Robert MacPherson, PE


Three years ago, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) released its most recent report card grading America’s infrastructure. Like many of our own personal report cards, this one came with some good news and some bad. On the good side, our grades rose slightly, with the highest grades awarded to solid waste infrastructure. On the bad side, our overall grade was a D+. Here in Georgia, we received a C. But locally and nationally, my colleagues in the ASCE contend that we have a great deal of work to do to boost our grades: “…it is clear that we have a significant backlog of overdue maintenance across our infrastructure systems, a pressing need for modernization, and an immense opportunity to create reliable, long-term funding sources to avoid wiping out our recent gains.”

But there is hope.

While they agree on almost nothing, both presidential candidates agree on the importance of infrastructure investment. “We’ve spent $4 trillion trying to topple various people,” Trump said. “If we could’ve spent that $4 trillion in the United States to fix our roads, our bridges and…our airports and all of the other problems we’ve had, we would’ve been a lot better off.” Meanwhile, Secretary Clinton has pledged to increase infrastructure spending $275 billion over five years if she’s elected.

By definition, infrastructure investment starts with government action. A stellar example of such action was the 1972 Clean Water Act, legislation that charted a bold new course for America. The Act came at a time when one of the nation’s most polluted rivers-the Cuyahoga River in Ohio-caught fire, damaging shipyards and bridges. It was an event that may have inspired one of the most famous commercials in TV history when a Native American wept for pollution in America.

It was a bold policy move. At a time when pollution from all sources was commonplace, the Act:’

  • Made point source pollution into navigable waters illegal without a permit
  • Ended open sewage dumping into streams, rivers, lakes, and oceans
  • Required the installation of pollution-abatement technologies
  • Spurred regulations to protect the wetlands that filter and purify water

Perhaps most importantly, it provided for billions of dollars in grants to build and refurbish public sewer infrastructure across the country, as well as to construct and upgrade publicly owned sewage-treatment works around the nation.

From roads, bridges, airports, and train tracks to water, sewers, and telecommunications, everything is getting older and simply doesn’t work as well as it once did. Almost 45 years after the Clean Water Act, it’s time to reinvest in our nation’s infrastructure.

Consider a few suggestions from experts in their respective fields:
Clearly, there are economic and environmental benefits to these investments.

Sustainability and technology are crucial for infrastructure investment. At Prime, for instance, we help our clients construct and refurbish water and sewer pipes to increase efficiency, reduce costs, and enhance environmental protection. DeKalb County, Georgia, is actively upgrading its sewer system using a multitude of technologies, including the use of pipe bursting, slip lining, and removal and replacement. We also work with our private-sector clients to improve their facility efficiency by reducing demand on water resources and increasing their use of recycled water for commercial and industrial use.

As service providers, we have an obligation to both responsibly educate our clients and help them explore creative and sustainable ways to achieve their objectives, all while delivering great value.

What infrastructure recommendations do you recommend or implement with government and industrial partners? What technologies should we embrace as performance tested and environmentally safe? How should we prioritize our massive infrastructure needs? I welcome your thoughts. Feel free to drop me a note at

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