The PFAS Problem

Perfluorinated alkyl substances, also known as PFAS, are a group of manufactured compounds that include perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), perffluorohexane sulfonate (PFHxS), perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA), perflouroheptanoic acid (PFHpA), and perfluorobutane sulfonate (PFBS). (Talk about a mouthful.)

PFAS have been on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) radar for quite some time now. The question is, why is the EPA so focused on these compounds? Well, for starters, they are human-made, widely used, and nearly impossible to dissolve and break down, which means that over time they start to spread and grow, more and more, both within the human body and in our environment. These compounds are also resistant to heat, oil, grease, and water, and —what’s worse — is that the EPA has found traces of all the Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule 3 (UCMR 3) (i.e., the long p-words mentioned earlier) in our country’s water supply in recent years.

Even with a history of use dating back to the 1940s, these manufactured toxins are still considered emerging contaminants, meaning that there aren’t any already established regulatory limits for how much of these compounds can legally be in our drinking water. These seemingly forever-lasting compounds can in turn have adverse side effects and cause complications in our planet’s ecology and within the human body.

Today, PFAS can be found in the following:

  • PFAS-grown agricultural products result in contaminated soil, water, and/or handled with PFAS-containing equipment and materials.
  • Drinking water contaminated from polluted groundwater from stormwater runoff near landfills, wastewater treatment plants, and firefighter training facilities.
  • Household products, including nonstick products (e.g., Teflon), polishes, waxes, paints, cleaning products, and stain and water-repellent fabrics.
  • Firefighting foams, which is a major source of groundwater contamination at airports and military bases where firefighting training occurs.
  • Industrial facilities that utilize PFAS when manufacturing chrome plating, electronics, and oil recovery.

When looking at the bigger picture, it is clear there is an immense need and opportunity for further research to see how PFAS can affect humans, as most of the research so far has been in animals. While PFAS aren’t even manufactured in the country anymore (thankfully), they are just as present across the globe and are still shipped in products and food from overseas.

All of this is to show that PFAS are…definitely not something we want near our food, water, and goods. So what has the EPA been doing to help?

Well, in 2016, the EPA set Health Advisory (HA) levels of how many micrograms per liter (µg/L) for the combined concentrations of two PFAS compounds, PFOS and PFOA. The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) also took action and established drinking water guidelines that were required to follow the EPA’s HA levels, but applied them to all five PFAS chemicals (PFOS, PFOA, PFNA, PFHXS, and PFHpA). If the level of risk was then raised due to potential health risks, the Public Water Systems (PWS) must take action in order to restore safe HA levels.

During the summer of 2022, the EPA announced four new drinking water health advisories for PFAS as part of President Biden’s action plan to deliver clean drinking water to the American people. In addition, a $1 billion grant (the first of $5 billion) has been offered to territories and states across the country to pay for quality water testing, technical assistance, contractor training, and more.

MassDEP, EPA, and other federal agencies have been continuing their testing and research on PFAS both in the lab and in the field, PWS have been running tests on local water, and partnerships have been made between MassDEP and PWS in order to identify areas where our environment has been affected by PFAS.

All seemingly good things.

So let’s repeat the question: what has the EPA been doing to help?

All of these efforts are necessary in order to begin to identify the presence and consequences of PFAS, restore clean drinking water, help those affected, and more. That said, we also must get to the root of the problem: we need corporations to end the manufacturing of man-made toxins and compounds.

At the end of the day, our planet’s drinking water has been affected on a national and global level thanks to the work of PFAS manufacturers. People, animals, and our entire ecosystem have been tainted. Now, water utilities are tasked with cleaning up the mess (literally). Grants are helpful but they’re not guaranteed and, frankly, $1-5 billion isn’t nearly enough for testing on a national scale, which is necessary due to the almost 100 years of damage PFAS have caused.

Water utilities are already at a disadvantage when it comes to limited capital resources and are not adequately equipped to fix contaminated waterways. The responsibility should fall on the corporations who created PFAS to help clean up our land and water. After all, they profited off the manufacturing of these compounds for years, while PWS are now left holding the bill.

Vice President Steven J. Landry Retires

We are pleased (and a bit sad!) to announce that Vice President Steven J. Landry, P.E., has retired of January 13, 2023. Steve has over 40 years of engineering experience and has led the firm’s wastewater group for the past six years.

Over his career, Steve has completed projects for prominent New England water and wastewater agencies including the Narragansett Bay Commission, the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority, and Providence Water as well as numerous cities and towns throughout New England including the City of Gardner who he has maintained a client relationship with for over twenty years.

Steve is a member of both the New England Water Environment Association and the New England Water Works Association, having presented papers at conferences for both organizations. He served on the Board of Directors of the Rhode Island Professional Engineers Society for many years.

Steve received his Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering and Master of Science in Water Resources from Clarkson University. In his retirement, Steve is looking forward to traveling and spending time with family. All of us at Tata & Howard wish Steve the very best in retirement!

Celebrating Paul Howard’s Retirement

Friends, family, and colleagues came together to celebrate Paul Howard’s retirement at the Eastern Shores Club in Shrewsbury, MA on the evening of January 4, 2023. Co-Presidents Karen Gracey and Jenna Rzasa gave a fond farewell speech to Paul while recognizing his myriad accomplishments. After presenting him with some very special gifts, Paul took to the podium to say a few words. There were many tears along with the laughter, and everyone agreed that it was a night to remember.

Jenna Rzasa and Karen Gracey
Jenna Rzasa, Paul Howard, Karen Gracey, and Ken Fischer
Paul Howard said a few words after the presentation

The Value of Unidirectional Flushing

In layman’s terms, unidirectional flushing is water flowing in one direction: a one way traffic lane for your local water distribution system. And the process is, for the most part, as simple as that.

To elaborate a bit more, unidirectional flushing, otherwise known as UDF, is an annual process used to aid and maintain water distribution systems like the one in your local area that provides your drinking water. We at Tata & Howard designed UDF programs specifically to remove unwanted tastes, odors, and discoloration in a water supply, to flush out bacteria and tuberculation that has built up, prolong the life of pipes and hydrants, allow for technicians to locate broken valves and hydrants, and to further pinpoint other water quality and supply issues.

Bye, Bye, Bacteria

What does flushing water in one direction have anything to do with preventing water-borne disease? For starters, let’s examine the diagram below of a water distribution system that utilizes conventional flushing.

As shown in the diagram, clean water is flowing from the tank into the water distribution system but is met with the free-flowing sediment and rust-mixed water from every direction. The direction in which the water flushes is crucial because the one-way water flow keeps the tainted water separate from the clean water, unlike the conventional flushing pictured above. With this method, sediment, microbial bacteria, corrosion, etc. are not circulated in the clean water, therefore preventing it from making into your next glass of water.

Since tainted water isn’t being fully flushed out in conventional flushing, sediment, rust, and microbial bacteria are building up within some of the pipe’s walls. This build up, or tuberculation, can negatively affect how much water can be distributed.

Under Pressure (Washing)

A great component of UDF is that the water is flushed throughout the distribution system at a higher velocity. If the water rushing down these pipes is at a higher velocity, that means tuberculation that has built up in the pipe’s walls will wash away, too. Picture it like your water distribution system’s very own water pressure system, blasting away microbial and rust buildup, and tossing it out with the rest of the bath water.

In Municipal and Sewer and Water Magazine, Shrewsbury, MA water and sewer superintendent — and Tata & Howard client — Dan Rowley states that when fire hydrants are opened to increase the water velocity, it “increases to 5 to 10 feet per second, compared to 1 to 3 feet per second in conventional flushing.” With that kind of power, tuberculation doesn’t stand a chance.

Now, when some people think of ramping up the speed dial on something, they think more power equals more resources, but that’s not the case here. UDF uses upwards of 40% less water than conventional flushing. A higher population to serve brings a higher water demand, which leads to a lower supply due to demand and climate change. All of this then results in a crucial need to seek out the most cost-effective and sustainable methods in order to maintain, improve, and prolong our planet’s natural resources. And UDF does just that.

Improve System Performance

During the unidirectional flushing process, valves are opened and closed to maintain a unidirectional flow.  In the process, broken and closed valves as well as nonfunctioning hydrants are identified. Not only are you cleaning the water pipes during the UDF process, you are also identifying critical system components such as valves and hydrants that need replacement or maintainance.

Regardless, any water distribution system needs flushing. So why not perform it in such a way that you can simultaneously flush our tuberculation and bacteria from your pipes’ walls, prolong the quality of your valves, hydrants and pipes, use less water, and also improve overall water quality and quantity issues? This is one of those win-win situations!

At Tata & Howard, our UDF programs are implemented all over Massachusetts, ranging from Shrewsbury to Wayland, and Melrose to Haverhill, and down to parts of Connecticut. By adopting one of our UDF programs, a water distribution system can maintain efficiency and cleanliness longer between flushes, save money, and ultimately use less of our earth’s natural resources.

T&H Nominated Sponsor of the Year from NEWWA

Tata & Howard Honored by the New England Water Works Association

Karen L. Gracey accepts Sponsor of the year award from NEWWA.HOLLISTON, Mass. – Tata & Howard recently received the 2022 Sponsor of the Year Award from the New England Water Works Association (NEWWA), the region’s largest and oldest not-for-profit organization of water works professionals.

The Sponsor of the Year Award was established in 1995 to recognize the outstanding efforts of service provider members who support NEWWA through financial contributions, in-kind materials, and volunteer resources.

Tata & Howard has been a NEWWA member since 2004 and is a NEWWA Gold Sponsor. They are Recycle Sponsors at the Spring Conference, consistently sponsor the Annual Golf Tournament, supported the 2021 Virtual Technology Campaign, and have participated as an advertiser in the Source newsletter.

Tata & Howard supports the involvement of their staff in NEWWA as volunteers, including Co-President Karen Gracey, who has been involved with the Program Committee as a campaign manager and moderator for the Spring and Annual Conferences for the last six years.

Tata & Howard was recognized with this award on September 18, 2022, during NEWWA’s 141st Annual Conference in Newport, RI.

Lead and Copper Rule Revision

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) continues its mission to educate and eliminate Lead from America’s drinking water. Lead in drinking water, over time, builds up in the body, causing damage to the brain, red blood cells, and kidneys. The most significant risk is to young children and pregnant women; lead in the body can slow the normal mental and physical development of growing bodies.

Recent (EPA) mandate, under section §141.84 of the Lead and Copper Rule Revision (LCRR), requires all Municipalities to develop and submit for review a lead service line (LSL) inventory plan, including public and private side, by October 16, 2024.

President Biden announced ( that all Americans deserve to breathe clean air, live in healthy homes, and have clean drinking water. The initiative ties into the $1 Trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill that includes $550 billion in new federal investments in America’s infrastructure over the next five years. The Biden-Harris Lead Pipe and Paint Action Plan is part of this ambitious undertaking.

With the EPA’s October mandate rolling out in 2024, Municipalities across America are working on developing or refining a Lead Service Line (LSL) Inventory tracking system to quickly identify and replace lead service lines for public and private water connections.

T&H’s Justine Carroll, Vice President, published an article titled “How to Start an LSL Inventory Tracking System,” which provides guidance on the necessary information that should be collected for a complete database; review the full Article.

Salvatore Longo, V.P., Retires

Farewell to a great team member, Sal Longo! Enjoy your retirement Sal!

We wanted to extend a heartfelt thank you to Sal Longo for his many years of service.  Sal has been with Tata & Howard since 2014 when Haestad Engineering was acquired.  Prior to 2014, he spent the entirety of his career at Haestad.  With his easy-going demeanor and superior engineering skills, Sal has been the go to person for many clients in Connecticut because of his expertise in everything water, specifically safe yield analyses and pump station designs.  Not only is he retiring but he is also leaving Connecticut and heading to Maine.  We wish Sal the best of luck in this next chapter and hope that he can relax and enjoy some needed time off.  The entire Tata & Howard team wishes Sal the very best in his retirement!  Wishing you many fun adventures!

Classroom Learning Fun For Stanley Elementary School

Stanley Elementary School’s third graders learn how behaviors impact the water cycle

Project Engineer Molly Caruso, P.E. and Project Manager James Hoyt, P.E. presented to 3rd graders at the Stanley Elementary School in Waltham, MA. The students are learning about the water cycle and the importance of conserving water and protecting our water resources. Molly and James spoke about how our behaviors impact the water cycle. They also discussed what environmental engineers do and how their work solves problems and helps provide access to safe drinking water. Molly and James loved hearing the thoughtful ideas and questions from some of our future engineers!


Molly E. Caruso, P.E., Project Engineer
Direct: (508) 232-6242

James Hoyt, P.E., Project Manager
Direct: (508) 219-4011

Combined Pump Station Chemical Feed Building

Kirsten Hummel, E.I.T., is performing Resident Project Representative (RPR) responsibilities at the Combined Pump Station Chemical Feed Building for the Town of Marion, MA. The contractor, Barbato Construction Co., is exposing an intersection to tie in the raw and finished water mains.
Anticipated Project Completion Date: September 2022.


Matthew V. Morganelli, P.E., Project Mgr. | Phone: (508) 232-6238 


Kirsten M. Hummel, E.I.T. | Phone:(508) 232-6252