Citizens dive into the water business

A group of Aptos, Calif., residents have signed an agreement to buy the Mar Vista Water Co., which serves 186 customers near Trout Gulch Creek. They feared a private operator, moving in after the current owner retires, would increase rates while decreasing service levels. The final purchase price for the company—to be renamed Trout Gulch Water—after the 120-day escrow period is up is expected to be around $350,000.

Worker safety report issued

Roswell, Ga.-based Kimberly-Clark Professional has released a report detailing various risks that shop workers are exposed to. For example, even shop towels that appear to be clean and unused can contain elevated levels of toxic heavy metals. (Kimberly-Clark sells disposable shop towels, which it recommends as being safer than reusable ones.) Visit www.wypall.com to read more.

MoDOT puts plans online

The Missouri DOT has launched its “electronic plans room” to give engineers, contractors, and suppliers online access to project documents. Expected to save the agency more than $200,000 annually in postage and paper costs, equipment leases, and maintenance agreements, the move lets companies looking to bid view, print, or download plans for free. Residents also have access. To view the plans, visit http://modot.indoxservices.com.

NYC gets drinking-water waiver

After an extensive review, the EPA has granted a 10-year extension permitting the city to continue drawing water from the Catskill/Delaware system without filtering it. While Safe Drinking Water Act requirements call for filtration of all surface-water sources, it also allows the EPA to grant a waiver if a water supplier demonstrates the effectiveness of its watershed control program, and if the unfiltered water meets quality standards.

Is a gas-tax increase on the horizon?

It could happen if U.S. House Transportation Chair James Oberstar (D-Minn.) manages to push through his bridge-repair funding proposal. The legislation would finance the repair or replacement of the nearly 6200 bridges deemed by the federal government as “structurally deficient” with a three-year increase in the gasoline tax that would raise $25 billion. President Bush nixed a similar proposal in the original version of SAFETEA-LU, the most recent federal highway bill.

Mentorship program launched

To alleviate the impending engineering “brain drain,” the Architecture, Construction, and Engineering Mentor Program is encouraging high school and college students to enter those fields. The program—produced by a consortium of experienced engineers, architects, and construction professionals—bolsters local outreach efforts with a national advertising campaign. Visit www.acementor.org to learn more.

Colorado county aims to eliminate waste

Boulder County has launched a zero-waste pilot program that combines new purchasing methods, reuse practices, recycling, and composting to reduce waste generated by four downtown buildings. The program is shooting for a diversion rate of 50% by 2010, and a 100% diversion rate by 2025.