National Engineers Week and Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day 2016

EngineersFebruary 21-27, 2016 is very special to Tata & Howard, as it is National Engineers Week. National Engineers Week — or “EWeek” — was first celebrated in 1951 by the National Society for Professional Engineers (NSPE), and since then has been celebrated annually in February during the week that contains the birthday of our nation’s first engineer — George Washington.

EWeek is an opportunity for organizations and individuals to highlight the importance of engineering skills such as math, science, and technical literacy. According to the NSPE, EWeek is a formal coalition of more than 70 engineering, education, and cultural societies, and more than 50 corporations and government agencies. Dedicated to raising public awareness of engineers’ positive contributions to quality of life, EWeek promotes recognition among parents, teachers, and students of the importance of a technical education and a high level of math, science, and technology literacy, and motivates youth to pursue engineering careers in order to provide a diverse and vigorous engineering workforce.

Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day

introduce_a_girl_to_engineering_dayStarted 15 years ago in 2001 as a joint effort between NSPE, IBM, and the National Engineers Week Foundation, Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day always falls during EWeek, this year on February 25. “Girl Day” is a special opportunity for engineers to introduce more girls and young women to engineering, and to show them the creative side of engineering and how it changes our world.

Engineering has long been a male-dominated profession. In recent years, engineering colleges and universities have focused on increasing enrollment of females, and currently the female undergraduate enrollment at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is 31%, at California Institute of Technology is 39%, and at Massachusetts Institute of Technology is 46%. However, the national average of female engineering students remains at a dismal 18%, and the number of employed female engineers is even more alarming: currently, only about 11% of our nation’s engineering workforce is female.

At Tata & Howard, we esteem engineers who embrace our core values of teamwork, efficient solutions, client satisfaction, integrity, and positive attitude, regardless of gender, and currently 25% of our engineering staff is female. Our female engineers are bright, energetic professionals who are valued every bit as much as their male counterparts; in fact, two of the six members of our Board of Directors are women. So in celebration of EWeek and Girl Day, we’d like to introduce you to some of our phenomenal female engineers.

Tata & Howard’s Women in Leadership

l to r: Karen Gracey, Justine Carroll, Amanda Cavaliere, and Jenna Rzasa
l to r: Karen Gracey, Justine Carroll, Amanda Cavaliere, and Jenna Rzasa

Karen Gracey, Vice President, Manager of Business Development and member of the Board of Directors, has over 17 years of concentrated water system experience. Karen holds a BS in Environmental Engineering from the University of Vermont and has been with the firm since she graduated. She has completing numerous hydraulic modeling projects, and is certified in WaterGems and InfoWater software. Among the projects strengthening her resume are a number of water main designs, Capital Efficiency Plans™, pump stations, and storage tanks designs. Additionally, Karen has concentrated experience in water system evaluations, with the completion of over 30 water distribution system studies and asset management plans.

Jenna Rzasa, Vice President, Manager of Finance and member of the Board of Directors, has over 18 years of concentrated water system experience with specialized expertise in water system design. She holds a BS in Civil Engineering from Worcester Polytechnic Institute and has been with the firm since she graduated. Her experience includes new source development, water system analysis, and water audits using the AWWA M36 methodology.

Justine Carroll, Project Manager, has 10 years of concentrated experience in water system modeling, holds a BS in Environmental Engineering and an MS in Environmental and Water Resource Engineering from Tufts University, and has been with the firm since she graduated. She is the Team Leader for the Hydraulics Group and is certified in WaterGEMS and InfoWater modeling software as well as in ESRI – ArcGIS Desktop II and III. Justine is also actively involved in Special Olympics and volunteers her time as a swim coach.

Amanda Cavaliere, Project Manager, has over 16 years of concentrated experience in water and wastewater engineering and holds a BS in Civil Engineering from Roger Williams University. She has been with the firm for 13 years and she is the Team Leader for the Wastewater Group. A seasoned expert in water and wastewater engineering, Amanda has worked on numerous wastewater treatment plants, water mains, and evaluations throughout New England.

Our Female Engineers

Molly Coughlin is a LEED Green Associate and is OSHA Confined Spaces Entry certified
Marie Rivers holds an MS in Environmental Engineering from UMass Amherst and passed her Massachusetts Professional Engineer exam in 2015
Marie Rivers holds an MS in Environmental Engineering from UMass Amherst and passed her Massachusetts Professional Engineer exam in 2015

In addition to Karen, Jenna, Justine, and Amanda, we have many other talented female engineers throughout the company. Melissa Leach, Project Manager in our St. Johnsbury, Vermont office, has over 20 years of engineering experience and holds a BS in Civil Engineering from Washington University. Project Engineer Valli Sukuru from our Waterbury, Connecticut office has over eight years of water engineering experience and holds an MS in Civil Engineering from University of Texas at San Antonio and a BS in Civil Engineering from National Institute of Technology in Warangal, India; and Project Engineer Meghan Dineen from our Lakeville, Massachusetts office has been with the firm since 2008, when she graduated from University of Massachusetts, Amherst (UMass Amherst) with a BS in Civil and Environmental Engineering. We also have women at the Assistant Project Engineer and Engineer levels who are valued members of the team and make significant contributions to the water, wastewater, stormwater, and environmental engineering consulting services the firm provides.

Tata & Howard is proud of our extensive engineering talent base, both male and female, and we look forward to meeting — and hiring — the girls and young women of today who will become the engineering stars of tomorrow. Happy National Engineers Week and Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day!

CT DEEP Issues New EAP Requirements for Class C and Class B Dams

Class C Bronson E. Lockwood Dam, Bethlehem, CT
Class C Bronson E. Lockwood Dam, Bethlehem, CT

The State of Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) recently adopted Regulation 22a-411a concerning the preparation and update of Emergency Action Plans (EAPs) for High Hazard (Class C) and Significant Hazard (Class B) dams.  EAPs meeting the new requirements for Class C dams must be submitted to DEEP within 12 months of February 3, 2016, the effective date of the new regulation, and within 18 months for Class B dams. Dam owners will be required to submit an updated EAP every two years thereafter, or more frequently as necessary to reflect significant changes to the dam structure or downstream area.

An EAP is intended to be a pragmatic document that both identifies conditions that require a response and provides clear instructions in an emergency situation.  “The new requirements for dam owners minimize the potential for dam failures and increase public safety by directing owners to improve oversight and responsibility for their dams through the preparation of Emergency Action Plans (EAPs) and regular inspections,” said DEEP Commissioner Robert Klee.

The new EAP regulations include criteria for inundation mapping, dam monitoring procedures, formal warning notification and communication procedures, and EAP review and revisions. Copies of the EAP must be filed with the DEEP, the chief executive officer, and the emergency management officer of any municipality that would potentially be affected by an emergency involving the dam for which the EAP has been prepared.

For more information, or for assistance meeting the new requirements for Dam EAPs, please contact us.

National Almond Day — To Celebrate or Not To Celebrate?

The husk of the almond is not wasted - it is used in cattle feed
The husk of the almond is not wasted – it is used in cattle feed

National Almond Day is February 16, but not everybody is celebrating. While the almond is a nutritious and delicious nut, it is also a water-intensive crop that is grown in one of the most drought-stricken areas of the United States – California. But is it actually the villain it has been cracked up to be? Let’s take a look at some facts.

Almonds contain the highest amount of protein of any tree nut, and they are also packed with fiber, calcium, vitamin E, niacin, riboflavin, phosphorus, and magnesium. This nutritional powerhouse adds a delightful crunch to salads or oatmeal, is easily packaged for a quick on-the-go snack, and can be made into almond butter or almond milk. In addition, almonds contain healthy fats and are frequently included in weight loss plans, as they help curb appetite.

On the flip side, almonds have recently drawn widespread criticism because of their water footprint. It takes roughly 1.1 gallons of water to grow just one almond, and almond trees are almost exclusively grown in water-parched California. California’s mild winters and dry summers, combined with its limited temperature range, make it the perfect climate for growing almond trees, as they are intolerant of extreme cold, excessive heat, and high humidity. In fact, over 99% of America’s almonds and over 85% of the world’s almonds are grown in California — and they account for over 10% of the state’s total water usage.

Alfalfa is primarily grown to feed cattle
Alfalfa is primarily grown to feed cattle

Considering that 98% of the state is under drought and California Governor Jerry Brown mandated that cities and towns cut their water usage by 25%, it’s no surprise that almonds have come under heavy fire. After all, unlike other crops whose fields go fallow on a seasonal basis, almond trees require year-round watering, and the water footprint — 46 gallons of water per each 1-oz. serving of almonds — appears to be an alarming statistic. But let’s look at some additional statistics to put it into perspective. To produce one 4-oz. serving of rice requires about 83 gallons of water, one 0.5-oz. serving of chocolate requires about 130 gallons, and that quarter pound hamburger? A whopping 660 gallons of water. In fact, the California meat and dairy industry accounts for about 47% of the state’s total water usage. Almond opponents note that the amount of land used for almond production has grown by almost 50% over the last ten years. However, it should also be noted that much of the land in question replaced land previously used for growing rice, which is arguably a thirstier crop on a per serving basis.

California agriculture contributes greatly to America’s food supply

Perhaps the answer is to reduce the amount of agriculture in California. After all, a staggering 80% of California’s developed water is used for agriculture. But consider this: California has the world’s eighth largest economy, and it produces about half of all the fruits, vegetables, and nuts consumed in the United States. California produces more than 90% of all the domestically consumed tomatoes, strawberries, and broccoli, and nearly 100% of our pistachios, almonds, and walnuts. So unless Americans are willing to forgo many lunch and dinner staples, ending agriculture in California may not be the answer.

Then what is the solution? Admittedly, it is not a simple one. Conservation certainly plays a role, as does the innovation and implementation of new, sustainable technology. Harvesting rainwater, reusing wastewater, desalination, and banking groundwater are existing, viable solutions. Also, considering our nation loses 1.7 trillion gallons of clean, treated water per year to leaks — or about one and a half times the total amount of water used by almond trees per year — repairing our failing infrastructure must be a national priority. Even small changes, like eating one vegan dinner per week or planting white clover instead of grass, can have significant impact when implemented on a large scale.

Almond joy dessert

So on National Almond Day, feel free to enjoy your green beans almondine or indulge in an almond joy dessert, while also being cognizant of our nation’s water crisis. If Americans can implement small modifications to personal habits while committing to investing in infrastructure and sustainable technology, our nation can be assured of having adequate clean, safe water — and almonds — for generations to come.

Happy National Almond Day!


Asset Management and CWMP Grant Opportunities from MassDEP


MassDEP has allocated grant funds for Asset Management Plans and Comprehensive Wastewater Management Plans (CWMPs)

Request For Proposals

Accounting concept: pen, calculator and paperwork

MassDEP is soliciting a Request for Proposals (RFP) for planning grants to assist public entities in developing asset management and comprehensive wastewater management plans (CWMPs). It is the intent of MassDEP to award grants of up to $40,000 for completed planning projects that will allow a public entity to outline long-term capital investments for existing infrastructure.

Clean water projects seeking grant funds for Fiscal Sustainability Planning that appear on the 2016 Clean Water Intended Use Plan will receive priority points for grant funding. Due to the need to complete the proposed work by June 30, 2016, public entities will be required to conform to a short time frame for project completion. 

The types of planning projects that have been authorized include the following:

1. Asset Management and Fiscal Sustainability Planning

2. Comprehensive Wastewater Management Planning

It is the intent of MassDEP that the preparation of these plans will assist grant recipients in meeting Commonwealth of Massachusetts and Federal Clean Water Act requirements, as well as to prepare public utility systems for budgetary planning for regular evaluative assessments and replacement of water infrastructure system assets. Planning projects have to be complementary to existing infrastructure, not for new infrastructure. The RFP is due on February 26, 2016.  

For more information, or if you require assistance with the RFP, please contact us at 800-366-5760 or

5 Eco-Conscious Gifts of Love for Valentine’s Day

February 14 is Valentine’s Day — a longstanding tradition where we show love and affection to family and friends. But did you know that the traditional Valentine’s Day gifts come with a hefty environmental and human cost? The good news is that there are plenty of environmentally friendly, humanitarian ways to show your special people that you care — about them AND the planet.


Bleeding Heart perennial in bloom
Bleeding Heart perennial in bloom

Traditional cut flowers require a significant amount of water to grow and transport, and also are doused with a hefty amount of chemical pesticides. 80% of traditional cut flowers are imported, with 90% of those imports coming from Latin America, where pesticide regulations are nonexistent. As a result, 65% of flower workers in Colombia have compromised health, and Latin American groundwater and waterways have become polluted. While there are many alternative ideas for cut flowers, giving your sweetie a Bleeding Heart to plant in the garden is the Valentine’s Day win. These beautiful perennials are hardy, drought resistant, erupt profusely with heart-shaped blossoms every spring, and keep their vibrant green leaves until the first frost. Not only is a Bleeding Heart an environmentally conscious gift, it is also thoughtful, long-lasting, and a symbol of deep and abiding love in both American and British cultures.


vday fair tradeChocolate is one of the most traditional Valentine’s gifts — and one of the most disastrous. Cacao — more commonly referred to as cocoa — can only be grown up to 20 degrees north and south of the equator, and most of the world’s chocolate is grown in Africa. Because global demand of chocolate is expected to double by 2050, farmers are struggling to meet demand and have turned to unsustainable farming methods. Planting cocoa trees in full sunlight yields more bountiful, but lower quality crops, and it also encourages weed growth and pest infestation, which requires more pesticide and chemical application. Cocoa farming has led to major deforestation and soil erosion, and has destroyed wildlife habitats. While governments have tried to protect rainforests after witnessing the destruction that cocoa farming has wrought, farmers continue to illegally clearcut forests to plant more cocoa. And if that’s not bad enough, many African cocoa farmers utilize children to harvest the trees. Most of these children are between the ages of 12 and 16, but children as young as 5 have been found working the fields. These children often work 12 hour days, their wages are typically well below the poverty line, and they frequently experience abuse. The safest way to buy chocolate is to buy organic, fair-trade and rainforest certified chocolate. Organic chocolate is grown in Latin America, where there are no documented cases of child labor. Fair-trade certified ensures that the workers earn a fair wage, and rainforest certified ensures that the cocoa was grown using sustainable methods.


Paper cards are an environmental nightmare. Paper accounts for 20% of global wood consumption, with 93% of it being from virgin pulp. Add to that the vast amounts of water required to grow trees for paper production, the thousands of gallons of fuel used to transport the wood and the paper, and the chemicals and toxins used in the inks printed on those cards, and it’s clear that paper greeting cards are a tradition that we should forgo. Instead, show your loved ones your affection with an e-greeting. E-cards use no paper, require no transportation, and are easily personalized with your special message. Bonus: many are free, like Blue Mountain. With the money you save on greeting cards, you can easily afford that pricier, organic chocolate.


Children diamond mining in Sierra Leone
Children diamond mining in Sierra Leone

A large percentage of global diamond mining is detrimental to both the environment and human rights. In Africa, where 65% of the world’s diamonds are mined, vast amounts of land have been completely deforested, leading to erosion and loss of previously farmable land.  In addition, these vast, abandoned mines are perfect breeding grounds for mosquitos, which spread malaria and other water-borne diseases. Diamond miners earn less than $1 per day, and up to half of those workers are children. Diamond miners are often abused and tortured, and millions of deaths have been attributed to the illicit diamond trade. Fortunately, there is a solution. Brilliant Earth is committed to only selling diamonds that are Beyond Conflict Free. According to their website, Beyond Conflict Free goes above and beyond the current industry standards to guarantee that their diamonds originate from pure, ethical sources. Their ethically sourced diamonds originate from mines that adhere to strict labor, trade, and environmental standards.


gold miningThe vast majority of gold mining is an extremely environmentally destructive practice. For each gold ring, over 20 tons of rock and soil are dislodged and discarded, bringing with it cyanide and mercury that are used in the mining process. These toxins enter waterways, polluting our water supply and harming marine life, and elemental mercury is released into the air, compromising air quality. But while the majority of gold mining is done without any regard for the environment, there is a movement to change this practice. When purchasing gold jewelry for your sweetheart this Valentine’s Day, look for gold mined by artisanal and small scale miners. Some safe retailers include Amalena, Brilliant Earth, and Green Oro.

While traditional Valentine’s Day gifts are environmentally unfriendly, Valentine’s Day doesn’t need to remain an eco-travesty. With a little bit of effort and thoughtfulness, we can show love to both our sweetheart and planet at the same time. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Texas Drinking Water — A Lesson for the United States

Waco Suspension Bridge in Waco, Texas
Waco Suspension Bridge in Waco, Texas

Texas is the largest state in the continental United States, and home to Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio, three of the top ten most populous cities in the nation. The Lone Star State has pioneered many famous firsts and larger than life landmarks, and seems to do things in its own way. In 1870, Texas built the Waco Bridge, the first suspension bridge in the United States that is still in use today as a pedestrian crossing, and the dome of the capitol building in Austin stands seven feet higher than that of the nation’s Capitol in Washington, D.C. The world’s longest fishing pier is in Port Lavaca, the world’s first rodeo was held in Pecos on July 4, 1883, and the Tyler Municipal Rose Garden is the world’s largest rose garden, with over 38,000 rose bushes representing 500 varieties of roses set in a 22-acre garden. Texas has a total of 6,300 square miles of inland lakes and streams, second only to Alaska, and more land is farmed in Texas than in any other state in the nation, including California.

Texas 50-Year Projected Water Supply and Demand
Texas 50-Year Projected Water Supply and Demand

It’s no wonder that Texas is also a national leader in water management. With its massive population, vast farming acres, and generally arid climate, the state has taken proactive measures to ensure that it has adequate water supply for its myriad needs. In 1997, Texas developed its first statewide water plan and has faithfully updated it every five years since then. The statewide plan combines information from 16 regional plans, each with its own 50-year projected water demands as well as strategies for new water supply. Since the population in Texas is expected to increase over 80% by the year 2060, growing from 25.4 million to 46.3 million people, the most recent statewide water plan (completed in 2012) predicts a gap between supply and demand of over eight million acre-feet by 2060, which would require an astronomical $53 billion investment in new water supply strategies. And that $53 billion represents less than a quarter of the total need of $231 billion for water supplies, water treatment and distribution, wastewater treatment and collection, and flood control required for the state of Texas in the next 50 years. As a result of this dismal forecast, Texas voters approved a new $2 billion revolving loan fund in an effort to avoid the insurmountable deficit. The fund provides monetary support for projects in the state water plan, and requires that at least 20% of the funds be used for conservation and reuse strategies and 10% be used for rural areas.

The emergency water line from the River Road Wastewater Treatment Facility Photo: City of Wichita Falls
The emergency water line from the River Road Wastewater Treatment Facility
Photo: City of Wichita Falls

Recommendations to increase water supply include reservoirs and wells, conservation, drought management, and desalination. Another strong recommendation is reuse, in which Texas is already a trail-blazing leader. In fact, Texas is the only state in the nation to have implemented direct potable reuse (DPR) in not one, but two cities – Big Spring and Wichita Falls. The Colorado River Municipal Water District (CRMWD), serving the communities of Big Spring, Snyder, and Midland, Texas, spent over ten years researching and testing before determining that their best option was DPR, and in May of 2013, the nation’s first DPR plant, which is capable of treating up to two million gallons of wastewater effluent per day to drinking water standards, was officially opened. Wichita Falls constructed a 13-mile pipeline that connects the city’s wastewater treatment plant to its water treatment plant. Treated wastewater is then piped directly to the water treatment plant for further treatment, with no environmental buffer. However, both plants do mix their wastewater effluent with raw water before treating it for drinking water. As for the “yuck factor” associated with DPR? It was really never an issue. The dire drought conditions and critical need for drinking water made Texans very receptive to DPR. After a few public meetings, press releases, TV and radio spots, and an educational video, local residents were overwhelmingly on board with the idea.

Groundwater Replenishment System, Orange County, CA
Groundwater Replenishment System, Orange County, CA

And others have taken notice. California’s Orange County Water District Groundwater Replenishment System (GWRS) is a cutting-edge indirect potable reuse (IPR) system that could be turned into a DPR system if necessary. The GWRS system takes wastewater effluent that would have discharged into the Pacific Ocean and instead purifies it to actually exceed both state and federal drinking water standards. This highly treated water is then discharged into percolation basins in Anaheim, where sand and gravel naturally filter the water prior to returning it to the drinking water system. In addition, the WateReuse Research Foundation (WRRF) and WateReuse California worked together to raise $4 million from 30 different water and wastewater agencies to support research for DPR. And Colorado, whose population has skyrocketed in recent years and is expected to double from its current five million to ten million by 2050, approved the state’s first ever water action plan in November of 2015.

And this is just the beginning. With population increasing exponentially and supply steadily decreasing due to climate change and drought, local and regional communities as well as states and the federal government will have to continually seek innovative, efficient ways to meet the ever-increasing demand. With its comprehensive water action plan, DPR implementation and education, and proactive funding of water projects, Texas has carved an innovative path that is providing much-needed guidance and hope to a thirsty nation.