Meeting Wastewater Utilities’ Needs Through Capital Efficiency

restrooms-300x200Wastewater. It’s something that will always exist, and will always require collection and treatment. Just like improved water, improved sanitation is one of the key contributing factors to a developed nation, significantly improving public health, educational opportunity, and workforce viability. And while the United States boasts nearly 100% improved water and sanitation, there is still cause for concern.

In the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) 2013 Report Card, wastewater received a “D” grade. Why? Because our existing infrastructure is in desperate need of repair and replacement, and a significant funding gap exists. This gap can be attributed to the fact that funding has been declining while regulations continue to increase.

Pic1-TotalPublicSpending-300x200In March of 2015, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) published a report on annual government expenditures on infrastructure, titled Public Spending on Transportation and Water Infrastructure, 1956 to 2014. The data, collected from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for federal expenditures and from the Census Bureau for state and local government expenditures, indicates that federal, state, and local governments in the United States have been investing LESS in water and wastewater infrastructure than ever before. From 1956 to the late 1980s, total government spending increased in real dollars by approximately 3%-4% per year, and then from 1%-2% through 2009. These expenditures include both capital and operations and maintenance (O&M) costs. However, from 2010 until present, total government spending has actually decreased by 8%.

Pic3-OMvsCapital-300x200To further complicate matters, capital expenditure has decreased at a faster rate than O&M expenditure. From 1956 to 1980, public spending was basically split between capital expenditures — to build or replace water and wastewater systems —  and O&M of the systems. However, since 1980, O&M spending continued to grow at an annual rate of 4%-6% to the 1990s, and then at an annual rate of 1%-3% through 2009, since when it has remained flat. In contrast, capital spending grew at an annual rate of only about 1%-2% since 1980, and has declined at an average annual rate of 4% since 2009. Governments now spend twice as much on O&M of their existing systems than on capital expenditures to repair, rehabilitate, or replace existing assets or for the installation of new infrastructure. In addition, state and local government is now saddled with nearly the full burden of capital expenditure, as federal spending has been steadily on the decline since 1976.

Clearly, municipalities are faced with the almost insurmountable task of staying up to date with all current regulations while also improving outdated and failing systems. Because wastewater collection and treatment is such a crucial aspect of modern day society, it has become paramount that municipalities find cost-effective and efficient ways of maintaining and updating critical infrastructure.

Dollar sign sink in clear blue water

One of the most effective ways in which municipalities can intelligently allocate their limited infrastructure dollars is by implementing a clear and systematic plan of action for capital improvement projects. Typically, asset management is considered to be the standard by which wastewater utilities address capital assets. Defined by the EPA as managing infrastructure capital assets to minimize the total cost of owning and operating them, while delivering the service levels customers desire, asset management certainly plays a key role in smart capital planning. However, asset management should only be part of the equation. Hydraulic modeling and system criticality are two equally important aspects which should be examined when planning long-term capital expenditure.

Tata & Howard’s Wastewater Capital Efficiency Plans™ identify those areas of your wastewater systems needing rehabilitation, repair, or replacement that make the most efficient use of your limited infrastructure dollars by combining the concepts of hydraulic modeling, system criticality, and asset management into a single comprehensive report. Each report is tailored to the individual utility distribution system and provides utilities with a database and Geographic Information System (GIS) representation for each pipe segment within their underground piping system. The CEP report then prioritizes system piping improvements and provides estimated costs for replacement and rehabilitation.

Our three circle approach includes the following:

Three Circles WASTEWATER 515-finalHydraulic modeling

  • Model verification if available
  • Compare flows with design carrying capacity
  • Hydraulic deficiencies
  • History of SSOs
  • High infiltration/inflow rates

Critical Components

  • Interceptors
  • Trunk sewers and force mains
  • Residential sewer mains

Asset Management

  • Establish score for each pipe segment based on blockages/collapses, I/I rates, installation year, soil corrosivity, PACP structural and maintenance ratings, and other criteria.

A comprehensive CEP provides a utility with not only a prioritized list of logically thought out infrastructure projects, but also a justifiable and defendable plan of action to present to town administrators when planning budgets.

Manhole_cover_sewer_closeup-300x200To continue as a leading industrialized nation, our wastewater utilities must not only remain safe and functional, but also progressive and up to date with current and future regulations. Because funding is declining while costs and population are increasing, it is more important than ever for wastewater utilities to methodically prioritize and plan all repairs and improvements. Only through the implementation of a well-researched and systematic course of action will utilities be prepared to provide safe and dependable wastewater services both now and in the future.

A Roadmap to Massachusetts MS4 Stormwater Compliance

The long-anticipated 2016 Massachusetts Small MS4 General Permit, which replaces the 2003 Small MS4 General Permit, was finally signed on April 4, 2016 and jointly issued by the U.S. EPA and MassDEP on April 13, 2016, with an effective date of July 1, 2018. While this date may seem a long way off, it actually affords municipalities limited time to efficiently and effectively determine Massachusetts MS4 compliance needs.

The Time to Plan is Now

Marlborough-stormwater-pretty-300x225In addition to the six Minimum Control Measures included in the original 2003 Permit, the 2016 Massachusetts MS4 General Permit also specifically includes limits to Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs). TMDLs set pollution limits for affected waterways. These pollution limits represent the maximum amount of pollutant a specific body of water can handle before marine life, wildlife, and/or recreational uses become adversely affected. Because stormwater has the potential to have a significantly negative impact on waterways, TMDLs are a necessary protection measure. Unfortunately, addressing stormwater contributions to TMDLs will require that many communities make some structural and treatment modifications to their stormwater systems, and these take both time and money.

A Notice of Intent (NOI) to apply for coverage under the Permit must be filed to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) by September 29, 2018. The Permit is expected to increase municipalities’ stormwater costs substantially for the duration of the permit term — an increase that simply may not seem affordable to some communities. And, non-compliance is not an option as it brings with it its own costs including the potential for regulatory action and fines.

The best course of action to establish compliance with the 2016 Massachusetts Small MS4 General Permit is a proactive, systematic approach. Municipalities should be evaluating current MS4 stormwater measures including stormwater system mapping, best management practices (BMPs), illicit discharge monitoring and elimination, etc., and assessing whether or not they are still in compliance with the new Permit. In addition, municipal stormwater systems should be carefully evaluated for cost-efficient and effective means of becoming fully compliant as well as provided with a proposed 5-year budget for compliance. In this way, small MS4 stormwater systems can approach local government officials with a clear and defendable stormwater budget so that nobody is caught unprepared..

Mid-CityScrap_condition1-225x300Fortunately, stormwater assessments that are conducted by licensed professional engineers, such as Tata & Howard’s MS4 Compliance Assessments, provide a significant return on investment. As part of the assessment, the entire system is meticulously evaluated for the most budget-conscious ways in which to fully meet compliance. Permit exclusions will also be assessed and all previous stormwater work will be documented to establish proper credit. The assessment also provides a well-planned course of action that is defendable when justifying projects and procuring funding.

Key Dates:

  • July 1, 2018: Revised MS4 Permit effective date
  • September 29, 2018: Notice of Intent (NOI) to apply for coverage under the permit due to EPA/MassDEP (90 days from effective permit date)
  • July 1, 2019: 5-year Stormwater Management Plan (SMP) must be posted publically (one year from the effective permit date)

While the 2016 Massachusetts Small MS4 General Permit has received critical attention and is likely to increase municipalities’ stormwater costs, it is also likely to significantly increase protection to the Commonwealth’s waterways. The fact also remains that the revised MS4 Permit has already been signed and issued. Therefore, finding a balance between compliance and budgetary constraints must be a priority for all MS4 communities.


Jon Gregory, P.E., Tata & Howard’s Stormwater Manager, has dedicated his career to water environment engineering consulting and has over 18 years of experience in the design, permitting, and construction of water related projects. He is currently working on numerous stormwater projects throughout Massachusetts including assisting communities with MS4 compliance. 

Ribbon Cutting Ceremony for New Water Storage Tank in New Britain, CT

Elam Street water storage tank ribbon cutting ceremony in New Britain, Connecticut was held on June 17, 2016
Elam Street water storage tank ribbon cutting ceremony in New Britain, Connecticut was held on June 17, 2016

On Friday, June 17, 2016, New Britain Mayor Erin E. Stewart hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony to mark the completion of the construction of the new Elam Street water storage tank. In addition to Mayor Stewart, other attendees included Director of Utilities Gilbert Bligh, Raul Tejada from the Connecticut Department of Public Health, and Tata & Howard Vice President Steve Rupar, P.E.

Tata & Howard provided design, bidding, construction administration, and resident observation services for this important New Britain Water Department Project.  The new 2.0 million gallon, precast, prestressed, wire-wound, concrete water storage tank replaces an existing deteriorated 4 million gallon water storage tank constructed in 1956.  The project also included construction of  approximately 450 linear feet of new 16-inch diameter water main, mechanically cleaning and cement mortar lining approximately 430 linear feet of 20-inch diameter main, upgrades to the Corbin Avenue Pump Station and West Main Street Gatehouse, and demolition of much of  the existing water storage tank.  The lower portion of the existing water storage tank was repurposed as a drainage and overflow retention basin for the new storage tank.  Construction of the $3.3 million project was funded through the Drinking Water Revolving Fund, administered by the Department of Public Health.

Water Mains — Then and Now

ancient-terra-cotta-water-main-minoan-1-281x300Water mains play a crucial role in modern day civilization and contribute greatly to public health. Water mains have been in use for over 4000 years, and, through the years, huge strides have been made in the engineering and construction of this critical infrastructure.

Early Mains

The first known underground water mains were constructed by the ancient Minoan civilization between 2200 and 1400 BCE. Constructed of terra cotta, these ancient mains supplied water to the Palace of Knossos. In fact, the ancient Minoans were incredibly advanced for their time, as they also had flushing toilets, sewer piping and drainage, and even rainwater harvesting capabilities. Amazingly enough, the water mains of Knossos were over 1,000 years ahead of their time, as there is no historical evidence of any other water mains until the time of the Roman Empire, between 312 BCE and 500 AD.

Remains of part of the famed Roman aqueducts
Remains of part of the famed Roman aqueducts

The Roman Empire saw a time of incredible engineering achievement, including the invention of concrete, the construction of bridges and roads, and of course, the innovation of the famous aqueducts. Using gravity to transport water from the outlying hills to the city, these aqueducts, the longest of which was 57 miles, were an incredible engineering accomplishment — and some still stand today. During the early years of the Roman Empire, only the very wealthiest of Romans had water piped directly into their homes via rudimentary water mains, which were constructed of hollowed out logs or drilled stone. Later, water was piped to additional affluent homes via lead pipes. While some argue that the fall of Rome can be attributed to lead poisoning, there is no hard evidence that this theory is true.

Middle Years

Circa 1790 wooden water main from Boston, Massachusetts
Circa 1790 wooden water main from Boston, Massachusetts

Wooden pipes were used in 16th and 17th century Europe, and in 18th and 19th century Canada and United States. To this day, wooden pipes are occasionally unearthed during construction events in Boston, Massachusetts. Wooden pipes did present some problems in that they tended to attract insects and to rot. Also, they imparted a distinct woody flavor to the water.

In the 1800s, lead pipes came into popularity due to their durability and low cost. However, it was eventually recognized that lead water mains were causing lead poisoning, and by the 1920s, an increasing number of municipalities were prohibiting the use of lead pipes to convey drinking water. Long before Flint, Michigan, one of the worst lead poisoning disasters took place in Lowell, Massachusetts in the 1890s, where some of the drinking water tested contained 1,300 times the current EPA drinking water standard. Werner Troesken, an economist at the University of Pittsburgh, authored an entire book about widespread lead poisoning in turn of the century America from lead water mains.

Modern Times

Advanced Condition Assessment for Pipeline Rehabilitation helps determine which pipes in a water distribution system are in need of rehabilitation or replacement.

Because lead pipes were recognized to have negative health effects, cast iron water mains because the popular choice in the early 1900s. In use sporadically since 1455 when Germany laid the first recorded cast iron water main in history, cast iron offered a strong, durable, and safe means by which to convey water. Many municipalities on the east coast of America still have cast iron pipes in place that were laid over a century ago. Since their useful life expectancy is 75-125 years, many of these cast iron mains are nearing the end of their useful life or are overdue for replacement. Unfortunately, universal replacement of these failing mains is impossible due to the sheer volume of outdated mains combined with the shrinking budgets and increased regulations that municipalities are currently facing. Therefore, many municipalities are turning to more methodical means of determining which mains should be replaced, such as Advanced Condition Assessment for Pipeline Rehabilitation, which determines the amount of useful life left in a main, and Capital Efficiency Plans™, which identify areas of water systems most in need of rehabilitation, repair, or replacement. Systematically determining utilities’ most critical needs enables efficient use of their limited infrastructure dollars.

Ductile iron main is the material of choice today; shown, Milford Water Company water main install; design, construction administration, and resident observation by Tata & Howard
Ductile iron main is the material of choice today; shown, Milford Water Company water main install; design, construction administration, and resident observation by Tata & Howard

One of the most important modern innovations in water supply is the development of ductile iron in 1948. First used commercially in 1955, ductile iron main is still used today and boasts the longevity of cast iron pipe with the additional benefits of increased flexibility and strength. In addition to ductile iron, modern day water mains are also constructed from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic pipe.

Looking Ahead

Many advances have been made in the conveyance of water since the early days of the Minoans, with several major innovations occurring during the last century. Building on historical knowledge as well as an ever increasing understanding of water chemistry, toxicology, and engineering, water distribution methodology is likely to continue to evolve in ways that will ensure our water is safe, clean, and abundant for future generations.

MS4 Compliance Assessments — Act Now for FY18 Budgeting

stormwter_management_outfall_maIn April, EPA issued the revised General Permit for Small Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems (MS4s) in Massachusetts. The permit becomes effective July 1, 2017, so it is crucial to start preparing now.

Tata & Howard’s MS4 Compliance Assessments help municipalities determine how they already comply with the new requirements, what else must be completed to comply, and how much it will cost. The assessment also provides a well-planned course of action that is defendable when justifying projects and procuring funding. Complete your assessment now and be prepared for your FY18 budget.

We are currently scheduling MS4 Compliance Assessments to ensure municipalities have sufficient time to submit FY18 budgetary requests. Contact our Stormwater Project Manager Jon Gregory, P.E. for more information or to request an assessment.

Tata & Howard has extensive experience assisting Massachusetts municipalities and coalitions with MS4 compliance. Learn more:

project exp red

For information on the revised permit, visit

Tata & Howard Company Outing 2016

Tata & Howard’s family and friends

Saturday, June 11th was our annual employee outing at Kimball Farms in Westford and it was a big success. Our employee-owners participated in a pie eating contest, mini golf, the driving range, and other fun outdoor activities. Our pie eating contest was certainly one of the highlights of the day. Contestants of all ages went head to head to see who could finish their pie the fastest without using their hands. Congratulations to Philip MacClellan, Tata & Howard Engineer, for taking home the trophy and being our pie eating contest champion. We were delighted to have some of our younger Tata & Howard family with us as well to enjoy the ice cream bar and petting zoo. There were plenty of arts and crafts along with some awesome photo opportunities. Despite a bit of rain, it was a beautiful day to be outside with food, fun, friends, and family.

Tata & Howard employee-owners going head-to-head in the pie eating competition.
Philip MacClellan holds his trophy as the pie eating competition winner.
Employee-owners and family enjoying the day.
Jon Gregory, Tata & Howard Project Manager, enjoys the cookout with his family while staying out of the rain.

T&H to Conduct Energy Efficiency Study on Wastewater Equipment for Flagstaff, AZ

FlagstaffAZ_WildcatHill_WWTFsignTata & Howard was recently contracted by the City of Flagstaff, Arizona to provide professional engineering services for an Energy Efficiency Study on wastewater equipment and to prepare all Arizona Public Service (APS) rebate applications. The project includes field testing of approximately 15 pumps and 15 blowers in wastewater treatment plant systems, measurement and verification services, and certification of energy consumption as required by APS. Tata & Howard’s Flagstaff, Arizona office is managing the project.

William Grant presents thesis on Nitrate Contributions to the Niantic River Estuary

Tata & Howard Engineer William Grant presenting his thesis
Tata & Howard Engineer William Grant presenting his thesis

Recently, Tata & Howard Engineer and recent University of Connecticut graduate William Grant presented his senior thesis. Working with the Niantic River Nitrogen Work Group, William conducted research to evaluate the concerning nitrate contributions to the Niantic River Estuary from the Cranberry Meadow Brook and the Latimer Brook. The excess of nitrogen in the estuary has become a serious threat to aquatic life, causing eutrophication and hypoxia. It was determined, using a two endmember temperature mixing model, that Cranberry Meadow Brook contributes 33% of the total flow of water to the Lower Branch of the Latimer Brook, and the Upper Branch of the Latimer Brook contributes 67% of the total flow. Although the Cranberry Brook is much smaller and contributes less flow of water to the Lower Branch of the Latimer Brook, it contributes equal amounts of nitrate to the Latimer Brook system. William concluded, based on qualitative analysis on land cover and land use, that the high level of nitrate from the Cranberry Meadow Brook is a result of agriculture runoff and ground water inputs. His research will greatly help scientists and other engineers as they try to reduce the severe eutrophication and hypoxia that are hazardous to aquatic life in the Niantic River Estuary.

World Environment Day 2016

Our world is an amazing place and since 1973, we have dedicated June 5th to celebrate and acknowledge our beautiful planet. The main focus of this day is to raise awareness of the importance of a healthy and green environment. Air pollution, poor water quality, and unsustainable practices with farming and consumption are just some of the issues we see everyday in the news and other media. As individuals who call Earth home, it is up to us to solve the environmental issues which we hear about all too often. Through simple and effective actions, we can all join the race to make the world a better place. Below are some unique and efficient ways to make our lives eco-friendly as we prepare to celebrate World Environment Day.

690c6b23-ba8e-42d5-828b-1cd4c10858f3-large-6-225x300Get Involved!

As World Environment Day approaches, it is important to get outside and participate in saving our planet. Tata & Howard took initiative in the 17th annual Charles River Earth Day Cleanup in Dedham, Massachusetts. Volunteers from the company, along with 3,000 others, picked up trash along the Charles River and made a positive impact on our local environment. Everyone is encouraged to volunteer and get involved in their local communities. Visit for local volunteering opportunities and meet some great people along the way.

Say Bye to the Bottled Water

Keeping ourselves hydrated is one of the healthiest things we can do for ourselves, but choosing bottled water may cost the environment far more than it does our wallets. Each year, 17 million gallons of oil are used in the production of bottled water. With a gallon of bottled water costing four times more than a gallon of gasoline, it is worth the thought to give tap water a chance. Here at Tata & Howard, we recognize that carrying and refilling our own water bottles with tap water is an important step in saving the environment. Drinking tap water keeps our water dollars local so that our communities can fund water improvement projects and other important water initiatives. Only one percent of Earth’s freshwater is safe for human consumption so its up to us to keep it clean and use it efficiently. For more information on reasons to choose tap water over bottled water, see the downloadable infographic below.


Be Mindful of Food Waste

The annual amount of food waste in the US is enough to feed one billion hungry people in the world. This food waste often ends up in landfills packed tight and covered in trash. Although most food is biodegradable, it does not biodegrade when it is piled with trash and other non biodegradable substances. Therefore, if biodegradable material is sent to a landfill, it becomes part of the problem. The best way to avoid this is to be mindful of the food we buy and consume, and to try to change our buying habits so that we waste less food. When we do need to dispose of food, the best way to do so is by composting. Composting is an excellent way to recycle unused food scraps back into a healthy environment in a controlled way. Some communities have local composting programs but it can also be done at home, even indoors.

Lack of understanding about expiration dates is also a large contributing factor to food waste in the US. Expiration dates refer to a product’s quality, not safety. We can help extend the life of perishables by keeping them at the proper storage temperature, and  extra food should be donated to food banks BEFORE it reaches expiration, as food banks cannot accept expired food. Tata & Howard practices strong philanthrogreen-waste-513609_960_720-300x200py by donating both food and money to local food banks to help feed everyone efficiently. On June 5th, Tata & Howard encourages everyone to go through their pantries and donate to a local organization for people who need it. Not only will it help save our environment, but will also help the local people in our own communities.

Come Together and Travel Smart

For many people, riding a bicycle or walking to work may be impossible, but there are other excellent ways we can reduce our negative impact on the environment and get where we need to go. Carpooling is a great option. Coworkers who ride to work or lunch together not only help the environment, they also enjoy quality time which leads to team building and a more positive work environment. On our off time, it makes sense to combine all of our necessary errands into one trip. Taking one big trip to get groceries, dry cleaning, and drugstore items can greatly decrease our gas emissions that pollute the air and water in the environment. Americans in recent years have begun to drive less and use other means of public transportation or physical exercise. This trend is exactly what we need to better our planet. On World Environment Day, Tata & Howard encourages everyone to practice eco-friendly transportation. Even if it is only for one day, it will make a difference.

What to Take Away

Our world is awesome but it is not perfect. Our actions of pollution and unsustainable practices are the main contributors to the very real problems that we are currently facing. Actions taken today do make a difference and the more people we can get on board to help hqdefault-300x225the better. On this World Environment Day, let’s all take time to lend a helping hand to our planet. It is up to us as individuals to take action and better our environment. Taking small steps and making an effort to improve the world in which we live is important not only on World Environment Day, but every day.  Even if it is a small step, it is still a step in the right direction.

Happy World Environment Day!

Employee Health & Fitness Month 2016 Wrap-Up

May was National Employee Health & Fitness Month. At Tata & Howard, we are not only committed to engineering a healthy environment, we are also committed to improving our personal health. Therefore, we celebrated National Employee Health & Fitness Month with a series of weekly initiatives, which were announced on Monday of each week. We kicked off National Employee Health & Fitness Month with a Steps Challenge where we challenged all employee-owners to walk 100 miles in the month of May – that’s 200,000 steps total — to be entered to win a FitBit Blaze. We also introduced a “Smarter Choices” section to our snacks in the kitchen and went for a mid-day walk.

Waterbury, CT team members stopped during their mid-day walk to examine some newly hatched tadpoles
Waterbury, CT team members stopped during their mid-day walk to examine some newly hatched tadpoles
T&H's Gratitude Bowl
T&H’s Gratitude Bowl

Since health goes beyond the physical, employee-owners were challenged to write down their “gratitudes” and drop them into the Gratitude Bowl for week two of the challenge. Team members were also encouraged to thank their fellow co-workers. Week three’s challenge asked employee-owners to eat more fruit, and the company provided fruit to all employees to help get them started. For week four, team members were challenged to (surprise!) drink more water. Each team member received a T&H water bottle with verbiage that encourages them to refill with tap water.

Engineers in the Marlborough office pose with their T&H water bottles
Engineers in the Marlborough office pose with their T&H water bottles

The month of activities culminated with an after-work 5K on June 1, National Running Day, and with Meagan Heslin being drawn as the winner of the FitBit Blaze for completing the step challenge. Congratulations to the whole team for rising up to the challenge of improving health and fitness!

Karen Gracey high fives FitBit Blaze winner Meagan Heslin
Karen Gracey high fives FitBit Blaze winner Meagan Heslin