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7/16/2013 | Construction Blog, Kaplin Stewart Blog

The Engineering News Record recently reported that the push on public health concerns and environmental issues has caused the Environmental Protection Agency to begin imposing more stringent rules on the presence of organic and inorganic contaminants in drinking water. The American Water Works Association indicates it expects even more regulations in the industry soon as the EPA races to get them out before President Obama leaves office in 2016.

The forthcoming regulations are likely to drive up the cost of construction at a time when many believe it will hurt the already struggling industry economically. Increased engineering and the use of sophisticated “filtering” approaches will lead to more cost to build projects and more overhead to operate them. Some believe the cost of meeting the new drinking water standards will be over a billion dollars. Municipal drinking water facilities will likely be the hardest hit.

Some of the “contaminants” being addressed are already in wide usage in water treatment facilities. Percholate is one example of a substance that, if regulated more harshly, could require the industry to make major modifications to the way it operates. This would impact the treatment operations of a facility by a number in the millions of dollars. Others substances presently in drinking water may not be addressed for several years, which could allow more time for adjustments and a smaller economic impact.

Those in the construction industry will have to wait to see how aggressive the EPA will be on the issue. If past actions are any indication, however, the rules will be far reaching, require significant changes, and greatly impact the cost structure of that sector of the construction market.