Technology Aims to Help States and Tribes Improve Water Quality Standard Public Hearings

States and tribes looking to maximize participation, simplify implementation and cut costs associated with public hearings are in luck. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a new resource that outlines 12 suggestions for how states and tribes can modernize the hearing process by implementing technology.

Under the Clean Water Act, states and authorized tribes are required to hold public hearings for the purposes of reviewing and adopting new or revised water quality standards. Because public participation is an important aspect of decision making on water quality standards, this new resource will be a great asset in increasing engagement within the community.

Modernizing Public Hearings for Water Quality Standard Decisions Consistent with 40 CFR 25.5

EPA’s document titled Modernizing Public Hearings for Water Quality Standard Decisions Consistent with 40 CFR 25.5 outlines ways to incorporate technology into public hearings while also continuing to meet federal requirements. The 12 suggestions in the document can help states and water quality standard-authorized tribes in two ways. For one, implementing technology in the hearing process will maximize opportunities for effective public input when it comes to water quality standard decision making. Secondly, incorporating such technology could facilitate in more efficient usage of spending resources by states and tribes.

Suggestions for Incorporating Technology into the Public Hearing Process

  1. Advertise online to help publicize the public hearing
  2. Use email lists to disseminate information to interested parties
  3. Post relevant public hearing materials online for easy access
  4. Conduct an in-person hearing while simultaneously broadcasting it via a web conferencing platform
  5. Conduct an online only public hearing using a web conferencing platform
  6. Use the internet to schedule witnesses in advance
  7. Encourage speakers to submit relevant materials or visual aids electronically in advance of the public hearing
  8. Allow unscheduled presenters to register to provide oral comments during an online public hearing
  9. Allow comments and questions to be made orally through a web conferencing platform
  10. Use a web conferencing platform’s chat/instant message feature
  11. Record the proceedings of the online public hearing
  12. Post the recorded public hearing online/on website

For a detailed description of each suggestion, please visit the online document file here.

Please note that these suggestions are not required and will not be imposed on any state or tribe. States and tribes have the choice to (or not to) incorporate any of these technologies into their public hearing process. In addition, there are also several factors that the EPA have considered in reference to these suggestions.


  • The public’s accessibility to and acceptance of computers and the internet
  • The capacity of a state of water quality standard-authorized tribe to integrate and implement technology
  • The geographic scope of a water quality standard decision
  • The nature of a water quality standard decision
  • Presence of local decision-making or advisory boards
  • The state of water quality standard-authorized tribe’s overall public participation process
  • Public feedback on the integration of technology
  • Number of participants at each public hearing

Given that a large part of these suggestions are focused on online hearings, The EPA’s Modernizing Public Hearings document includes examples and milestones for planning an online hearing.

Here is the EPA’s milestone checklist, a super helpful tool to have handy when planning an online hearing.

Checklist provided by EPA for the implementation of technology in public hearings for water standards

As technology continues to evolve in the water industry, it’s certainly time for modern technological approaches to communicating to be implemented as well. So, what do you think?

For more information, please be sure to reference the EPA’s resource here. In addition, you can also contact the EPA directly with any questions.

Water and Wastewater Utilities: Be Hurricane Ready

As of June 1, hurricane season is in full effect through November 30. Areas along the Atlantic Coast, Gulf of Mexico, and the Hawaiian Islands are most vulnerable to hurricanes. As inhabitants within each of these areas take caution each year, it is equally important that water utilities do the same and become hurricane ready.

Due to heavy rainfall, inland flooding, and high winds of 74 mph or greater, hurricanes have the potential to cause serious damage to water and wastewater utilities. Some examples of the detrimental nature of hurricanes on water utilities include:

  • Pipe breaks that could lead to sewage spills or low water pressure throughout service areas
  • Loss of power and communication infrastructure
  • Combined sewer overflows (CSO)
  • Restricted access to facilities and collection/distribution system assets
  • Loss of water quality testing capability

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has developed tools to help water utilities prepare for, respond to, and recover from hurricane related impacts.

satellite view of hurricane heading toward the east coast of USA

Preparing for Hurricane Season


  • Be sure your utility’s Emergency Response Plan (ERP) is up-to-date, and ensure all emergency contacts are current
  • Be sure utility staff is aware of all preparedness procedures by conducting trainings and exercises
  • Identify high-priority customers (such as hospitals), map their locations, and obtain contact information in the event of an emergency
  • Develop an emergency drinking water supply plan that may include bulk water hauling, mobile treatment units or temporary supply lines
  • Review historical records to understand the frequency and intensity of past hurricanes and how the utility may have been affected
  • In the event that you need to apply for federal disaster funding, complete pre-disaster activities. For example, taking photos of the facility to compare with post-damage photos


  • Join your state’s Water/Wastewater Agency Response Network (WARN)
  • Get in touch with WARN members and other utilities to discuss ways in which help can be provided if needed. This includes outlining response activities and responsibilities; conducting full-scale exercises; obtaining resources and assistance; establishing interconnections between systems; establishing communication protocols to reduce misunderstandings
  • Coordinate with other key response partners, including your local EMA, to discuss potential points of distribution for the delivery of emergency water supply
  • Understand what your utility may be called on to do, as well as how local emergency responders and the local emergency operations center (EOC) can support your utility

Communication with Customers

  • Provide customers with materials that contain information on what they will need during a hurricane (i.e. information on water advisories and instructions for private well and septic system maintenance)
  • Distribute public information protocols with customers prior to a known storm (i.e. warnings that service disruptions are likely)
megaphone communicating news

Facility and Service Area

  • Be sure to order and inventory existing equipment and supplies including:
    • Motors
    • Fuses
    • A two-week supply of chemicals
    • Cell phones and other wireless communication devices
    • Tarps/tapes/rope
    • Cots/blankets
    • First-aid kits
    • Foul weather gear
    • Flashlights/flares
    • Plywood
    • Sandbags
    • Bottled water
    • Batteries
    • Non-perishable food
  • Ensure that radios and satellite phones are working and fully charged
  • Develop a GIS map of all system components
  • Document pumping requirements, storage capabilities, and critical treatment components and parameters

Power, Energy and Fuel

  • Work with local power utilities to assure tree branches near power lines are trimmed
  • Inspect conditions, connections and switches of electrical panels
  • Document power requirements of the facility
  • Test generators regularly
  • Inform fuel vendors of estimated fuel volumes needed if utility is impacted
  • Reach out to local power providers to assure that your water utility is on the critical facilities list for priority electrical power restoration

Responding to a Hurricane – Pre-landfall Activities


  • Actively monitor hurricane activity

Facility and Service Area

  • Move equipment to water-tight facilities or out of flood-prone areas
  • Clear storm drains and set up sandbags to protect facilities
  • Be sure that back-up equipment and facility systems including controls and pumps are in worker order
  • Protect exposed lines or pipes that may be vulnerable during a storm
  • Fill storage tanks to full capacity and fill empty chemical storage tanks with water
  • Wastewater utilities should empty holding tanks, ponds and/or lagoons to prepare for an increase in flow


  • Identify essential personnel and ensure they are trained to perform critical duties in an emergency
  • Establish communication procedures with both essential and non-essential personnel
  • Identify emergency operations and clean-up crews
  • Establish alternative transportation strategies if roads become impassable
  • Understand how limited staffing will impact response procedures if there are transportation issues or evacuations

Power, Energy and Fuel

  • Make sure vehicles and fuel tanks are filled to full capacity and ensure you can manually pump gas in the event of a power outage

Responding to a Hurricane – Post-landfall Activities


  • Notify your local EMA and state regulatory agency of system status
  • Request or offer assistance through mutual aid networks, such as WARN, if needed
  • Assign a representative of the utility to the incident command post

Communication with Customers

  • Notify customers of any water advisories and coordinate with local media to distribute the message

Facility and Service Area


  • Assess the damage of the utility to prioritize repairs
  • Assure that back-up equipment and facility systems, such as controls and pumps, are in working order, and ensure that chemical containers and feeders are intact

Drinking Water Utilities

  • Inspect the utility and service area for damage
  • Ensure pressure is maintained throughout the system and isolate the sections where it is not
  • Control and isolate leaks in water transmission and distribution piping
  • Shut off water meters at destroyed properties
  • Monitor water quality
  • Notify regulatory agency if operations and/or water quality or quantity are affected
  • Utilize the pre-established emergency connections or create temporary connections to nearby communities as needed
  • If needed, implement plans to draw emergency water from pre-determined tanks or hydrants

Wastewater Utilities

  • Inspect the utility and service area for damage
  • Inspect the manholes and pipelines in flood-prone areas for inflow and infiltration after water recedes
  • Suspend solid waste processing during periods of high flow to conserve bacteria and prevent it from washing out of the plant
  • Notify regulatory agency of any changes to the operations or required testing parameters
waste water treatment plant

Documentation and Reporting

  • Document damage assessments, mutual aid requests, emergency repair work, equipment used, purchases made, staff hours worked, and contractors used to have open hand when applying for federal disaster funds
  • Work with local EMA on the required paperwork for public assistance requests


  • Account for all personnel and provide emergency care, if needed
  • Deploy emergency operations and clean-up crews

Power, Energy and Fuel

  • Use back-up generators as needed
  • Plan for additional fuel needs in advance and coordinate fuel deliveries to generators
  • Stay in close contact with electric provider for power outage duration estimates

Recovering from a Hurricane


  • Work with response partners to obtain equipment, funding, etc.

Communication with Customers

  • Be sure a utility representative is communicating with customers in reference to a timeline for recovery

Facility and Service Area

  • Complete damage assessments
  • Complete repairs, replace depleted supplies and return to normal service

Documenting and Reporting

  • Compile damage assessment forms and cost documentation into a single report to share, in addition to, state and federal funding applications
  • Create a ‘lessons learned’ document and/or after action report (AAR) to keep record of response activities
  • Revise budget and asset management plans


  • Identify mitigation and long-term adaptation measures that can prevent damage and increase utility resistance. Examples of successful mitigation projects by water and wastewater utilities include:
    • Providing protection to electrical substation and transformers that would be in danger of failing during floods, high winds and storm surges
    • Retrofitting sanitary sewer lift stations with electrical connections for portable generators
    • Elevating generators, fuel tanks and critical controls to protect from coastal storm surges
    • Replacing existing entry doors with heavy-duty impact-resistant doors

For more information on how to prepare for and respond to hurricane impacts and for a printable checklist to utilize within your water or wastewater utility, please visit the EPA’s site here.

2019 Summer Interns

Tata & Howard is excited to welcome the newest group of summer interns to our team! As a company focused on continued learning, we are thrilled to play a role in teaching the next generation of engineers.  Without delay, please join us in welcoming our new summer team members!

JONATHAN – Marlborough Office

Jonathan is a rising senior at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He is studying Civil/Environmental Engineering with a focus on water resources.

On campus, Jonathan is the Vice President of Engineers Without Borders, an organization that works to implement water solutions to communities in Africa. He also works in the Engineering Office of Student affairs where he advises engineering students. In addition, Jonathan serves as a student ambassador for engineers looking to study abroad.

Outside of his studies, Jonathan enjoys playing soccer as well as spending time outside with friends and family, be it on the beach or hiking.

This summer, Jonathan hopes to obtain experience in the environmental engineering industry while making connections here at Tata & Howard. He comes to our Marlborough office inspired to provide solutions for people who lack safe drinking water.

MARLEE – Marlborough Office

Joining us for a second summer internship, Marlee is a rising junior at Villanova University. She is studying Civil and Environmental Engineering and will also minor in Sustainability Studies.

She is a member of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and serves as a peer mentor for freshman engineering students through the University’s CEER PEERs program. Marlee also is a member of the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority where she is involved with the Philanthropy Committee.

Marlee is excited to build upon the relationships she built last year with members of the T&H team, and is eager to gain more insight as to how environmental engineering is applied in a consulting setting. Working with our engineers, she is most interested in exploring water quality and helping people gain access to clean water for everyday use.

In her free time, Marlee loves spending time with her friends, listening to music, and reading. This summer, she plans on taking beach trips to Cape Cod, spending time at the lake in Vermont, and enjoying the great outdoors. 

ALEX – Waterbury Office

summer intern alex will be working in the waterbury ct office

Alex attends the University of Connecticut and majors in Environmental Engineering. This summer he will be joining us in our Waterbury, CT office.

During the school year, he serves as a Research Assistant to two professors, and is a member of a bioenergy group on campus. Alex is most interested in water treatment and quality engineering and pipe systems.

In his free time, he enjoys cooking, hiking, and kayaking. When he isn’t in the field with T&H engineers, he will be working at a wedding venue in Portland, CT.

EMILY – Waterbury Office

Summer intern emily - will be workin in waterbury, ct office

Emily will be joining Tata & Howard in our Waterbury, CT office for the duration of the summer.

A rising senior, Emily studies Environmental Engineering at the University of Connecticut. At UCONN, she keeps busy as a member of the Society for Women Engineers while also playing women’s rugby and intramural sports.

Emily is excited about her role at T&H this summer, and hopes to use her experience in deciding what her first career move will be upon graduating next year. Fueled by an interest in marine renewable energy, Emily wants to use her engineering degree to help create clean energy. Additionally, she also has an interest in big water structures such as dams.

This summer, she plans to camp, bike, and travel to new places to explore and hike new mountains.

We are excited to have all of our summer interns on board!

PFAS Sites Increasing Across the Country

Contaminants known as Per- and polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) are increasingly being detected in water samples both in the United States and around the world. As of June 2022, 2,858 locations in 50 states and two territories are known to be contaminated.

What are PFAS?

PFAS are manmade chemicals that have been used in both industry and consumer products since the 1950s. Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) are the most extensively produced and studied compounds of these chemicals. Both chemicals are very persistent in the environment and in the human body. Consequently, they don’t break down and they can accumulate over time.

PFAS Most Commonly Seen In:

  • Non-stick cookware
  • Products that resist grease, water and oil
  • Water-repellent clothing
  • Stain resistant fabrics
  • Firefighting foams
  • Some cosmetics
Jake May/The Flint Journal, via Associated Press

Exposure to PFAS can happen through a variety of ways including:

  • Drinking contaminated municipal water or private well water
  • Eating fish from a source contaminated with PFAS
  • Swallowing contaminated soil or dust
  • Eating food packaged in material containing PFAS
  • Using consumer products including the ones listed above

PFAS Sites and Treatment

A recent analysis of Massachusetts public water systems by the Sierra Club finds that 70% of communities have detectable levels of the six most dangerous PFAS chemicals in their ground and surface waters. When looking at a wider range of PFAS chemicals, 91% of communities have detectable amounts in at least one of their drinking water sources (pre-treatment).

As a leader in water, wastewater, stormwater, and environmental engineering services, Tata & Howard has proven expertise in the removal of PFOA and PFOS. For instance, recent treatment experience includes the design of the new Maher Filtration Plant in Barnstable, Massachusetts. Tata & Howard designed this plant in an effort to treat the elevated levels of PFOA, PFOS, 1,4 Dioxane, and iron and manganese in the three drinking water production wells at the existing treatment facility. Using granular activated carbon filtration, the successful removal of PFOS/PFOA will be obtained in the new filtration plant.  The greensand pressure filtration will remove the iron and manganese while also extending the useful life of the granular activated carbon.

To learn more about treatment options, please contact us directly at 508.303.9400.