The Criticality of Unidirectional Flushing (UDF) Programs for Water Utilities

water_tap-300x188Water utilities today are faced with a unique set of difficulties. Population growth has resulted in unprecedented demand while climate change has caused supply to dwindle. Increased regulations have forced utilities to invest more and more capital into treatment while budgets have shrunk. In addition, our nation’s aging infrastructure has forced water utilities to heavily invest in repair and replacement of the distribution system. Therefore, it has become critical that utilities utilize the most cost-effective and efficient methodologies in order to maintain and improve their water systems.

A key issue in distribution systems is tuberculation, or build-up, on distribution pipe walls. These deposits, most frequently caused by corrosion and microbial activity, affect both the quality and quantity of the water supply. Excessive tuberculation greatly reduces distribution system efficiency and has a negative impact on water quality. In fact, AWWA has noted that distribution system deficiencies are responsible for over 25 percent of waterborne disease outbreaks in the United States each year.

Silver fire hydrant is spraying water after valve opened with red wrench.

Fortunately, implementation of a planned, systematic Unidirectional Flushing (UDF) Program helps to reduce these issues. UDF is utilized to maintain a distribution system and provides the added benefit of learning critical information about the system. This information allows utilities to efficiently plan and make the most imperative improvements to the system. And while the primary goal of UDF is to clean water mains, there are also several peripheral benefits. A routinely implemented UDF Program helps to regularly exercise hydrants and valves, prolonging the life of the valves and helping to locate any closed or broken valves. Flushing also helps to pinpoint the cause of water quality or pressure issues in a specific area of the system while determining discrepancies between the hydraulic model and the distribution system. Flushing frequently enables system issues to be discovered before they become critical and require emergency service, giving utilities sufficient time to address and budget them.

Manchester-By-The-Sea-UDF-Zone-4-199x300Because demand is highest in summer and would make flushing impractical, and low temperatures in winter would cause unsafe conditions from flushed water freezing on roadways and sidewalks, flushing is typically performed in the spring and fall. Currently, Tata & Howard is assisting the communities of Haverhill and Manchester By The Sea, MA and Norwalk First Taxing District in Norwalk, CT with their annual UDF Programs. Both AWWA and MassDEP recommend that UDF be performed on an annual basis, at a minimum. If a distribution system is too large to perform UDF annually, flushing should instead be scheduled in rotation so that all parts of the distribution system are exercised on a regular basis.

A regularly scheduled UDF Program is one of the simplest and most cost-effective ways of maintaining the health and safety of a water distribution system. For comprehensive information on UDF Programs including case studies, please download our UDF whitepaper instantly here.

Earth Day 2016 — 10 Simple Steps to Improve the Environment

earth_day_2016Earth Day, which falls on April 22 each year, is celebrated globally by over one billion people and is largely credited with being the catalyst for the modern environmental movement. The first Earth Day was celebrated in the United States in 1970, and was quickly followed by passage of the Clean Air Act later in 1970, the Clean Water Act in 1972, and the Endangered Species Act in 1973. In 1990, Earth Day expanded to a global level, being celebrated in 141 countries and bringing environmental issues to the forefront of the global scene. Earth Day has since become the world’s largest global observance.

While Earth Day boasts some impressive statistics, simple changes are still the easiest and most effective way to practice environmentalism in our daily lives. If all one billion people who celebrate Earth Day were to implement just one small change, the cumulative effect would be monumental. At Tata & Howard, we are big believers in continuously improving our personal habits in support of the environment, in the form of small steps. For example, this year we expanded our recycling efforts to include comprehensive, single stream recycling, and we replaced the corporate office’s Keurig with an environmentally-friendly Bean2Cup brewer. So in celebration of Earth Day, we’ve compiled 10 simple steps to improve our environment that we can all easily implement in our daily lives:

Plastic pollution has become epidemic
Plastic pollution has become epidemic

1. Eliminate the use of paper plates and plastic utensils
Paper plates are made from virgin wood, contributing to deforestation, and are manufactured by paper mills that use toxic chemicals that can contaminate waterways. Speaking of water, did you know that it takes half a gallon of water to produce ONE 10-inch, medium-weight dinner plate? And plastic utensils are no better. Plastic cutlery requires petroleum and chemicals to produce, fossil fuels to transport, and is typically made from non-recyclable plastic.

2. Use a refillable water bottle — and fill it with tap water!
Most families toss almost 90 pounds of plastic in the trash every year, and plastic takes about 500 years to biodegrade. An abysmal one in seven plastic bottles is recycled, contributing heavily to the world’s plastic pollution problem. In addition, bottled water is hardly any better than tap water in terms of quality and safety. Bottled water costs more per gallon than gasoline, even though it is very frequently just tap water with some extra minerals thrown in for taste. Drinking tap water from a refillable water bottle is smart not only for the environment, but also for your health — and your wallet.

3. Choose reusable over disposable
As mentioned, paper and plastic both have a significantly negative impact on the environment. Instead, bring your own reusable bags to the grocery store, use cloth napkins instead of paper, replace paper towels with microfiber cloths, and choose cloth diapers for baby.

leaky_faucet4. Repair leaky faucets and toilets
Leaky toilets can waste up to 200 gallons of water per day — or the equivalent usage of an entire family of four — and leaking faucets can waste up to 3,000 gallons of water per year. Repairing these leaks will help save our world’s most precious resource, and will also lower your water bill.

5. Collect rainwater for use in gardens
Collecting rainwater is easy with a rain barrel, which catches stormwater runoff from rooftops. This collected water can be used later to water lawns, gardens, and flower beds. Rain barrels come in a variety of styles and colors, and can make a beautiful addition to your landscaping while helping to protect the environment.

6. Turn off and unplug all electronics when not in use
Computers, cell phones, printers, video gaming consoles, tablets, wearable fitness trackers — these all depend on electricity, and are often left plugged in and running, even when not in use. Completely shutting down and unplugging these devices when not in use will help to reduce your carbon footprint — and your electric bill.

7. Buy only fair-trade, sustainable coffee
Traditionally grown coffee is an environmental nightmare: it is one of the largest contributors to the decimation of our world’s rainforests, is the second-most pesticide laden food crop (second only to tobacco), and is often dependent on unfair labor practices. By choosing fair trade, eco-certified coffee, you are assuring that the coffee you are drinking is both environmentally friendly and humane. Not one to brew your own joe? Bring a reusable mug when visiting your local coffee shop.

White clover is hardy, disease-resistant, and stays green even during moderate drought

8. Green up your lawn
No, not with fertilizer — with ground cover! Outdoor watering accounts for over 30% of household water usage in the United States, and planting ground cover can reduce that outdoor water usage as much as 50%. Ground cover does not require supplemental watering, remains green even during times of moderate drought, and helps prevent soil compaction. In the northeast, white clover is a pretty and popular choice.

9. Start a compost pile
Composting our vegetable and lawn scraps helps the environment in many ways. Organic waste in landfills is typically covered by trash and is therefore forced to decay in an airless state. This anaerobic decay produces methane gas, which is 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Therefore, composting our vegetable and lawn scraps helps to minimize the effect that landfills have on climate change while also reducing the speed at which landfills are, well…filled. Also, compost helps to feed and improve the soil, minimizing the need for chemical fertilizers.

safer choice10. Switch to eco-friendly cleaning products 
Traditional cleaning products rely heavily on synthetic chemicals, which are now understood to be dangerous to both the environment and our health. This year, EPA launched an initiative called Safer Choice to help individuals and businesses choose more environmentally friendly products. Safer cleaning products for every type of use, from stainless steel to carpet to laundry to dish soap, can be found on EPA’s Safer Choice website.

These are just a few ways in which we can do our part to green up the environment and to reduce our carbon footprint. This Earth Day, let’s all vow to make a few simple, small changes to improve the environment in which we all live. While one person changing one habit may be seemingly insignificant, one billion people changing that same one habit would have an unprecedented impact on the health of our world. Happy Earth Day!

National Work Zone Awareness Week: Don’t Be THAT Driver!

Iconic representations of distracted drivers, including a person texting while driving, a person experiencing road rage, a person putting on makeup while driving, and a person eating while driving.

It’s National Work Zone Awareness Week (NWZAW) and this year’s theme is “Don’t Be THAT Driver!” Begun in 1999 by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the American Traffic Safety Services Association (ATSSA), and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) to increase public awareness of work zone safety issues, NWZAW has since become a national event, with State agencies and other pertinent organizations sponsoring and participating in educational and outreach initiatives. NWZAW is always held in April, the beginning of construction season for many organizations, and serves as an excellent time to remind drivers to be mindful of work zones and the many people who work in them.

This Year’s Theme: Don’t Be THAT Driver!

Figure 1. Work Zone Fatalities in the United States, 2005-2014. Work zone fatalities per year as follows: 2005, 1,058 fatalities; 2006, 1,004 fatalities; 2007, 831 fatalities; 2008, 716 fatalities; 2009, 680 fatalities; 2010, 586 fatalities; 2011, 590 fatalities; 2012, 617 fatalities; 2013, 593 fatalities; 2014, 669 fatalities.
Source: Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS): 2005-2013 FARS Final data and 2014 FARS ARF

Work zone fatalities in the United States steadily decreased from 2005-2010 due to increased awareness and safety measures. However, since 2010, the number of work zone fatalities has been slowly increasing (Figure 1). Why? Distracted driving. Smart phones have brought distracted driving accidents and fatalities to an unprecedented level, and work zones are no exception. This year’s theme of “Don’t Be THAT Driver!” reinforces the message that motorists need to constantly be alert and prepared for driving anomalies, such as work zones. Distracted drivers often do not notice changes such as brake lights or work zones in time to prevent serious accidents. Drivers who are distracted, which includes any activity other than driving, such as eating, reading, shaving, applying makeup, or using a mobile device, are up to four times more likely to be involved in a crash.


man using phone while driving the carWhile cell phone usage is admittedly the biggest culprit, distracted driving includes ANY activity that diverts a driver’s attention. The three main types of distraction are as follows:

  • Visual – taking your eyes off the road. This includes cell phone usage, reading, or looking at something off the road or your passenger.
  • Manual – taking your hands off the wheel. This includes using a cell phone, changing the radio station, digging in the glovebox, or eating your breakfast.
  • Cognitive – taking your mind off what you are doing. This includes talking on your cell phone and arguing with your spouse.

Note that cell phone usage contributes to all three types of distraction. Other factors affecting work zone accidents include aggressive driving and, of course, speed. In 2014, distracted driving was responsible for 16% of fatal crashes in work zones, while speeding was a factor in 29%. The most common type of work zone crash is a rear-end collision.

Work Zone Employees — Somebody’s Loved Ones

T&H engineers at a water main installation in Milford, MA
T&H engineers at a water main installation

NWZAW is of particular import to Tata & Howard, as work zones include all types of roadway construction, including water and sewer line installation, repair, and replacement – which we do a lot of! Therefore, our engineers and resident observers are frequently present in work zones, along with construction crews and police officers. All of these people have families, parents, children, and friends. During NWZAW, we at Tata & Howard implore you to think about how fast and how safely you would want someone to drive by a work zone if your loved ones worked there. Work zones can be confusing and challenging due to traffic interruptions, workers blending in with cones and signs, and narrowed roadways. Slow down, be alert, and most importantly, pay attention! Our goal, along with NWZAW, is to see that 100% of work zone workers are safe.

Be Smart, Be Safe

Water main installation in Milford, MA
Water main installation in Milford, MA

Over 40,000 people are injured each year as a result of motor vehicle crashes in work zones, and every ten hours, someone in the United States is killed in a work zone. Fatal crashes occur most frequently during the summer and fall months, when construction is at its peak. Construction season is upon us, and during NWZAW, we are asking each and every one of you to think about the workers on our roadways, to drive with caution and care, and to spread the word about work zone safety. Together, we can work toward a goal of zero work zone deaths, and ensure that our engineers, supervisors, construction crews, and police officers all make it home safely for dinner.

EPA Issues Revised General Permit for MS4s in Massachusetts

The concrete circular run-off pipe discharging water

On April 13, 2016, EPA issued a news release for the much-anticipated revised General Permit for Small Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems (MS4s) in Massachusetts, which was signed into effect April 4, 2016.

What you need to know:

  • Permit becomes effective July 1, 2018
  • A Notice of Intent (NOI) to apply for coverage under the permit will be due September 29, 2018
  • 5-Year permit term
  • Covers 260 municipalities in Massachusetts plus state and federal facilities
  • Permit has the same six minimum control measures as the 2003 MA MS4 permit

The permit allows the following:

  • Permittee may prioritize catch basin inspection and cleaning based on their knowledge of the system
  • Credit for past work
  • Up to ten years to complete illicit discharge requirements
  • One year to update from 2003 Stormwater Management Plan

Other key facts:

  • Permit contains no end-of-pipe limits
  • No retrofits required during the permit term
  • Routine road maintenance and paving are exempt from post-construction requirements

For more information from EPA, please click here.

Informational Public Meetings are being held throughout the state where requirements will be explained and questions can be asked:

Western MA:
Monday May 9, 2016 at 9:30am
Pioneer Valley Planning Commission
60 Congress Street, Springfield

Southeastern MA & Cape Cod:
Wednesday, May 18, 2016 at 12:30pm
Lecture Hall A, Science Building
Cape Cod Community College
2240 Route 132, West Barnstable

Northeastern MA:
Thursday May 19, 2016 at 8:00am
Haverhill Campus
Northern Essex Community College
100 Elliot Street, Haverhill

Central MA:
Tuesday, May 24, 2016 at 8:30am
495/MetroWest Partnership
200 Friberg Parkway, Westborough

Boston Area:
Monday, June 6, 2016 at 9:00am
EPA Region 1
5 Post Office Square, Boston

Tata & Howard has extensive experience assisting municipalities in meeting MS4 permit requirements. Please contact our Stormwater Project Manager Jon Gregory, P.E. directly at 508-219-4016 or for assistance or if you have additional questions.

Funding Assistance to Meet Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Needs


Water and Wastewater Infrastructure

Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Infographic courtesy of
Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Infographic courtesy of

The vast and intricate network of pipes buried beneath our feet is one of the key contributors to the economic success of our nation. Unfortunately, much of our water infrastructure was installed prior to WWII, with some east coast pipes dating back to the late 1800s. Also, many of our nation’s wastewater treatment plants were built in response to the passage of the 1974 Clean Water Act and are now 30-40 years old. Therefore, much of our nation’s water and wastewater infrastructure has reached the end of its useful life and requires repair or replacement.

The ASCE gave both Drinking Water and Wastewater a “D” grade in its 2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure; and because water has been so historically undervalued in America, municipalities simply do not have the funds to make the required improvements. In fact, a 2002 US EPA study titled Clean Water and Drinking Gap Analysis Report compared America’s drinking water and wastewater infrastructure needs to the available revenues of utilities. Without including exacerbating factors such as population growth or climate change, the report showed a projected gap in funding over the next 20 years of over $500 billion.

Certainly, our nation must find a way to bridge the funding gap, which will require rate increases and, therefore, community education on conservation practices as well as the value of water. And while these rate increases will provide a portion of the necessary funding, utilities and consumers alone cannot carry the full burden of the funding gap. Thankfully, there are myriad funding opportunities available to assist communities with critical water and wastewater improvements, some of which are listed below:

USDA Rural Development Water & Waste Disposal Loan & Grant Program

Burst water main
Burst water main

The USDA Rural Development (RD) Water & Waste Disposal Loan & Grant Program provides funding for clean and reliable drinking water systems, sanitary sewage disposal, sanitary solid waste disposal, and stormwater drainage to households and businesses in eligible rural areas. This program assists qualified applicants that are not otherwise able to obtain commercial credit on reasonable terms. Areas that may be served include rural areas and towns with fewer than 10,000 people, tribal lands in rural areas, and colonias.

USDA RD funding provides long-term, low-interest loans which may be combined with grants if necessary to keep user costs reasonable. Funds may be used to finance the acquisition, construction, or improvement of drinking water sourcing, treatment, storage and distribution; sewer collection, transmission, treatment, and disposal; solid waste collection, disposal and closure; and stormwater collection, transmission, and disposal.

Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) Program

stormwater drainEstablished by the 1987 amendments to the Clean Water Act, the CWSRF Program is a federal-state partnership that provides a permanent, independent source of low-cost financing to communities for a wide range of water quality infrastructure projects. The program is a powerful partnership between EPA and the states that gives states the flexibility to fund a range of projects that address their highest priority water quality needs.

Using a combination of federal and state funds, state CWSRF programs provide loans to eligible recipients for many types of water infrastructure projects, including construction of publicly owned treatment works; nonpoint source; national estuary program projects; decentralized wastewater treatment systems; stormwater; water conservation, efficiency, and reuse; watershed pilot projects; energy efficiency; water reuse; security measures at publicly owned treatment works; and technical assistance.

Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) Program

Water storage tank in Somersworth, NH
Water storage tank in Somersworth, NH

The DWSRF Program is a federal-state partnership to help ensure safe drinking water. Created by the 1996 Amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), the DWSRF is a financial assistance program to help water systems and states achieve the health protection objectives of the SDWA. The program is a powerful partnership between EPA and the states. Building on a federal investment of over $17.3 billion, the state DWSRFs have provided more than $27.9 billion to water systems through 2014. This assistance was provided through over 11,400 assistance agreements for improving drinking water treatment; fixing leaky or old pipes (water distribution); improving source of water supply; replacing or constructing finished water storage tanks; and other infrastructure projects needed to protect public health.

The DWSRF Program funds a wide range of drinking water infrastructure projects, including treatment projects to install or upgrade facilities to improve drinking water quality to comply with SDWA regulations; transmission and distribution rehabilitation, replacement, or installation to improve water pressure to safe levels or to prevent contamination caused by leaky or broken pipes; rehabilitation of wells or development of eligible sources to replace contaminated sources; installation or upgrade of finished water storage tanks to prevent microbiological contamination from entering the distribution system; interconnecting two or more water systems; constructing a new system to serve homes with contaminated individual wells; and consolidating existing systems into a new regional water system.

Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA)

Business concepts - ship from dollar money on water

Enacted in 2014 as part of the Water Resources and Reform Development Act, WIFIA establishes a financing mechanism for water and wastewater infrastructure projects to be managed by EPA Headquarters. The WIFIA program provides low interest rate financing for the construction of water and wastewater infrastructure. Funded projects must be nationally or regionally significant, and individual projects must be anticipated to cost no less than $20 million.

WIFIA works separately from, but in coordination with, the State Revolving Fund (SRF) programs to provide subsidized financing for large dollar-value projects. Eligible projects include CWSRF eligible projects; DWSRF eligible projects; projects for enhanced energy efficiency at drinking water and wastewater facilities; acquisition of property if it is integral to the project or will mitigate the environmental impact of a project; bundled SRF projects submitted under one application by an SRF program; and combinations of projects secured by a common security pledge.

Northern Border Regional Commission (NBRC)

Troy-Jay, VT received $250,000 from NBRC for upgrades to the community's wastewater treatment plant pump station
Troy-Jay, VT received $250,000 from NBRC for upgrades to the community’s wastewater treatment plant pump station

The NBRC was formed by Congress in 2008 in order to help fund economic and community development projects in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York. NBRC was formed to help alleviate distress in the hard-hit northern counties of each state.  Bordering Canada, these counties generally have higher levels of unemployment,  population loss, and lower incomes.

Eligible projects include those that develop the transportation, telecommunication, and basic public infrastructure within the region; assist the region in obtaining job skills and employment related education, as well as entrepreneurship, technology, and business development; provide basic health care and other public services for those areas that are severely economically distressed and underdeveloped; encourage resource conservation, tourism, recreation, and preservation of open spaces in a manner consistent with economic development goals; or support the development of renewable and alternative energy sources.

Other Funding Sources

Wastewater treatment plant in Flagstaff, AZ
Wastewater treatment plant in Flagstaff, AZ

In addition to those listed above, there are many other funding sources. Some of these include SWMI GrantsWater Infrastructure Assessment and Planning Grants, Community Block Development Grants (CBDG), and Watersheds & Water Quality in Massachusetts; Water Infrastructure Finance Authority of Arizona (WIFA) and Water and Wastewater Energy Efficiency Rebates through Arizona Public Service (APS) in Arizona; State Aid Grant Program (SAG) in New Hampshire; and Texas Water Development Fund (TWDF)Economically Distressed Areas Program (EDAP)Rural Water Assistance Fund (RWAF), and the State Participation Program (SPP) in Texas.

In Conclusion

Investing in water and wastewater infrastructure now is critical to the sustainability of our economy and the health of our nation. By implementing necessary rate increases and conservation techniques along with community education and robust funding assistance, our nation will have the ability to successfully to bridge the infrastructure funding gap and ensure the economic and environmental viability of our nation for both present and future generations.

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MassDEP agrees to co-issuance of new MS4 stormwater permit with EPA

MassDEPDespite serious concerns over costs to municipalities and timing of implementation, MassDEP has agreed to co-issue the new MS4 stormwater permit with EPA. According to a March 31, 2016 letter from MassDEP Commissioner Martin Suuberg to US EPA Region 1 Administrator Curt Spalding, MassDEP agreed to co-issue the permit in spite of concerns in order to remain involved with cities and towns on permit implementation. The letter states, “MassDEP would have preferred some time for additional discussion of important issues. Nevertheless, MassDEP needs to be involved with EPA and cities and towns on how this permit is implemented. This is too important an issue for our environment, for our cities and towns and for the Commonwealth.”

The letter further stated that EPA had not addressed all comments previously submitted by MassDEP, and that the proposed permit would present significant hurdles to municipalities. The complete letter can be read here.