JEA Takes Lead In Proactive Sewer, Water Maintenance

By Jeff Griffin, Senior Editor | September 2009 Vol. 64 No. 9

Most major American cities today face multiple challenges to provide basic water and sanitary services.

Short on funds and under Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) mandates, many municipalities struggle to keep systems operational and expand them to meet increasing demand. It must seem to many system owners and managers that they are too busy reacting to crises to ever develop a program within budget limitations to make necessary repairs, maintain operations and plan and fund construction for future needs.

In Florida, JEA, the city of Jacksonville's municipally owned utility, provides a textbook example of how modern planning tools correctly employed can be used to develop comprehensive programs and perform repairs and rehabilitation to keep services running smoothly and customers satisfied.

While the focus of this report is on JEA's sanitary sewer system, the authority also provides reclaim water and electrical services to Jacksonville and portions of three adjacent counties in the northeast section of the state. JEA is the eighth largest public electric utility in the United States and second largest water/wastewater utility in Florida.

The wastewater system serves 229,000 customers. It has a 124 million gallon per day (gpd) treatment capacity and accommodates an average daily flow of 78 million gpd. The system has 15 wastewater treatment facilities, 1,246 pump stations, five vacuum stations, 64 biosolids pelletizing facilities, 3,400 miles of pipe and 54,000 manholes.

Six Sigma

JEA planning is based on root cause analysis to determine the best use of available funding, said Scott Kelly, P.E., JEA vice president of water and wastewater systems. The word "root" in this context doesn't mean the roots that invade sewer pipes, but the primary sources or origins of problems.

"It is very complex," Kelly continued. "JEA incorporates a Six Sigma approach to problem solving and how to address problems. It involves the extensive use of statistical analysis, starting with locating problems all the way through estimating project costs."

Six Sigma is a business management strategy widely used to improve processes and identify and correct system deficiencies. JEA uses teams of full time specialists identified as "Black Belts" from within JEA, who are trained in the use of Six Sigma.

In 2007, JEA was recognized by the International Productivity and Quality Center (IPQC) for the best Six Sigma Project in a government agency. IPQC also recognized JEA in 2008 for Best Fast Track Project and, in 2009, for Best Service Project.

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