PRESENTER: Our next
speaker is John Sullivan, who’s the Chief Engineer with
the Boston Water and Sewer Commission. And I think John’s going to
talk a little bit about design criteria. As we talked about before,
the design criteria based on past events, how do you
incorporate climate change projections into
that, and then how do you scale your infrastructure
appropriately to account for that. So John. JOHN SULLIVAN:
Thank you very much. I won’t talk about
design criteria because it’s the afternoon,
and you just ate lunch. But I didn’t want
her to know that. We’re just going to go over
a little bit of some climate adaptation issues
we’ve been dealing with in the city of Boston. The title does say
Water and Sewer. Good news in the water system,
it’s all fed by gravity, so we don’t care if
electricity goes down. There’ll be plenty of water, so
that when you’re washing down the walls after you get
flooded, it’s available. And it’ll work. So fire fighting will work. That is very important,
if issues occur, is the fire, is that you have
water to put out the fire. So on all our strategies,
all our studies, you’re in good shape
with the water. That’s the only positive
news I have today. The biggest problem
we’re finding right now is the ability to talk to
people about something that’s going to happen in the future. And it is going to happen,
but when it’s going to happen. So we give a sense
of urgency, but we don’t put panic in place. And it is extremely difficult. So today, you’ll
get some more slides that we’ve been
playing around with to see if you look at them
with a big quizzical, what the hell’s he talking about. Because we’re talking
to the public. And we’ve been going
around the neighborhoods. We’ve been showing
them what’s going on. And some people
get real nervous. Some people don’t care
at all because they’re on the third floor. But in general, the owners
are saying, should I sell now? What do I do? Where do I flee? We’re saying, you don’t do that. We’re working on systems
to get out of it. So I always bring this
up because everybody in our department wants to
show you graphs and slides. We have more graphs
than you care about. They’ll all be
available in September, so look forward to that. But these are projections
in the future. And it’s our best guess
at what’s going to happen. The key is, keep measuring
and keep running those models and seeing what’s happening. So this is the Commission. We operate within the confines
of the city of Boston only. We purchase all our
water from the MWRA, and we give them back
all the spent water. And so all we do is run
pipes– Pipes “R” Us. So we’re just inside the city. That’s a key point. Because when you talk about
the climate adaptations, it’s the region
that gets affected. And we need to be
talking to each other. So any of you out there that
are working on the same studies, and we all work together, if
you see the slides that I stole from you, it’s because
we’re working together. [LAUGHTER] JOHN SULLIVAN: This is the size
of Boston’s infrastructure. I just listed it all out. We’re the largest ones
around, but we’re not that big compared to
other major cities. But it is a sizable amount. One of the key things is the
number of pumping stations. It’s very strange
for a city this size to have that few
pumping stations. The key is that only four of
them handle sanitary flow. The other ones take
care of underpasses. We have a big one
for the South End. That’s the biggest
one we worry about. But we’ve got backup,
redundancy, and then some more redundancy
on the backup. So we’re in good shape there. The underpasses, if they
flood, go around them. Get used to it. So this is Boston in 1630,
which you may or may not know, is that a lot of Boston
is filled-in land. That’s the peninsula out there,
and that’s what Boston was, and that’s Roxbury
Neck, and the British, and that’s where George
Washington told them to go. So you can see how
it all was set up. This is the filled-in land now. And so you can see the Neck
again and the district. All of this is all
filled-in land. And you don’t have to study
too much, because just look where it’s really flat. That’s where we filled it in. No big deal. This is what we’re
projecting for 2100. If you notice, it’s kind of
like getting back to the future. We have this little city. And potentially, if everyone’s
scenario, the worst case scenario, were to happen,
that could happen. Doubt very much because
these are computer models. They’re doing the best they can. You’re going to have a sea
surge, on top of a rising tide, on top of everything else,
because we’re all using carbon. Things will change. That’s a long time away. At least, I won’t
be seeing that. So climate change risk. We decided to do a three-year
study of our wastewater system. We’re just completing
that in August. Part of it was climate change. Three things we worry about. Increased rainfall. The increased river flows. We’re really an island
with the Charles River and the Neponset River
on both sides of us, which can come up and get you. And then the sea level
rise, and the storm surge. Now, that has been
a lot of studies have been on the sea level
rise and the storm surge. And you’ll be hearing
that over and over again. There’s some great
work done on it. I won’t beat that to death. We did incorporate
that in our own. We did our own
analysis, and we’re getting ready to share our
analysis with everyone else. It’s all close. What’s key is that
we’ve got to tell the public what the range is. Because we can’t have
Boston– not that we’d be more accurate than
Cambridge– but the Charles River’s there. And if we think it’s
going up 2 feet, and they say it’s going up
3, there could be an issue. So we’ll tell them all it’s
going up to 2 to 3 feet. So the changes in rainfall,
it’s changing already, the amount of rain
we get all the time. It’s up 52 inches, by
our recent analysis, and we think it’ll go up to 65. That’s no big deal, unless
it comes all at once. So if you spread it over a
year, so we get more rain. That’s good. That’s good because we
can save on our resources, and we don’t use as much. So that’s a real plus. One of the problems is,
though, all of our sewers, every one of them,
was designed using criteria we developed in 1950. And it doesn’t fit a lot of
the criteria that we see now. We are not going to
dig up every street. It seems that way,
but we’re not going to dig up every street again. So what we need to
learn to do is adapt. We need to learn how to
store water, move water, change around. That’s what our plan is,
how will we adapt to it. The key is that the design
is for 4.8 inches of rain in 24 hours. It’s not even the 24
hours that we worry about. We can handle those things. It’s when you get 2 inches
of rain in 20 minutes. Because we tend to store
that on the city streets. Because you can’t get
it into the pipes. There’s an inlet capacity issue. So that is a problem. We need to deal with it. And when people call us up
and say my car got flooded, we’ll tell them, deal with it. The monitoring rainfall. These are all the
regional rain falls. And what’s important
about this is we’ve been watching
it very closely. 1996, we had some
tremendous floods in Boston. So we set up a series of
rain gauges in Boston. We do what most people don’t do. We measure rainfall in
five minute increments. Which, when we set it up,
everyone said that’s crazy. It’s the best thing we ever did. When we had particular flooding
two years ago in South Boston, we couldn’t figure out
why because it said there was 5 inches of
rain in 15 minutes. That’s what we
would have measured. We found out that we
had– 1 inch of rain, rather, in 15 minutes–
we had 1 inch of rain in 3 and 1/2 minutes. And that’s why everyone flooded. But if we used the regional
stations, which we used to, we would have said, well,
we don’t know what happened. So by collecting
this data, which is all available to everybody,
after about 20 minutes after it rained out, you can go onto
our website, look it up. And we publish that. In fact, we spoke with Noah. And they’re taking our data
because of the five minute increment. And one of our recommendations
of the study, and nobody ever noticed it because
you work there, I guess, we don’t have anything
right in the middle. So we have to put
one more rain gauge, and then we figured out that’s
where our headquarters are. So we have one on our roof. The tide is rising. You’ve probably seen this graph. It’s one of the stolen ones. It’s going up. And we know that. We need to deal with it. One of the reasons we
need to deal with it, where do we dump our water? We dump our water
into the ocean. And so when the tide is up
higher– when the tide’s down, you can dump all
the water you want. But as the tide rises, you’ve
got to push head against it. You’ve got to push
that water out. And that is a problem. So we’re doing our analysis. Again, do we need to
store some of the water? And one place we think would
be fantastic to store water would be all these
beautiful parking garages they’re building
in downtown Boston. They built them
under the buildings. If we knew a big
storm was coming, we knew we had a
storm surge, and if we did our homework ahead of time,
we could get all the cars out of there, and that’s a
nice place to put water. And you could pump
it out, if you thought about it ahead of time,
and put the pumps in there. So that’s one of the
things we’re thinking. Maybe we take an easement. We own rights there, only
when it’s raining hard, but that’s something
that we’re looking at. As I said before,
the MWRA system, we are totally
dependent on them. This is Deer Island
and the outfall pipe. We dump a lot of sewage at
Columbus Park, a lot of it at Ward Street, some
of it down south here, but these are the two primaries
in southern East Boston. Our expectation is,
in the big sea surge, that the MWRA will, in order
to protect their equipment– and we want them to do that
because we want them to start up after the high tide– they
may just shut these things off, which lets us fend on our own. So we do expect to
protect their equipment because their
equipment, you don’t buy one of those at Home Depot. They’re very large. They take years to get. So it may be part of their
resiliency plan to do it. They’re going to speak
in an hour from now. I won’t be here. I don’t want to hear
what they’re going to do. But I just want to let you
know that’s what we got. This skeleton plan is just
our sewer and drain system. And these blue dots
are what’s important. These are pump
stations that we own. So we don’t own any down here. It’s a wonder the
people who built the system built it by gravity. So we’re not dependent
if electricity goes out. The couple of important ones,
Trilling Way in South Boston is the largest one, and six
MGD, which is a tiny one. We have the redundancy. We’re going to build
walls around it so it can’t get flooded. We’re going to
build it so we can shut that down if
a big surge comes, so that the next day
we can turn it back on. If the flood’s here, and you’ve
got 4 feet of water outside, you’ve probably got 4
feet of water inside. We just want to be able, the
next day when the tide goes out, which happens six
hours later usually, get up and running. So that’s our key plan,
is to take the hit, but be able to get
back up on our feet. So is the tide rising? Well, this is some of the
shots we give to the public. This is Fort Point Channel,
and there is your high tide in on the property. So this isn’t magic. You didn’t need to model this. Although we did
use this one on one of our models to see
if it really worked. It was a calibration. We showed that it would
have come up here. It did. We would have noticed that
anyway because that’s a dip. Christopher Columbus Park
comes up over the wall. Does that today. This is Long Wharf at high tide. You can go to Long Wharf
at a super high tide, you can look it up on a tide
calendar, and you can see that. This isn’t something we’re
worried about in the future. That’s something
we deal with today. And that’s Morrissey Boulevard. That just perennially
goes under. And again, this is Long Wharf,
where the tide comes up. Those were during
storms, but this one was just the high tide. That’s the chart house. And the reason I show
you this is our sewer is underneath here. So any holes we have the manhole
covers, any place that it could leak, all that ocean wants
to come into our pipe. And the reason for
that problem is, we can take a little bit
of infiltration and inflow, but we can’t take the ocean. We can’t do that. What I thought was
great one night, we were down watching them. And so the people, when
you get out of there, they gave them green trash bags. And they got to walk
out in green trash bags. Adapting. This is just a
quick little sketch that we showed to some people. This is Boston
water sewer pipes. We tie into the MWRA pipes. And this is any building. The real problem in all the
buildings in the city of Boston are people built in the cellars. They didn’t just store
their roots and wines there, which they’re supposed to. They put bathrooms down there. And there’s sinks, and there’s
all kinds of facilities. And the problem with that
is– most of the time we run, and everything runs fine. It starts raining out a bit. Then it rains out
a little bit more. And what happens is, our
pipes start filling up. And the MWRA starts filling up. And if it’s a high tide,
it gets even worse. So as we start filling up,
we start storing our water. And it stores because it
comes back up the pipes, and it comes out of the toilets. And this is very common
during the big rain events. And everyone says, why? And we go through this with
them, and we keep explaining. So the harder it rains,
the more we’ll fill it up. Now, the good news, it can
only fill up to that high. So that’s the only
good news I give you. The key on this, though,
and it’s something that the Commission needs to
do to talk to our citizens, there are devices. They call them backwater valves. They belong on the
facilities in the basement. And they work, if
you maintain them. Every time someone gets
flooded, they go out. They put one of these in. They sing hallelujah. They don’t maintain it. So three years from
now, that happens again, and we get to fill up
the basement again. Problem with the
basement fillings, you’ve got to remember, if
we flood out the whole city, if you do it in
January, you can’t buy enough oil burners,
hot water heaters. There just aren’t
enough of them around. You’ve got everybody downstairs. They’ve got drywall. They try to dry it out, but
they don’t do a good job. Mold sets in. So major, major public
health consequences. Besides the fact that
more than likely, you’ve got a little
sewage mixed in there. So just so you know. This is a quick shot. The blue lines are
our combined sewers. And one of the problems
I show you on this is the combined sewers
means that the catch basins on the street tie
into the sewer. And if the ocean is able to get
up and get into the combined sewers, it fills up our
sewage, and therefore tries to get into
everybody’s home. So it’s an attack
from underground. It’s what will happen. That’s one of our big pushes. We’re even looking at
giving grant programs to get out there and help
people install devices. My recommendation to
everybody is everything in the basement
should be on a pump, and you should be taking that
water, pumping it up high, and dumping it into the sewer. So there’s no way that can
get into your basement. People use the backwater
valves, but the way to be sure is to do it that way. And they say, what if
the electricity goes out? And I say, use the
upstairs toilet. Make sure, if you’re
in an apartment, you’re friends with
the people upstairs. So this is a quick run,
an analysis that we did. It just shows the
water in the edges. But a lot of our combined
sewers are in good shape, and a lot of the stuff on
the edges has been separated. So it isn’t a factor. There are some, and we’re
going to take a look at it to see what can we do
to minimize that impact. This is one of the
stolen pictures. Back Bay, this is Cambridge. I get totally lost in
Cambridge, by the way. This is the nice
city, by the way. A lot of very, very
expensive real estate here. So very important
for us, because how our city stays alive is
expensive real estate, great values. You get the tax on
the assessed values. I say, it keeps cities alive. But some of the
projections show there’ll be an issue if we
overtop the dam, or if the river water
is coming down too high. And so we’re looking at that. And our analysis showed that
with the surge, 5.13 foot surge, I believe is
the number up there, we have flooding
in the South End, but not that great
of flooding in here. There is some. And these are the little alleys
in the back of those homes. And there’s solutions for those. You can build pump stations. There are solutions. We have a way out. We’re not going to go build
them right away, because we’re going to be monitoring
everything as we go along. We’re not just going to spend
money in case something’s going to happen. Because you know
what happens then. You put it in. It waits 10 years. The day you turn it
on, it doesn’t run. That’s what happens
with anything. You buy a brand new car and put
it in the garage for 10 years, it won’t start. There’s another analysis
we did without the surge, but it shows us that the
rainfall, the intensity of the rainfall, is still
going to be a problem for us. So we need to
address these things. So the way we’re going
to address them is we got the models. We’re going to each
of these sites. We put little devices in there. And we monitor it. And when it rains out,
we check our gauges. How hard did it rain. We check this to see how
high the sewer came up. Because just because
the model says it works, it doesn’t always work that way. These sewers are really
mysterious things. Especially when they’re
working, and they work right. This is the entire city. As you can see,
the problem’s moved to the innovation district. That’s the theme here. That’s Cambridge. This is the downtown part,
where you see the big flooding. We also have
flooding sporadically up in West Roxbury
and these areas. And our plan up there
is to hold the water. We can hold it in
the Arnold Arboretum. We can build little dams on the
pipes that take those brooks. So we’re looking at
all the topography so we can hold
back water up there and bleed it into
the system later, whether it be a day or
two, it wouldn’t matter. So we have some areas in
Dorchester that we worry about, some areas in there, and
of course, East Boston’s got a bit of an issue. This is some other
slides we borrowed. That’s the FEMA flooding now. That’s the greenway and
the part of East Boston. This is on a separate study
that several are working on. It has a bit of an issue
when the tide comes up and it’s raining hard. And again, this is
combined sewer system. That means all our
sewers are taken out. The good news is, if
you’re living up here, you can still flush. The bad news is,
that’s where you flush. Because it comes back
out of the ground. Major, major public
health issues. And people say, yeah,
it’s water, and this. Sewage is sewage. And to have your
couches and everything you own covered
by it, then you’ve got to take all the
debris, debris management. And people have to
live in between this. Good news is, the
water’s fresh and clean. Told you that. And that’s the 2100 scenario. But again, we don’t know. And that’s another one. We show that– one of the
key things we worry about, our Trilling Way
pump station, that’s where the federal judges sit. That’s the same
federal judges that gave us the consent decree. We’d like to keep that running. This is what could
happen, could happen, on a scenario on flooding. And why that’s important,
it shows this is downtown. The purple lines
are combined sewers. That’s where the street is
connected into the sewer system. We would simply flood
out our sewer system. We’d send it down to the MWRA,
who, depending on the scenario, probably has just
shut themselves down. So it causes everybody–
all the water wanting to go into
everybody’s basement. And that’s the problem. We’ve got to communicate
with the public. It’s not our fault if it
gets in your basement. You’ve got to do something
to protect yourself. And so we need to make sure
they understand, we all take steps, and be ready
for the next day to get up and running to make
sure our systems work. Unlike electric, unlike
communications, all our pipes get what. They carry sewage. So it’s no big deal for us. We’re not going to get hurt. If we just take care of four
pump stations in the city, we’re in good shape. MWRA takes care of seven or
eight of their facilities. The system can get
back up running. Not that there won’t be damage. I always show this
one, because I always like– when Mayor Menino
wanted to move City Hall down to the waterfront, the
innovation district. If he just waited,
there’s City Hall. So Mayor Walsh is going to
wait for this slide on that. And here is the
Public Works building. We need to take a look at that. The budget office requires
everybody to look at them. That’s our framework. It’s the same as
everyone else will have. Take a look at it. Assess the risk. Study it. And implement. I’m not going to read them,
adaptation strategies. All the things
we’re going to do. We’ll be starting them
in next year’s CIP. Our Commission has
given us the money we need to start the process. This isn’t a money problem. We can’t do it. We just need to do it and
spend the money wisely. It’s public money. It’s your money. So this is what we want
to have for the poster. We didn’t think a sewer
would be that sexy. So resilience, and
that’s what it means. That’s what it means to us,
and that’s what we want to do. And if we do it right,
we’ll be in good shape. This is the poster we don’t
want to have hanging up there. If you think the problems
we create are bad, wait until you
see our solutions. So that was it, and I’ll take
any questions afterwards. [APPLAUSE]