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Brightwater Wastewater Treatment Plant
King County Government
King County, Washington State USA

In response to increased population growth in its region, King County sought to construct a new regional wastewater treatment system. This $1.8 billion system includes a 36 million gallon per day average flow wastewater treatment plant connected to a 14-mile conveyance system to discharge effluent through a one-mile marine outfall into Puget Sound.

The project is sited on 114 acres, and the plant design integrates landscape, architecture, wildlife habitat, engineering, art, and education.

The budget adopted by King County council included two provisos related to the project. The Water Treatment Division was required to:

  • Retain a consultant to provide independent oversight and monitoring of the design of the project. This proviso requires the oversight and monitoring consultant (OMC) to provide to the executive, council, and project representatives the results of an initial comparison of the scope, schedule, budget, and distribution of budget categories with other projects of similar scope and scale or industry standards.
  • Develop a monthly management and budget reporting format for the project that was modeled after formats in use for other large capital improvement projects.

King County Washington retained Helmes&Co as part of a two-entity team to serve on the independent program oversight consultant team to examine the scope, schedule, management, and budget allocation of the new Brightwater project as compared with other projects of similar scope and scale or industry standard.

Based on our many findings, the team recommended a realignment of budget categories, identified potential risk areas, and suggested workarounds to factor into the budgeting process. Key findings from our evaluation include:

  • A significant portion of the current budget was found to be based on allowances, which require close management during the budget development process to ensure the budget value does not increase.
  • Several project risks were identified with no explicit remediation budget. Although unlikely to occur, if these risks are encountered, significant supplemental budget will be required. The team accepts this approach, but cautioned the owner that the budget may be impacted during the course of the project.
  • Several unique technical and managerial elements were identified that may affect the project budget and schedule.
  • The existing relationship between the treatment plant designer and pre-construction contractor should be modified to have these entities work more collaboratively to ensure clarity with respect to in-scope work and estimated construction cost.
  • A roles and responsibilities matrix should be created to avoid overlap of tasks, duties, and responsibilities between the treatment plant designer, GC/CM contractor, contracted construction management firm, and the owner, and to avoid superfluous positions and unclear decision-making.
  • Appropriate delegation of authority should be identified with respect to approval of construction changes to expedite decision-making during the construction process.

We collected data from the Jones Island Wastewater Treatment/Cross Town Conveyance Project in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and the Deer Island Wastewater Treatment improvements project in Boston, Massachusetts that was utilized for benchmark and industry standard purposes.

The team convened at a minimum on a monthly basis to discuss the status of the project and the risks to the program schedule and budget. In addition, at a minimum, the team convened on a quarterly basis to prepare reports on project risks and concerns and orally present the overall findings to the King County Council and other important stakeholders. Periodically, the team provided independent assessments and advisory services as requested by the owner.

Using our collective experience, the team benefited the owner by providing proactive suggestions to identify and mitigate risks, avoid surprises, manage expectations, and facilitate resolution of disputes. The owner adopted many of the team's recommendations.

Note: To ensure client confidentiality is maintained, certain project details have been sanitized.