How Do You Eat an Elephant?
How Do You Eat an Elephant?
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How Do You Eat an Elephant?
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New regulations often appear overwhelming. Maintaining community standards and protecting the public can come at a steep price or by way of a complicated path.

Even the biggest challenges can be overcome with a bite-sized approach. New regulations often appear overwhelming. Maintaining community standards and protecting the public can sometimes come at a steep price or by way of a complicated path.

Some challenges require the community to develop a comprehensive approach for meeting the regulatory requirements. But at other times, the answer takes the form of breaking down complex obligations into financially digestible pieces.

“They’re overwhelmed — there’s the financial burden, and then how do they get the resources to do all the work and meet these regulations,” says Cliff Cate, wastewater systems director at Burns & McDonnell.

It takes discernment to determine the appropriate response. Sometimes tailored advice can yield the most efficient plans.

Teaching You to Fish

Burns & McDonnell professionals are demonstrating this approach by assisting municipalities as they face new Inflow and Infiltration Control Program (IICP) regulations from the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRDGC).

“We’re here first to find reasonable, cost-effective ways to meet the regulations, and second, to teach you how to fish rather than feed you,” Cate says. “And that’s what our MWRDGC program is set up to do.”

The IICP regulations set a series of short- and long-term requirements for the satellite communities that constitute the MWRDGC. The short-term steps — addressing high-priority, high-risk areas — represent no less than 10 percent of each community’s system.

“We talk with them from a collaborative standpoint about their goals and objectives,” says Randy Patchett, regional water practice manager for Burns & McDonnell in Chicago.

The assistance began with a series of “get-started” training sessions designed to review the regulations and walk through a road map of what compliance would look like, step by step, over the long term. 

“If you break it down into quarters — or in the field, think seasonally — they can see what they need to do through a logical progression of steps,” Cate says.

Beyond the First Steps

Another key to this approach is helping communities take advantage of the “already completed work credit” that MWRDGC allows on the short-term requirements.

“The most successful element has been the ability to work with them and show they’ve already done things that in many cases they can take credit for,” Patchett says. 

Municipalities benefit from finding ways they have already met some requirements, Cate says: “Rather than offer to do everything, we say, ‘Let’s minimize the amount you need to spend to meet the requirements.’ ”

Each community is required to have a NASSCO-trained person on staff. Burns & McDonnell has a certified trainer who can provide the mandatory training to maintain uniform standards.

Other team members provide customized support. A financial checkup develops an individualized snapshot to establish what is possible, as well as whether additional revenue may be needed. 

Certified technicians can both supplement the communities’ often-stretched staff and provide training in the field. “We want them to be able to meet the regulations not just now, but into the future,” Cate says.

Finding Your Way

When any new, complex regulations are introduced, two reactions are likely to follow in rapid succession.

“The first thing they think of is the health and safety of their residents,” Cate says. “The second is, how are we going to pay for this?”

Taking complicated regulations and developing solutions that fit local needs, whether comprehensive or sequential: That’s a recipe for successful implementation and a lot less heartburn.

Flexible Response

The variety of options offered to address IICP requirements illustrates a customizable approach. These include:

  • Looking for “already completed work credit” opportunities
  • Get-started sessions
  • Financial checkups
  • NASSCO training
  • Supplemental staffing
  • Field training
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Cliff Cate Wastewater Systems Director 816-823-7128
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