Corvias launches first US stormwater P3

Both the White House and the EPA have reaped praise on the Clean Water Partnership, the first green urban stormwater system retrofit P3 to take root in the US.

In collaboration with Corvias Solutions, Prince George's County, Maryland, last Friday announced the launch of the first-ever stormwater infrastructure management public-private partnership (PPP; P3) project in the United States. 

County Executive Rushern Baker said in a county press release that the P3 “will improve our environment and our quality of life, as well as create jobs and a new industry for our small and minority business community,” with 35 percent of project work to be completed by small and minority-owned businesses. 

“This initiative exemplifies our drive to not just follow best practices, but to create best practices,” Baker said.  
Traditionally, stormwater infrastructure projects are funded through municipal bonds with help from EPA State Revolving Loan funds. The Clean Water Partnership (CWP), developed jointly by the county Department of Environment and Corvias Solutions, aims to reduce the cost and timeline traditionally associated with achieving regulatory compliance in such projects. 

In the 1990s, Prince George's County pioneered the use of rain gardens. Now, they are used around the world as a stormwater management best practice, according to a county press release. 

Under the CWP, the county and Corvias will work together to install rain gardens and other stormwater filter devices, including bioswales – shallow, trough-like depressions created to remove silt and pollution from surface runoff – green roofs, rain barrels and permeable pavement to treat 15,000 acres of existing impervious surfaces. 

During the first phase of the project, the county will invest $100 million to fund the initial three-year 2,000-acre retrofit, and Corvias will manage design, construction and long-term maintenance, with an option in the contract for Corvias to retrofit an additional 2,000 acres if the county is satisfied with initial progress.

The full scope of the plan is to be carried out over the next ten years, with the county fully committed to meeting the requirements of the EPA's Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), a “pollution diet” established in 2010 that calls for significant reductions in nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment deposits by 2025. TDML requirements call for the county to retrofit 8,000 acres of impervious surfaces by 2017.

According to the EPA, roughly $635 billion is needed over the next 20 years to finance improvements for aging water-related infrastructure needs nationally.  

“The Prince George's County [P3] is a great example of the type of activity that EPA's Water Infrastructure and Resiliency Finance Center hopes to encourage,” said EPA administrator Gina McCarthy. 

The P3 complies with the mandate of the federal Clean Water Act to reduce stormwater runoff pollution, and has garnered praise not only from the EPA, but from the White House as well, with White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) managing director Christy Goldfuss saying that the county is “leading the way for communities across the country” with the CWP.

At Corvias, the collaboration is being touted as a “game-changer”.

“No other stormwater partnership or project has committed to address both the immediate and long-term requirements for sustainable and resilient stormwater infrastructure, which includes the long-term maintenance of all retrofitted improvements,” said Greg Cannito, managing director for Corvias Solutions.

The CWP doesn't aim to bolster environmental sustainability alone, but also economic sustainability by including an educational component to the project to ensure that a workforce exists to perpetuate green landscaping practices and construction, engineering and technology works.

As part of the educational component of the CWP, Prince George's County Community College is offering a class called the Urban Watershed Restoration Contractor Training Course, which will be taught by instructors of the Low Impact Development Center. The class will teach interested parties existing best practices in construction, operation and maintenance of stormwater runoff infrastructure.

In a Corvias release, the company said it plans to expand the model being used in the CWP P3 across the Northeast in the near term.