Game changer: Environmental regulations and funding

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In 1986, Thomas Grisa, PE, began his career working in the Chicago/Milwaukee areas for two engineering consulting firms. He conducted sanitary-sewer evaluations, facilities planning studies, and wastewater treatment plant analyses. Seven years later, he was hired by the City of Wauwautosa, Wis., as assistant city engineer. In 1999, Grisa accepted his current position as director of public works for the City of Brookfield, Wis.

THOMAS GRISA, PE

DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC WORKS
BROOKFIELD, WIS.

Thomas Grisa believes that increased water-related regulations and decreased funding for compliance will most shape the profession. River and lake quality is affected by nearly every aspect of public works, he says, from snow and ice control to erosion control to development.

“In Wisconsin, compliance with just one environmental regulation — phosphorous control — by municipalities who own separate storm sewer systems (MS4s) and wastewater treatment plants has been estimated to cost billions of dollars,” Grisa says.

“Add to that the growing list of other pollutants of concern, and the cost of compliance skyrockets into the trillions nationwide. Plus, the incremental tightening of existing limits and regulation of more pollutants make upgrades quickly obsolete and drive up capital and operating costs exponentially.”

More and tougher standards demand innovations like green infrastructure, water-quality trading, and working with regulators to adopt watershed permits. Partnerships with private-sector agencies, developers, and foundations may further close the funding gap.

“Regulations and funding formulas are changing. Public works needs to change as well. Innovation, cooperation, and perspiration will be necessary to meet these challenges.”