James’ Rwanda Impact Tour Journal Water for People Impact Tour Rwanda 2019 James Hoyt, P.E.
Despite some last-minute flight drama, Jenna and I arrived in Rwanda Friday night (September 6). After a brief, but exhilarating drive dodging motorbikes, we arrived at the Hotel Chez Lando. We were welcomed by our Water for People trip coordinators, met a few fellow tour participants, and enjoyed our first African beer.
Stepping into my room, a mosquito net canopy on the bed reminded me that we were not at home. Exhausted from 24 hours of travel, I went to bed excited for the adventure about to begin.
Sufficiently caffeinated, we donned a shiny red helmet and hopped on the back of a motorbike, which serves as the most common taxi option in Kigali. We were dropped off at the Inema Art Center, which features local artists. The artwork featured bright, bold colors and the beauty and originality of the art was a clear reflection of Rwanda itself.
Meeting the WFP Team
The day ended with a team dinner where we got to meet the rest of the group who would be joining us on the Water for People Impact Tour. Dinner featured traditional Rwandan dishes. I tried Akabenz (the Mercedes Benz of pork) and beef brochettes (bbq skewers). Jenna ordered the “I Gisafuriya” a traditional stew of chicken, potato, banana and another vegetables served in a large pot meant to be shared by a family. Jenna was kind enough to share and it was delicious! The food was all great and no one left hungry.
As we head into a new fall season, we are happy to announce four new additions to our Marlborough office! Carissa, Hannah, Alex, and Wiktor have all stepped into their roles as Engineers, and we can’t wait to see the impacts they will have at Tata & Howard. Read on to learn a little bit more about our new team members, and join us in welcoming our new engineers. Interested in a career at T&H? Check out open positions on our career page.
Carissa started at Tata & Howard in the Marlborough, MA office this past summer. With her final year of school at the University of New Hampshire behind her, she is excited to launch her career as an Engineer. While in college, Carissa spent her time participating in UNH’s American Society of Civil Engineers as well as working in the school’s AV department. Looking ahead, Carissa hopes to dive into projects where she can make a lasting impact on clean water and water quality. When she isn’t working, Carissa enjoys traveling, exploring the outdoors, and spending time with her friends and family.
Fun Fact: While studying abroad in Scotland, she got to meet Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan Markle.
Hannah is a new Engineer in our Marlborough, MA office. A recent graduate from UMass Amherst, Hannah is excited to begin her career at Tata & Howard. In college she was an active member of Engineers Without Borders (EWB), Society of Women Engineers, and the UMass Club Swim Team. Hannah is especially interested in water treatment because of her work with EWB as well as her senior thesis, and hopes to be a part of water treatment projects at the firm. In her free time, you can find Hannah exploring the outdoors, swimming, hiking, and running.
Fun Fact: Hannah was born in England.
With a new degree in Civil Engineering from UMass Amherst, Alex began his career with Tata & Howard this summer. During college, he participated in UMass’ American Society of Civil Engineers, while also completing two environmental engineering internships. Alex is particularly interested in Direct Potable Reuse and is excited to work on projects that aid in people getting clean water. When not working at T&H, Alex enjoys rock climbing and hiking in his free time.
Fun Fact: Alex’s favorite color is black.
Wiktor joined the Tata & Howard team as an Engineer early this past summer. With a Bachelor of Science in Civil and Environmental Engineering from UMass Dartmouth, a Master’s in Environmental Engineering from SUNY Buffalo, and additional coursework in novel membranes for water treatment and energy generation from Columbia University, Wiktor is ready to hit the ground running at the firm. He is most interested in water treatment plants and hopes to be involved in upcoming treatment projects. Wiktor enjoys playing the guitar, and watching cult favorite TV show, ‘The Office.’
Runoff of phosphorus and nitrogen from farming, stormwater, and wastewater treatment plants is an increasing issue for aquatic environments around the world. While phosphate and nitrogen are natural and necessary components of aquatic ecosystems, too much can be dangerous. Excess amounts of these nutrients, also known as nutrient pollution, is detrimental to plants, wildlife, waterways, and our own public health. Although this issue is not new, there’s been an uptick in awareness as water and wastewater utilities aim to improve drinking water quality and meet regulatory requirements.
Problems with Excess Nutrients
Nutrient pollution is a widespread problem that affects rivers, streams, lakes, bays, and coastal waters across the country.
Increased levels of phosphorus and nitrogen can cause harmful algal blooms that ultimately lead to the production of toxins and elevated bacteria levels that are harmful to people and wildlife. In fact, nutrient pollution can cause issues in water quality both near and far from the location where the nutrients enter the water source. A study from the US Water Alliance noted an instance of water pollution where excess nutrients from the Mississippi River Basin caused toxic algal blooms 2,300 miles downstream in the Gulf of Mexico. The algae later decomposed, all while consuming large amounts of oxygen and creating dead zones in which aquatic organisms could not survive.
When it comes to treating wastewater and providing high-quality drinking water to customers, costs will rise for water utilities should the water be saturated with excess nutrients.
The problems that stem from excess nutrients in water bodies negatively impact the livelihood of those who use the water for recreational purposes. According to the EPA, the US tourism industry loses nearly $1 billion each year, while the commercial fishing industry loses tens of millions.
Sources of Excess Nutrients
Most excess nutrients in the water originate from agricultural runoff, urban stormwater, and discharge from wastewater treatment plants. There are two types of sources – “point” sources and “nonpoint” sources. Point sources typically refer to industrial and municipal wastewater treatment plants. Nonpoint sources refer to agricultural and stormwater runoff.
$1.4 trillion in public funding has been invested in improving municipal wastewater treatment facilities to address nutrient pollution since 1972.
The primary approach to reducing nutrient pollution of agricultural nonpoint sources has been the implementation of ‘Best Management Practices’. Best practices vary on a farm-by-farm basis and have the potential to be cost-effective or expensive, depending on several factors. Because farm practices are unpredictable due to cropping patterns, soil properties, hydrology, and weather, many farmers are hesitant to change their current practice. Compared to point sources, a mere $5 billion has bene spent by the federal government to incentivize farmers to implement strategies for nutrient reduction. Additionally, when it comes to nonpoint sources of excess nutrients including stormwater, a lot more can be done on the ground level. Being mindful of what goes down the drain in our yards, and on the streets, can have a huge impact.
This Act regulates point source discharge and requires all dischargers to obtain a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit from the state. NPDES permits enforce limits on the concentration of nutrients that can be discharged into surface waters. Under Section 319 of the Clean Water Act, the EPA also supports state efforts to reduce nonpoint sources of nutrient pollution with its $160 million grant program. According to the EPA, activities supported by these programs may include implementation of state nonpoint source management plans, state regulatory and non-regulatory programs, watershed prioritization and planning, and nonpoint source monitoring.
Several loans exist specifically for upgrades and construction of wastewater facilities. The State Revolving Fund program offers low-interest loans for wastewater treatment infrastructure, and the USDA’s Rural Development Water and Environmental Programs provide long-term, low-interest loans and grants for the construction of these facilities in rural communities. The USDA and EPA also support the reduction of nutrient pollution by incentivizing voluntary action by nonpoint sources. There are a handful of programs that provide a mix of funding directly to farmers, or to groups at the community or state level.
The EPA and five other federal agencies co-lead the Gulf Hypoxia Task Force. This federal initiative was developed in 2008 (and adopted by 12 states) to reduce nutrient loads by 20 percent by 2025 and by 45 percent by 2035. Other partnerships created to reduce the impacts of nutrient pollution include Source Water Collaborative and the Animal Agriculture Discussion Group.
The EPA is working with its partners to combat nutrient pollution in water bodies throughout the country. They’ve created a wealth of communication and outreach materials to increase awareness of the causes, effects, and solutions to nutrient pollution.
In conclusion, we must continue addressing the problem of nutrient pollution in water bodies across the country. While there are several initiatives in place to combat the harmful effects of nitrogen and phosphorus entering the environment, nutrient pollution is increasing at a quicker rate than what is being done to eliminate it. Federal and state agencies, farmers, and even you can play a tremendous role in reducing nutrient pollution. Learn what you can do within your community here.
On a warm summer day, nothing feels quite as nice as a refreshing dip in the water. Until the water is contaminated, that is. In the past year, nearly 60 percent of the 4,500 tested beaches across the country had water pollution levels (on at least one occasion) that put swimmers at risk of getting sick. Well over 2,000 beaches surpassed the EPA’s margin of safety. Polluted waters can lead to a variety of stomach and respiratory illnesses in swimmers, and ultimately cause an estimated 57 million cases of waterborne illnesses every year.
According to the EPA’s most recent Water Quality Assessment data, fecal matter from sewage overflows and stormwater runoff in highly settled areas are the two of the largest causes of waterway contamination.
Stormwater flowing over both suburban and urban areas pick up fecal matter from pets and wildlife along the way. This waste carries bacteria which leads to illnesses. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that from 2000 to 2014, 140 outbreaks caused by recreational water contamination caused nearly 5,000 illnesses and two deaths. Consuming seafood harvested from contaminated waters can also cause an equally harmful health threat. In addition, studies in California show that swimmers directly in the flow of storm drains are 50% more likely to develop an illness than those who are just 400 more yards away from the same drainage flow.
The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) and the Massachusetts Clean Water Trust (the Trust) are currently promoting Asset Management Programs (AMPs) by offering subsidized State Revolving Fund (SRF) financing for communities looking to improve one or more of their water-related utilities.
With the help of Asset Management Programs, water, wastewater, and stormwater utilities are poised to make beneficial financial decisions for the future. The goal of AMPs is to achieve long-term sustainability and deliver the required level of service in a cost-efficient manner. Financial decisions surrounding asset repairs, replacements, or rehabilitations, as well as the development and implementation of a long-term funding strategy can only help a utility.
Through the Asset Management Grant Program, MassDEP and the Trust are encouraging water utilities to focus on AMP development, maintenance, or improvements. This program is also aimed at helping communities and their utilities meet the Engineering Plan and Financial Sustainability Plan requirements for SRF construction loans. With that, the program will award grants with a maximum award of $150,000 or 60% of the total eligible project cost (whatever is less).
If awarded a grant, the recipient will be required to supply documentation of a full appropriation of funding mechanisms for the entire cost of the project to qualify. There are no requirements on the size or scope of the project. MassDEP will favor proposals that include a clear description of the applicant’s current asset management status and goals, and those that demonstrate a strong commitment to participate in their AMP.
Tata & Howard encourages all MA utilities to apply for this special grant funding. Proposals and Project Evaluation Forms are due on August 23, 2019 by 12 pm.
Part of every successful client-based business is the ability to retain existing clients. In order to retain these clients however, a business needs highly skilled, engaged, and happy employees. When an employee feels valued and can see the positive impacts of their work, they are more inclined to stay on board. With this notion, long-term success is hinged on finding exceptional talent, and training exceptional talent. But in which ways can this be done in such a competitive workforce? One way is to consider implementing an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) to benefit employers and employees.
An ESOP is a type of retirement plan, similar in some ways to traditional plans like a 401(k). Studies show that ESOP companies grow about 2.5 times as fast as non-ESOP companies. They also are known to provide employees with up to 2.2 times the retirement assets.
ESOPs are defined contribution retirement plans that invest primarily in the common stock of the company. It is unique among retirement plans in that it can borrow money. This allows the ESOP to be a flexible succession strategy for a business owner who is looking to sell all or part of their business.
Aside from gains via engaged employees, there are a few reasons why business owners and employers choose to implement ESOPs into their business. For one, if (and when) it comes time for the business owner to sell, the company wouldn’t be thrown into the hands of someone completely unrelated to the business. Instead, selling to the ESOP means that:
the company stays in place
the people who’ve helped build it get rewarded
the owner has the flexibility in terms of how much to sell and what role they’ll play in the future
So how does this happen, just by having an ESOP as opposed to a typical retirement plan like a 401(k)? The bottom line is that an ESOP creates aligned incentives. Through the ESOP, employees earn ownership in the company, which make those eight or nine hours spent at work all the more worthwhile.
ESOPs have proven to be just as beneficial for the employees working at the company. When it comes to planning for retirement, employees want to rest assured that they will be financially stable. As such, Corey Rosen, co-founder and senior staff member of the National Center for Employee Ownership, stated that ESOP balances were three to five times higher on average than 401(k) plan balances.
In addition to the financial benefits of an ESOP, there are certainly other perks that make employee owners feel valued and inclined to stay in their company. Firstly, is the notion of job security. ESOPs have been known to have lower turnover rates and are much less likely to lay people off. Secondly, ESOPs have proven to increase the well-being of their employees. Additional benefits include:
Greater feelings or job security and satisfaction
Increased trust in the management/company
In conclusion, employee stock ownership plans benefit the company, the owners, and the employees. An ESOP can be an excellent strategy for a company looking to enhance organizational performance, help employees prepare for retirement, and allow a business owner to meet succession or diversification goals. Do keep in mind that while all of these statistics may seem compelling, implementing an ESOP is not for every company, and lots of decision making must go into the process. If you are interested in learning more and implementing an ESOP into your business, be sure to do plenty of research!
Wastewater Rundown: Direct Potable Reuse Vs. Indirect Potable Reuse
Every day we encounter wastewater. We create it through flushing the toilet, washing our hands, taking showers, running the dishwasher, and more. In fact, all water affected by human use is wastewater. Although it’s a constant part of our lives, wastewater is often overlooked. Have you ever thought about what happens to the water we flush away? Where does it go? How does it get treated? Do we use it again? Read on to learn about the ways in which we utilize treated wastewater, particularly through direct potable reuse and indirect potable reuse.
The Quick (and Dirty)
The wastewater treatment process begins the second a drop of water goes down the drain. That water becomes sewage – which is 99 percent dirty water. The other one percent is made up of solids, chemicals, fats, nutrients, and other miscellaneous matter. From here, water travels within the sewage network through pipes, pumps, and plants for treatment. First in this process is the screening of large objects and debris from the water. Next, bacteria, contaminants, organic, and inorganic matter are removed through digestion and aeration processes. Within these phases, nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus are reduced to protect the environment and support our communities. When the water is clean, it then goes on to be clarified and disinfected with chlorine or ultraviolet light.
A Bright Idea
For as long as time, humans have relied on the natural water cycle to obtain drinking water. From the days of sifting water from brooks to later advancements including drinking water treatment facilities – the source of our drinking water has always come from surface or groundwater. When water is plentiful, we source it from watersheds and treat it to drinking water standards. But what happens when water supplies run low? When there is less rain and more demand for water? One solution is potable water reuse – the notion of reusing the used water we normally discard for drinking. The two types of potable water reuse are indirect potable reuse and direct potable reuse.
Indirect Potable Reuse
Indirect potable reuse (IPR) is more common and has been successfully used within the United States for the last 50 years. With IPR, water is first treated at a wastewater treatment facility. It is then pumped into a natural basin or reservoir where it is filtered naturally through the ground before being sent back into the water supply. The downside of IPR is that the water gets ‘dirty’ all over again and needs to be treated once more before it is safe to drink.
Direct Potable Reuse
On the contrary, direct portable reuse (DPR) is a fairly new concept and involves the treatment and distribution of water without an environmental buffer. In this process, the very clean water from the advanced water purification plant is put straight back into the water supply. These advanced purification systems are used by utilities around the world and process and test the water supply to ensure standards are met.
The first DPR system was implemented about five years ago in Big Spring, TX to face the state’s relentless droughts. The DPR system at the Colorado River Municipal Water District in Big Spring takes treated wastewater, purifies it, and then mixes it with the city’s regular water supply. Eventually, water heads back to consumers’ taps.
Although the DPR process is new in the grand scheme of things, it has proven to be effective. As we face global climate change and recognize drinking water as the valuable resource it is, innovations like DPR are certainly beneficial.
The team of Ph.D. candidates led by Professor Donglei Fan were fueled by the creation of a new approach for solar steaming – a technique that uses energy from the sun to separate salt and other impurities from water through evaporation. Their origami rose inspired system could be a new paradigm for water production and treatment for both individuals and homes.
Existing solar-steaming technologies are typically bulky, expensive, and produce limited results. The UT team aimed to create a solution using portable, lightweight and inexpensive materials. The result – a product that looks like a black-petaled rose in a glass jar. While portable and low-pressure controlled solar-steaming systems known as ‘unisystems’ do exist, the flower structure portion of the design is new.
The system is made from layered, black paper sheets that are shaped into petals. The 3D rose shape, attached to a stem-like tube that collects untreated water from any water source, makes it easier for the structure to collect and retain more liquid. The black paper is filtered and coated with a polymer known as polypyrrole. Polypyrrole is a material known for its photothermal properties – meaning that it coverts solar light into thermal heat.
There are two ways in which the device collects water. The first is through the stem-like tube that feeds water to the flower-inspired structure on top. The second way is through collecting water from above – occurring in instances such as rainfall. In either case, water finds its way to the petals where the polypyrrole coating turns the water into steam. The impurities are naturally separated from water when condensed in this way. By the end of the purification process, the device can remove contamination from heavy metals and bacteria, as well as salt from seawater. The result is clean water that meets drinking standard requirements set by the World Health Organization.
In addition to the new, flower-like structure, the system was also designed to include a connection point for a low-pressure pump. This pump will help condense water more effectively. Once condensed, water will fall into a compact, sturdy and secure glass jar. Weigu Li, a Ph.D. candidate in Fan’s lab said that their “rational design and low-cost fabrication of 3D origami photothermal materials represents a first-of-its-kind portable low-pressure solar-steaming-collection system” could inspire a new wave of clean water production technologies.
Tata & Howard Announces 2019 Donald J. Tata Engineering Scholarship Recipients
MARLBOROUGH, MASS. (PRWEB) JULY 19, 2019
Tata & Howard, Inc. is pleased to announce Conner Bogle and Thatcher Schechtman as the recipients of the 2019 Donald J. Tata Engineering Scholarship.
The Donald J. Tata Engineering Scholarship was established in 2017 to honor the late Don Tata, co-founder and former CEO of Tata & Howard, Inc. Each year, the scholarship is given to one student from both Marlborough and Natick High School. Eligible recipients must be graduating seniors with plans to attend a four-year college or university to pursue a degree in engineering.
“We are proud to offer scholarships to these accomplished students and support the Marlborough and Natick communities, home to Tata & Howard headquarters and the Tata family, respectively,” said Tata & Howard Co-President Karen Gracey, P.E. “While we had many exemplary applicants, Conner and Thatcher’s academic achievements and future career goals made a lasting impression.”
Conner Bogle will be attending Western New England University this fall to study mechanical engineering. Inspired by the way engineering can positively impact the world, Conner’s passion sparked from his high school STEM program where he designed an outdoor amphitheater-style classroom that eventually made its way to the Massachusetts State Science Fair. In addition to his studies, Conner was the president of the VEX and FIRST Robotics Clubs, and participated in martial arts, the Marlborough High School golf team, and advanced band.
Thatcher Schechtman will be attending the University of Connecticut this fall to study civil engineering. With sights set on bettering infrastructure on a local, national and global level, Thatcher hopes to create safer bridges, more durable roads, cleaner energy systems, and more sustainable water systems. A member of the National Honor Society, Thatcher also spent time volunteering with several organizations within the local community and beyond.
“Conner and Thatcher’s ambitions, talents, and leadership skills are demonstrative of their commitment to making a positive contribution to the world,” added Paul B. Howard, P.E., Sr. Vice President and co-founder of the firm. “We wish these students success in their future academic endeavors and know that Don would be proud to see them honored for their achievements.”
Point of Use Water Filters Effectively Reduce Lead in Flint, MI Water
In the last decade, the discussion of lead in drinking water has been on the rise. While the Flint, MI water crisis may have been a catalyst for the recent uptick in awareness, lead poisoning from drinking water is not isolated to Flint alone. Schools and homes across the country are at risk for unhealthy lead levels in their water. In fact, 15-25 million homes in the U.S. are still connected to lead pipelines that were laid before they were banned in the late 1980s. In addition, 43 percent of school districts serving 35 million students across the country tested positive for lead. Of those, 37 percent found elevated levels and reduced or eliminated exposure, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office.
In addition to water utilities adjusting water chemistry to minimize the possibility of lead dissolving into tap water, customers can also do their part to help reduce lead levels. Although the best way to eliminate lead exposure in water is by replacing lead service lines and interior plumbing, there are in fact ways to minimize exposure to meet the EPA’s Lead Action Level in your home. One of these ways is through point of use (POU) water filters. Properly installed POU filters can potentially protect all populations, including children and pregnant women.
Filtration of tap drinking water in homes through POU treatment devices has gained popularity due to recent concerns of lead contamination from service lines and interior plumbing materials. According to the field study, many POU filters utilize an outer fabric of fiber surrounding a solid block primarily composed of activated carbon. Activated carbon is great for purifying liquids and gases.
Materials and Methods for the Study
Flint residents received PUR and BRITA filters [certified under NSF/ANSI-53 (total lead) and NSF/ANSI-42 (Class I particulate)] for the study. Filtered and unfiltered water samples were collected to assess whether the NSF/ANSI-53 and NSF/ANSI-42 certified POU filters being distributed in Flint were effective for the reduction of lead, regardless of influent levels above the certification criteria of 150 micrograms/L (µg/L).
* NSF/ANSI 42, 53 and 401 are the leading industry standards for filtration products and systems.
Subsequently, filtered and unfiltered water grab samples were collected at each selected sampling location, generally at the kitchen faucet. Samplers recorded field observations including the filter type/brand, filter indicator status, and the resident’s estimate of the time since the filter or cartridge was installed. All samples were collected from the cold-water tap, and three types of 1000-mL samples were collected from homes:
1. Filtered Water, Existing Filter – First, one grab water sample was collected through the existing water filter at the home (if present).
2. Unfiltered Water – Second, an unfiltered water grab sample was collected after removing the existing filter or turning the by-pass valve on the filter. No cleaning or flushing took place prior to the water grab sampling.
3. Filtered Water, New Filter – Third, after the installation and flushing of a new filter or replacement filter cartridge for approximately 2 min, a grab sample was collected through the newly installed filter or filter cartridge.
Field Study Results
Unfiltered Water Samples – The maximum lead concentration in the unfiltered water at the 345 sampling locations in this study was 4,080 µg/L , with approximately 4% of the unfiltered water samples above 150 µg/L and over 37% above the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) standard for bottled water (5 µg/L).
Filtered Water Samples – Over 97% of filtered water samples contained lead below 0.5 µg/L. The maximum lead concentration in filtered water was 2.9 µg/L, well below the bottled water standard.
Removal of Additional Metals – The sampling showed incidental removal of copper, iron, manganese, and zinc despite the filters not being certified to remove miscellaneous metals.
In conclusiuon, POU filters proved to be a reliable option for the reduction of lead in this study. Faucet-mounted point of use filters can be an important barrier against unpredictable lead release from lead service lines and/or plumbing materials.
To ensure effectiveness, POU filters should be replaced per manufacturer recommendations.
Interested in what else you can do to help reduce exposure to lead in your drinking water?
Use cold water for drinking, cooking, or making baby formula. Boiling your water will not remove lead from water. In fact, lead concentrations will increase because water evaporates during the boiling process.
Before drinking water from the tap, flush your pipes by running the water faucet, doing a load of laundry, or taking a shower.
Be sure that your faucets screen (aerator) is clean.
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