U.S. Government Recommends Lower Level of Fluoride in Drinking Water

The United States government has recommended a lower level of fluoride in drinking water for the first time in 50 years.

The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has suggested that public water supplies contain between 0.7 and 1.2 milligrams of fluoride per liter since 1962. However, on Monday, DHHS made an announcement that they now recommend that fluoride not exceed 0.7 milligrams per liter. The new recommendation has been in the works since 2011.

Degrees of fluorosis

Two-thirds of American water utilities add fluoride to drinking water in an effort to reduce cavities. However, because fluoride is now found in so many other sources, including toothpastes and fluoride rinses, many people are receiving too much fluoride, which can result in fluorosis. Fluorosis causes tooth staining, from mild cases which produce white spots, to severe cases which produce brown spots and mottled teeth. Today, 41% of adolescents between the ages of 12 and 15 have some degree of fluorosis, and the number is rising. When the initial fluoride recommendation was made in 1962, fluoride was found in far fewer sources.

Fluoridation of water has come under fire recently, with experts weighing in on both sides of the argument. Deputy Surgeon General Rear Admiral Dr. Boris Lushniak supports fluoridation. “Community water fluoridation continues to reduce tooth decay in children and adults beyond that provided by using only toothpaste and other fluoride-containing products,” he commented.

Fluoride is now found in almost all toothpastes and rinses
Fluoride is now found in almost all toothpastes and rinses

But Dr. Philippe Grandjean, an environmental health researcher and physician at Harvard University, disagrees, stating that there has been insufficient research in recent years to support the benefits of widespread fluoridation. “We need to revisit those benefits to make sure that the old reports are still valid for the current fluoride exposure situation,” Grandjean stated.

Dr. Grandjean is one of a growing group who advocates only using fluoride topically, and to avoid swallowing it. He notes that fluoride produces the bulk of its benefits topically, and that ingestion exposes the internal organs to unnecessary chemical burden. Recent studies have suggested a possible link between drinking water fluoridation and ADHD, as well as hypothyroidism. Some Chinese studies have even suggested a link between high fluoride levels in drinking water and reduced IQ.

“I’d say it’s a reasonable concern that fluoride can affect brain development,” Grandjean says. “Lowering the recommended fluoridation level to 0.7 mg per liter is very well-justified. I would in fact recommend that the level be reduced even further,” stated Dr. Grandjean, adding that cavities have declined at similar rates in countries with and without public drinking water fluoridation.

Earth Day 2015 — Small Steps Bring Big Change [INFOGRAPHIC]

Today is Earth Day 2015, and a good time to reflect on our consumption and waste. While it’s important to modify our personal habits, it is equally important to revise habits in the workplace. In our work as an environmental engineering firm, Tata & Howard constantly aims to incorporate sustainable initiatives and green technology into our design and services. And, because we believe that the long-term success of environmental activism will require small but significant changes from the majority of people, we also incorporate green initiatives in our day-to-day office activities.

disposable_coffee_cupsIn years past, we have instituted paper, battery, and toner recycling programs, and we have eliminated disposable water bottles by installing plumbed water coolers that utilize public water. This year, we elected to eliminate disposable cutlery and drinkware from our offices in an effort to reduce our collective carbon footprint. In addition, all employees are encouraged to swap out disposable coffee-to-go cups for reusable tumblers when visiting our beloved Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts.

First, let’s look at some fast facts on disposable coffee cups:

  • Hot paper and Styrofoam cups used at places like Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts are not recyclable.
  • We throw away 58 billion cups per year.
  • It takes 20 million trees and 12 billion gallons of water to produce the materials for the cups.
*Data taken from a 2006 study. In 2010, 23 billion paper coffee cups were used. *Data taken from a 2006 study. In 2010, 23 billion paper coffee cups were used.
*Infographic data taken from a 2006 study. In 2010, 23 billion paper coffee cups were used.

And that’s just cups. Add to that the billions of plastic utensils and, well…you get the point. In fact, Americans toss out enough paper and plastic cups, forks, and spoons every year to circle the equator 300 times. So, in celebration of Earth Day 2015, we whisked away all disposable drinkware and utensils, and asked employees to bring in their own reusable drink glass, coffee mug, and personal set of silverware for in-office use. Don’t worry: employees who forget their cutlery or drinkware on a given day won’t be out of luck — but they will be out $1.00, which is what it will cost them to “buy” a disposable fork or cup. All monies collected in this way will be donated to Trees, Water & People, whose mission is to improve people’s lives by helping communities protect, conserve, and manage the natural resources upon which their long-term well-being depends. Believe it or not, $1.00 is enough to plant ten trees! To encourage full participation, Tata & Howard is offering a prize for the most creative mug or glass, and the winner will be announced on Friday afternoon, April 24.

Brooke Cotta, Marlborough's Green Ambassador, stands by the water cooler with her reusable dinnerware
Engineer Brooke Cotta, Marlborough’s Green Ambassador, stands by the water cooler with her reusable dinnerware

Tata & Howard has also formed a company-wide Green Committee as well as appointed Green Ambassadors, who are green representatives at each office. These individuals are hard at work coming up with additional ways to “green up” our offices. Some ideas have included implementing formal single stream recycling programs, generating less paper waste by going paperless when possible and always printing double-sided, participating in Ride-Your-Bike-to-Work-Weeks and carpooling, and recycling or replacing K-Cups. The committee will be meeting on an ongoing basis and will be implementing new green initiatives throughout the year. For some inspiration, we looked through some fast facts, and were surprised by what we found:


  • The garbage in a landfill stays for about 30 years.
  • 84 percent of all household waste can be recycled.
  • By reducing our waste 1% per year and recycling and composting 90% of our discards by 2030, we could save 406 megatons of carbon dioxide equivalent every year. This is the equivalent to shutting down 21% of our nation’s coal-fired power plants.

Aluminum Cans:

  • Five billion aluminum cans are used each year.
  • In America, 1,500 aluminum cans are recycled every second.
  • Recycling an aluminum soda can saves 96% of the energy used to make a can from ore, and produces 95% less air pollution and 97% less water pollution.
  • Throwing away one aluminum can wastes as much energy as if that can were 1/2 full of gasoline.


  • paper recyclingEach ton of recycled paper can save 17 trees, 380 gallons of oil, three cubic yards of landfill space, 4000 kilowatts of energy, and 7,000 gallons of water. This represents a 64% energy savings, a 58% water savings, and 60 pounds less of air pollution.
  • The 17 trees saved above can absorb a total of 250 pounds of carbon dioxide from the air each year. Burning that same ton of paper would create 1500 pounds of carbon dioxide.
  • The construction costs of a paper mill designed to use waste paper is 50-80% less than the cost of a mill using new pulp.
  • The amount of wood and paper we throw away is enough to heat 50 million homes for 20 years.
  • Approximately one billion trees worth of paper are thrown away every year in the U.S.
  • Almost 90% of cardboard is recycled but only about 50% of printing and writing paper is recycled.
  • The average American uses seven trees a year in paper, wood, and other products made from trees. This amounts to about two billion trees per year.


  • We throw away more than 60 million plastic bottles a day.
  • Most families throw away about 88 pounds of plastic every year.
  • Every year in the U.S. nearly 200 billion beverage containers are sold, two-thirds of which are landfilled, incinerated, or littered

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Mindfulness of our personal and corporate waste needs to become of a priority, and while it isn’t feasible to completely change our habits overnight, it is entirely possible to improve our carbon footprint by implementing small, sustainable changes over time. Every small step helps, and if we all work together on taking those small steps, we will soon find we’ve collectively run a marathon towards improving the health of our world. Won’t you join us?

Happy Earth Day 2015!

Where Our Water Comes From [INFOGRAPHIC]

Only 1% of our world’s water is usable by humanity. The drought conditions in the United States have brought water conservation to the forefront of people’s minds, and conservation is certainly necessary. But we also need to invest in infrastructure and implement efficient practices including reclamation if we are to protect our world’s most precious resource now and in the future.

Where our water comes from:



Environmental Remediation Services: Why You Should Always Get a Second Opinion

A second opinion on your environmental remediation plan can save you time and money

Thoroughly understanding site assessments and environmental remediation plans is always a challenge. Since most people aren’t familiar with hazardous waste laws, science, and jargon, it is difficult to know if your environmental consultants are making recommendations that are in your best interest. And while their plans may be sound, it is often a good idea to get a second opinion.

environmental remediationWhat is environmental remediation?

Environmental remediation services involve providing solutions to contamination issues, and include removing contaminants from groundwater, surface water, sediment, or soil, including cleaning up after an oil spill. Remediation is very often a governmental requirement or regulation that has the intent to protect people and the environment from exposure to contamination and its potential harmful effects. Limiting exposure can also involve institutional controls such as a deed restriction where remediation is not feasible or cost-effective.

What is an environmental remediation second opinion?

Oil removal

A second opinion includes an independent assessment of an environmental project to evaluate if the proposed remedial action plan is appropriate and that once it is implemented, is progressing satisfactorily and helps to ensure that potential receptors are being protected. These services typically include review of the proposed work plan, laboratory analyses of duplicate samples, observation of field activities performed by cleanup contractors or other consultants, review of documents for technical completeness, and invoice review to evaluate if charges are customary and reasonable.

To illustrate the importance of a second opinion, consider the following: Tata & Howard provided a second opinion to a client who had made a non-refundable $4,000,000 down payment on a property in an industrial area of Boston, MA. Initial assessment by a prior consultant identified petroleum related compounds and styrene in indoor air, the source of which was, according to them, an underground storage tank (UST) located outside the building. Tata & Howard’s assessment indicated that the styrene was actually from an unrelated source inside the building and that a level of No Significant Risk existed for presence of the petroleum related compounds. Remedial action was not necessary to achieve a condition of No Significant Risk and the clients did not lose their $4,000,000 deposit. Read the complete case study here.

The previous example saved the buyers on a number of levels. First, they did not lose their deposit. Second, they didn’t have to invest in a costly remedial action plan. And third, their ability to move quickly forward with the closing saved on time — and we all know that time is money.

site assessmentConclusion

Getting a second opinion will not only better help you to understand your options, but will often help save you money. Tests and analyses may provide a second set of findings, and a fresh set of eyes can often develop an alternate course of action that requires less time and fewer resources. Every site is unique, and every consulting firm has its own methodology. However, not everyone realizes that in today’s competitive economy, it is imperative to identify solutions that are both cost-effective and that can be applied with minimal disturbance to your business activities.

Tata & Howard, Inc. participates in Rally for the Jimmy Fund

Tata & Howard, Inc. participates in Rally for the Jimmy Fund

Charitable event celebrates over $4 million in donations to Dana-Farber Cancer Institute since its 2006 inception

Tata & Howard team members at the Marlborough, MA corporate office participated in the Rally for the Jimmy Fund on April 13, 2015
Tata & Howard team members at the Marlborough, MA corporate office participated in the Rally for the Jimmy Fund on April 13, 2015

MARLBOROUGH, MA, April 14, 2015Tata & Howard, Inc., a leading innovator in water, wastewater, stormwater, and hazardous waste engineering solutions, participated in the Rally for the Jimmy Fund yesterday. The Rally encourages people to wear Red Sox gear on Opening Day at Fenway Park, which fell on Monday, April 13 this year, in exchange for a donation to the Jimmy Fund. Tata & Howard team members were happy to donate to the Jimmy Fund while enjoying a casual Red Sox day at the office.

The Rally and the Jimmy Fund

The Red Sox organization has partnered with the Jimmy Fund since 1953, and the Rally for the Jimmy Fund is just one of many Red Sox/Jimmy Fund initiatives. Monies raised through the Rally help ease the patient experience and allow future discoveries to revolutionize cancer treatments around the world. Eighty-nine cents of every dollar raised by the Jimmy Fund and Dana-Farber goes directly to Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, which received the highest possible ranking of four stars by Charity Navigator, America’s largest independent evaluation of non-profit organizations. Since its inception in 2006, Rally for the Jimmy Fund has raised over $4 million.

“We are thrilled to be part of such a worthwhile charity,” stated Donald J. Tata, P.E., President of Tata & Howard.” Through participation in other local events such as the PanMass Challenge and the Mass Dash for the Jimmy Fund, Tata & Howard team members raise funds for the Jimmy Fund throughout the year. The Rally for the Jimmy Fund was yet another way for us to support Dana-Farber and cancer research.”

Reclaimed Water — From Toilet to Tap Infographic

Reclaimed Water — From Toilet to Tap Infographic

Drinking water from a perfectly clean toilet at the Exploratorium in San Francisco, California proves difficult for most visitors.

Would you drink water that was once used in the toilet? Chances are you just gave an emphatic “no”. But what if that water is actually so highly treated and processed that it is actually cleaner than the water currently coming out of most people’s taps? For the overwhelming majority of people, their answer is still that same emphatic “no”. Commonly referred to as the “yuck factor”, the idea of drinking recycled wastewater is simply too much for the human mind to overcome. However, climate change, population growth, and overuse have strained freshwater resources, and people may just need to change their way of thinking.

A Limited and Precious Resource

In the developed world, fresh water is taken for granted, when it is in fact a limited resource. About 97% of the Earth’s water is saltwater. More than two-thirds of the remaining fresh water is frozen in glaciers, which leaves less than 1% of the Earth’s water as fresh and available. In addition, the global population is growing astronomically at the same time that historic droughts plague Australia and the United States, two of the world’s largest water consumers. Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Phoenix are three of the driest cities in America, and they are also experiencing some of the highest rates of population growth. Conservation isn’t working, water supplies are running dry, and the most drought-stricken areas are looking, albeit reluctantly, to reclaimed wastewater.

“When we talk about reclaimed wastewater, we’re not talking about something that’s simply at the level of convenience,” says David Feldman, a political scientist at the University of California at Irvine. “We’re really dealing with an issue that is going to be affecting every country, every society.” Avoiding future clashes over water, he says, will mean having to drink treated wastewater.

There is no doubt that we all drink water that has passed through a human or animal at some point. The Earth’s water is a finite resource that constantly cycles, and treated wastewater is frequently discharged into lakes and rivers that supply drinking water. But while most people have no problem drinking water from sources that have been augmented with treated wastewater, the thought of taking water flushed down the toilet and directly repurposing it into drinking water is a bit tough to, well…swallow.

Reclaimed Water Infographic - From Toilet to Tap
Reclaimed Water Infographic – From Toilet to Tap. Feel free to share, with attribution.

Reclaimed Water Usage Today

Singapore is arguably the world’s most well-known and successful wastewater recycler. Their reclaimed water, branded as NEWater, supplies 15 percent of the population’s water, and is considered cleaner and purer than any tap water. In Australia, the city of Perth will receive up to 20% of its drinking water from reclaimed sources in coming decades. And, through public education and marketing efforts, the Perth project has a reported 76% public support.

Similar efforts are also in progress in the U.S. In San Diego, a 2004 survey indicated that 63 percent of county residents opposed adding treated wastewater to the drinking water supply. But as the drought has worsened and the population has grown, the city is running out of options. Therefore, the San Diego County Water Authority turned to community and environmental groups to help educate the public about the safety of recycled water, and in November, 2014, the San Diego City Council voted unanimously to advance a $2.5 billion plan to recycle wastewater. What’s more, recent polls show that opposition to reclaimed water has fallen to only 25 percent.

The Orange County Water District, which serves 2.4 million people in California, plans to boost production of recycled water next year from 70 million to 100 million gallons per day. And, the Santa Clara Valley Water District, which serves 1.8 million people in the San Francisco Bay area, has decided to pursue construction of facilities to turn wastewater into drinking water for Sunnyvale and western Santa Clara County.

In Texas, the drought-stricken city of Wichita Falls has built a 13-mile pipeline that connects its wastewater plant directly to the plant where water is purified for drinking. In addition, the Colorado River Municipal Water District has been piping treated effluent from a wastewater treatment plant in Big Spring, Texas to a drinking-water plant that serves Big Spring, Snyder, Midland and Odessa for more than a year.

Explaining the Treatment Process

Biological_Wastewater_TreatmentEducation is the key to making recycled wastewater — or reclaimed water — more palatable, and explaining the process of water treatment is the most critical step in changing public opinion. When a person flushes a toilet, wastewater is carried through sewers to a municipal wastewater treatment plant. There, large solid material is separated from liquid with grates or bar screens. Next, the wastewater enters a settling tank where smaller solids fall out of solution and oils rise to the surface where they are skimmed off. The wastewater next moves to an aeration tank, where microbes feed on the waste and break it down. The water is then disinfected with chemicals such as bleach and chlorine. After an additional settling step, the treated water undergoes reverse osmosis where it passes through filters that remove even the tiniest of contaminants, like viruses or pharmaceuticals. Finally, the water is treated with ultraviolet light to fully disinfect the water by scrambling the DNA of anything that might still be living in it. This highly treated water is actually cleaner and more pure than most water currently pouring from our taps.

Getting Past the “Yuck Factor”

drinking water thumbs upTechnologies being developed today will make wastewater recycling more efficient and less expensive, but changing people’s opinion of drinking “toilet to tap” is the bigger challenge, experts say. Studies show that human beings naturally possess a strong aversion to consuming any food or drink that could possibly contain pathogens. However, there are some steps that can be taken to change public opinion. Adding an extra step in the treatment process, like discharging treated wastewater to a river that then carries it from one city to a drinking water treatment plant in another city, can eliminate the mental stigma. Discharging wastewater into rivers and aquifers instead of water pipes is more expensive but may be useful for gaining public acceptance. Public information campaigns that emphasize economic benefits, protection of U.S. water supplies, and personal safety can also increase public support. In addition, endorsement by a trusted group, like the Surfrider Foundation who helped raise support for wastewater reuse in San Diego, can also reduce stigma.

Running Out of Options

Population growth, depleted resources, climate change, and severe drought have all impacted our water supply. Reports have stated that California will run out of water by 2016. In Las Vegas, Lake Mead has shrunk to 60% of the size it was two decades ago. Wichita Falls, Texas is under a Stage 5 Drought Catastrophe. Conservation efforts have failed, our water supplies are drying up, and municipalities do not have the resources to supply enough water to the public. While the thought of drinking treated wastewater may be repugnant, it is only a matter of time before we run out of options. Notes Feldman, “I think between climate change, increased urbanization, and growing demands for food and energy, there’s really no way around reusing wastewater.” And unless something drastically changes, repurposing wastewater will not only be accepted in the future, but commonplace.


CMRSWC Wins Stormwater Award

CMRSWC Wins Stormwater Award

New England Stormwater Collaborative Announces 2014 Stormy Awards
by Janice Moran, NEWEA

April 8, 2015, Worcester, MA—The 2014 Stormy Award winners were announced during New England Water Works Association’s (NEWWA) Annual Meeting on April 1, 2015 in Worcester, MA. Five (5) awards were given to those highlighted ideas or simple, effective ways to boost funding, staff capacity, or political support for stormwater programs.

Stormy Award logo2014 STORMY AWARD WINNERS:

  • Developing Municipal IDDE Partnerships
    —Lexington, MA (Department of Public Works – Engineering Division)
  • Unique Stormwater Program Funding for Proactive Operations
    —City of Bristol, CT

The New England Stormwater Collaborative was formed in the Fall of 2013 by the New England Water Works Association, New England Water Environment Association and the New England Chapter – American Public Works Association. The Collaborative was developed to engage the stormwater community, provide a forum for information and education exchange, and advocate sound stormwater management practices.

*Tata & Howard has provided engineering services to the Central Massachusetts Regional Stormwater Coalition since 2009, and the project has been funded by Community Innovation Challenge (CIC) Grants. Of more than 120 applications received in the initial round, this stormwater project was one of few that was fully funded, which demonstrates the importance of the work and the value to the region. This project, which is supported by MassDEP, DCR, Blackstone River Coalition, and many others, is highly regarded in the industry. 

Separation of Water Distribution System into Two Zones, Spencer, MA

Abstract: The Town of Spencer, Massachusetts received an Administration Consent Order (ACO) from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) mandating changes to their water treatment process, and the separation of the Town’s water distribution system into two pressure zones. This paper discusses the completion of this project in three phases. The System Study evaluated the conceptual design criteria needed for the two pressure zones and selection of tank sites. The Design Phase highlights permitting and design challenges encountered, and the Construction Phase discusses the overall final product, construction challenges and project successes.

Dissolved Air Flotation (DAF) Pilot Study for Algae and DBP Reduction

Abstract: A pilot study of dissolved air flotation clarification (DAF) with mixed media filtration was conducted at the Norwich Public Utilities Stony Brook water treatment plant for the removal of disinfection byproducts (DBP) and algae in the late summer of 2013.  A variety of coagulants and flow rates were studied. DAF showed outstanding algae removal in excess of 90 percent with all coagulants. DBP removal varied by coagulant with ferric chloride and high doses of alum achieving the best results.

Application of Ozonation and Ultrafiltration in Drinking Water Treatment Operational Comparison

The Spectacle Pond Water Treatment Facility in Littleton, Massachusetts has been successfully operating for over ten years relying on a combination of ozone oxidation followed by ultrafiltration membranes. This paper compares the operation of the plant in Littleton with more recent installations utilizing ozonation and ultrafiltration membranes at the Mattapoisett River Valley Water Treatment Facility in Mattapoisett, Massachusetts and the Baldwin Pond Water Treatment Facility in Wayland, Massachusetts with regard to similarities as well as changes that have affected the industry.