade and increase their efficiency of the treatment processes and disposal methods, including reducing the objectionable poisonous hydrogen sulfide (H2S) gaseous odors.
The water distribution and transmission systems generally have the same deficiencies inherent with most other utility systems consisting of undersized diameter water mains; dead end mains located in cul-de-sacs; rusting deteriorated old mains and those mains located at the outer extremities of the water distribution system having low water flows and pressures. The low flow and pressure water mains being furthest away from the water treatment plant(s) typically require larger diameter transmission mains to remedy this deficiency. Water main systems are designed not just to provide domestic water consumption, but mostly to provide firefighting capability at the fire hydrants and other fire suppression systems as recommended by the Insurance Services Office (ISO). The City is working with the Fire Department to conduct periodic fire hydrant flow testing and maintenance of same to assure the water flows and pressures are adequate to fight fires when they occur. Raw water wellfields and water treatment plants will also be evaluated to improve the quality of the finished potable water and reduce the caustic nitrification and other deleterious unhealthy properties from our water supply.
The stormwater drainage systems consist of two basic types generally used throughout the City to alleviate stormwater street flooding. The first type is a “positive” drainage system that is more expensive to design and construct consisting of catch basin structures connected with collection mains that eventually manifolds into an outfall pipe to discharge the stormwater into a canal, lake or other type of retention area. The second type is an “exfiltration” drainage system that is less expensive to construct and consist of individual catch basin structures connected with one or two lengths of slotted pipe with exfiltration rock wrapped in filter fabric around the slotted portion of the pipe allowing the stormwater to discharge and percolate down into the groundwater. Both drainage systems require periodic maintenance by vacuum cleaning out accumulated grass cuttings and other debris collected within the catch basin that clogs the pipe openings within these catch basin structures preventing the stormwater to be discharged through their respective stormwater outfall structures. The exfiltration drainage system requires more maintenance in the replacement of the clogged slotted pipe and exfiltration rock when the pipe slots and exfiltration rock voids become clogged with debris. One method to reduce debris clogging of the connected pipes is to insert inverted baffles into the catch basins over the pipe openings to extend the time between maintenance of these systems. A separate problem not associated with stormwater is the existing seawalls at the coastal waterway canals that need to be elevated to prevent the high “King” tides from cascading over them creating severe seawater flooding problems in the roads and surrounding properties.
The roads and bridges are other important infrastructures that are heavily trafficked by an abundance of vehicles all shapes, weights and sizes. The City vehicular traffic has become more congested over the years as a result of the increased higher density populated developments that have been constructed. Normally additional lanes cannot be added because of the width limitations of the existing rights-of-ways. Mass transit is an alternative solution when cities allow high density build-out beyond the original land development plan. Bridges are becoming more susceptible to corrosion from the aforementioned high tides as it exposes the steel rebar inside the concrete members to experience more corrosive seawater that diminishes the structural strength.
The City facilities and structures (buildings) are other infrastructures where design codes and specifications have become more stringent over the years requiring some of these buildings to be retrofitted where possible to meet the updated requirements. Fire suppression systems, elevator safety enhancements, storm windows and wind resistant roofs with air conditioning units strapped down are other areas of concern to avoid severe wind damage from our semi-tropical climate conditions. Parks and recreational sites are also being evaluated to provide safer and friendly usable equipment for all ages to participate for their enjoyment.
Residents are invited to attend and participate at these ITFC Meetings generally held on the 8th floor at City Hall scheduled from 2 p.m. until 5 p.m. on the first Monday of each month. If you wish to attend these meetings, please check with the City’s website or customer service at 954-828-8000 to verify the meeting location/date/time.
The City Commission will be holding a Joint Infrastructure Meeting to take questions from residents on December 6, 2017 from 12:00 noon to 2:00 p.m. at City Hall.
Ralph Zeltman, Board of Directors
Imperial Point Association, Inc.