Ross Valley Sanitary District Improves Capital Planning and Reduces Sanitary Sewer Overflows with Prioritized Maintenance

The Background

Ross Valley Sanitary District (RVSD) was established in May of 1899. Located in Northern California, the service area of RVSD includes the towns of Fairfax, San Anselmo, Ross, Larkspur, Bon Air, Sleepy Hollow, Kentfield, Kent Woodlands, Oak Manor, and Greenbrae. The District serves approximately 49,000 people.
RVSD operates and maintains 200 miles of collection sewer lines and 19 pumping stations that collect, pump, and transport approximately four million gallons of wastewater per day to the Central Marin Sanitation Agency for treatment. About 60% of the assets in RVSD’s system date back to the 1950s.
As a special enterprise district, RVSD has a strong commitment to resilient management of their sanitary sewer network. Their mission statement says:

“[Our] mission is to protect our customers with high-quality wastewater collection service, through a system that has no avoidable sanitary sewer overflows, at the lowest sustainable cost, in order to protect public health and the environment”

Stephen Miksis, Operations and Maintenance Manager, and John Vogel, Operations Supervisor, are champions of this mission and have led the adoption of a proactive asset management framework at RVSD. 

The Challenge

With over half of the underground sanitary network more than 50 years old, RVSD faced common challenges that come along with aging infrastructure assets.

“Historically, a run-to-fail model was adopted for most of RVSD’s existence,” Vogel noted. “We had high levels of infiltration and inflow (I&I), which led to RVSD having the most sanitary sewer overflows (SSOs) in Marin County,” he added.

The District developed a Sewer System Replacement Master Plan (SS-RMP) to address repair and replacement needs. However, asset information silos – or missing asset information altogether – were an issue in executing the requirements of the SSRMP.

Manual record-keeping methods such as paper maps, stickers, and handwritten reports left the District trying to keep up with failure events with reactive maintenance.

RVSD implemented a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) to help them catalog assets and conduct CCTV inspections. “We wanted to identify problem areas so that we could prioritize and track our resources,” Vogel said. While a major step in the right direction, the initial effort for digital maintenance planning was too little, too late.

“Following a series of regulatory events aimed to resolve the SSO issues at RVSD, things came to a head in 2013 with a Cease and Desist Order (CDO) issued by the California Regional Water Quality Control Board,” Miksis explained.

We wanted to identify problem areas so that we could prioritize and track our resources. - Operations Supervisor, Ross Valley Sanitary District

The Solution

To adopt a proactive asset prioritization and capital planning tool, and to resolve the CDO, RVSD supplemented their technology platforms with InfoAsset, by Innovyze.

“We broke down our asset management philosophy into five steps: inventory, define, evaluate, plan, and implement,” Miksis said.

“We developed an asset inventory, performed thorough condition assessments, and used advanced risk analysis to help us execute a more proactive rehabilitation and replacement program,” he added.

With a software stack that now included a CMMS, an asset performance and risk modeling tool, as well as mobile work order systems, the team at RVSD was able to digitalize and unify their asset information.

“It took a lot to develop our asset management framework at RVSD,” Miksis noted. “Everything from a competent and trained staff, to mobile apps and public outreach – all of these factors have contributed to our improved capital program.”

RVSD can manage all their work orders in the CMMS so that they can schedule pipe cleans, pump station work, lateral inspections, pipe repairs and more. They can keep track of incident reports and analyze CCTV data to identify where SSOs may be likely to occur.

Their risk model prioritizes the repair and replacement of assets so that as they reach a stage of criticality, they are proactively identified and fixed before an incident can occur.

The Result

As of August 2019, RVSD has completed approximately $70 million in capital improvement projects. They are actively tracking both Grade 5 and Grade 4 Structural Defects and have repaired nearly half with in-house point repair crew and another 175 with in-house pipe replacement. The rate of replacements in their system has increased from 150-200 per year to 500-600 per year.

“We now have communication throughout all levels and departments enabling us to make defendable data-driven decisions,” Vogel said.

“RVSD has exceeded the requirements of the CDO,” Miksis said.

The District has achieved an above-average annual pipe rehabilitation rate of 6.6 miles per year, has adopted a Lateral Ordinance, secured financial resources, completed an Infrastructure Asset Management Plan (IAMP) and Sanitary Sewer Master Plan (SSMP), as well as performed a comprehensive assessment of their linear and vertical infrastructure for pump stations, force mains, and large diameter pipes.

“To share some key lessons; good data, systems, and analysis help us apply the best method for asset management – one that is performance-based. Investing in the right people, tools, and collaborating with stakeholders enables us to get the most from our resources. And finally, holding a consistent vision kept us on track and initiated a cultural shift across every level of our organization,” Miksis said in closing.

We now have communication throughout all levels and departments enabling us to make defendable data-driven decisions. - Operations Supervisor, Ross Valley Sanitary District

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