The following is a commentary on the recent changes to the FDEP Petroleum Restoration Program, which is becoming more price-driven. Best-value certainly includes a cost-component, but the key to subsurface remediation is diligence and data. ERMI supports the FDEP and believes the changes will ultimately lead to a more successful program. We applaud the emphasis on technical performance and look forwarding to cleaning up sites throughout Florida as an FDEP Agency Term Contractor. Bidding subsurface work as a commoditized service however, may not provide the best-value in the end.
Competitive bidding will be most cost-effective when a defined work product with a clear scope of work is established, when specifications are designed, variables are understood, and unknown conditions are minimized. Contractors can submit bids with confidence under these conditions.
There are many sites with known and stable characteristics in which bidding, presented at the proper phase in the remedial process, will be cost effective because the outcome is predictable. There are many other sites however, with the opposite set of circumstances.
Florida’s Geology and Remedial Complexity
Florida’s geology is diverse and dynamic. Karst lithology with springs and sinkholes is flanked by panhandle clay and the biscayne aquifer. Factors such as adsorption rates, groundwater transmissivity, migration pathways and chemical concentrations can vary at different depths and seasons at a single site. External influences such as daily tides, seasonal rain, hydraulic pressure, and drawdown from high volume agricultural wells can change the subsurface conditions over time.
Understanding each site requires experience and diligence. Professionals know that the most successful remedial designs start with a comprehensive and reliable assessment, and the projects that fail often have unknown or unexpected conditions. Continuous communication between the geologists that assessed the site and the engineers that designed the remedial system is important.
Concerns Associated with Assessment & Remedial Bidding
Most concerns with regard to bidding are based on the numerous variables associated with subsurface remediation, and the level of professional judgment required for successful characterization and remedial design.
For comparison purposes, RFPs for road construction include measurable specifications such as linear feet, cubic yards, and compaction standards. The variables and unexpected conditions are limited. With site remediation RFPs, if the complex site conditions are not properly characterized, or if sufficient data is not available, the bid specification and review process may be difficult and problematic for the FDEP and contractors.
The changes to the PRP will be successful in the long run if performance determines the best value to the State. The professional services provided by the geologists and engineers for the PRP must not be commoditized.
The Program is vital to Florida’s drinking water reserves, real estate economy, human health and the environment. Please keep a close eye on the performance of low-bidders, and the number of change orders on awards based on price.