Water and Wastewater Utilities: Be Hurricane Ready

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

Planning

  • 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

Coordination

  • 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
Megaphone.

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

Planning

  • 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

Personnel

  • 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

Coordination

  • 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

Overall

  • 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

Personnel

  • 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

Coordination

  • 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

Mitigation

  • 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

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

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 March 2019, PFAS sites have increased to at least 610 locations in 43 states, including drinking water systems that serve an estimated 110 million people.

pfas sites located on a map - sites across new england

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

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) and Northeastern University’s Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute (SSEHRI) are at the forefront of PFAS detection within many communities in different parts of the country and have identified 36 sites across New England that are affected by PFAS.

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.

 

Infrastructure Week 2019

Infrastructure Week 2019

From May 13-20, the seventh annual Infrastructure Week is taking place with the support of hundreds of affiliates across the country. Infrastructure Week was created to help raise awareness for our country’s growing infrastructure needs and stress the message that we must #BuildForTomorrow. Led by a coalition of businesses, labor organizations and policy organizations, this week will unite the public and private sector to send this important message to leaders in Washington and beyond.

No matter where you live, your age, your education, if you drive a car or a truck or take the bus or a bicycle, infrastructure has a profound impact on your daily life. We all have to get around. We all need lights to come on and water to come out of the tap.

Consequently, too much of our nation’s infrastructure is under-maintained, too old, and over capacity. When it comes to water infrastructure alone, we are dealing with a massive network of pipes that are well over 100 years old. In short, droughts in western states have caused wells and reservoirs to fall dangerously low; saltwater intrusion of Florida’s drinking water infrastructure, and dam and levee failures in California, South Carolina, and Louisiana have caused evacuations and put hundreds of thousands of people and homes at risk.

infrastructure week photo with stat stating that 'most Americans' wter systems have been in operation for 75-100 years - well past their lifespans.

The High Cost of Water Infrastructure

And this is just the tip of the iceberg. A study conducted by the American Water Works Association revealed that the cost to replace our nation’s water infrastructures would cost more than one trillion dollars over the next 25 years.

No state, city, or county alone can tackle the growing backlog of projects of regional and national importance, and Americans get it: more than 79 percent of voters think it is extremely important for Congress and the White House to work together to invest in infrastructure.

For years, near-unanimous, bipartisan support for infrastructure investment has been steadily increasing. Leaders and voters have been rolling up their sleeves to spark efforts in the rebuilding and modernizing of transportation, water, and energy systems. Certainly, large strides have been made as a country, but there is still a lot to be done.

Every four years, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) publishes The Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, which grades the current state of the nation’s infrastructure on a scale between A and F. The last survey from 2017 gave tremendous insight into the state of our infrastructure surrounding drinking water, dams, and wastewater.

Drinking Water Infrastructure

The drinking water that we get in our homes and businesses all comes from about one million miles of pipes across the country. While the majority of those pipes were laid in the early to mid-20th century, many are showing signs of deterioration. There are many reasons for a water main to break including localized influences such as aggressive soil and weather conditions, as well as poor design/construction. Approximately 240,000 occur each year, consequently resulting in the waste of two trillion gallons of treated drinking water. Drinking Water received a grade of D.

Dams

The average age of the 90,000+ dams in the United States is 56.  Nearly 16,000 (~17%) have been classified as high-hazard potential. Dam failures not only risk public safety, they also can cost our economy millions of dollars in damages as well as the impairment of many other infrastructure systems, such as roads, bridges, and water systems. As a result, emergency action plans (EAPs) for use in the event of a dam failure or other uncontrolled release of water are vital. As of 2015, 77% of dams have EAPs – up from 66% in the last 2013 Report Card. Dams received a grade of D.

Wastewater

There are approximately 15,000 wastewater treatment plants across the U.S that are critical for protecting public health and the environment. In the next 15 years, it is expected that there will be 56 million new users connected to the centralized treatment system. This need comes with an estimated $271 billion cost. Maintaining our nation’s wastewater infrastructure is imperative for the health and well being of the 76% of the country that rely on these plants for sanitary water. Wastewater received a grade of D+.

In the water sector alone, it’s clear how heavily we rely on solid infrastructure. If the issues in our nation’s water infrastructure are not addressed, millions of people as well as our environment will be at risk. Many communities around the country are working hard to deliver projects to solve these problems – but there is always more to be done. Reversing the trajectory after decades of under-investment requires transformative action from Congress, states, infrastructure owners, and the American people. Join us this week to help spotlight the continued advocacy and education of infrastructure needs. Afterall, this is the true foundation that connects our country’s communities, businesses, and people.

 

Tata & Howard, Inc. Encourages Getting to Know Local Water During Drinking Water Week

Tata & Howard, Inc. Encourages Getting to Know Local Water During Drinking Water Week

As Drinking Water Week continues, Tata & Howard joins the American Water Works Association and water professionals across North America in encouraging water consumers to get to know their local H2O.

drinking water week logo

Finding information about local water is simple. As required by the Safe Drinking Water Act, water utilities must provide customers with an annual water quality report, also called a Consumer Confidence Report (CCR). A CCR identifies the quality of local drinking water and if any contaminants are detected and if so, which ones. Also available in the report is information on a community’s local source for drinking water. The city of Marlborough, MA, home to Tata & Howard’s headquarters, uses an average of 4 million gallons of water a day. Currently, 100 percent of the water is supplied by the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA).

Additionally, information on local source water is available through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s “How’s My Waterway?”

“As engineers in the water space, water is at the heart of everything we do,” said Tata & Howard Co-President, Karen Gracey, P.E. “Knowing the source of our water and keeping it clean is critical and we hope Drinking Water Week will serve as an opportunity for everyone to learn more about this vital piece of our daily lives.”

young girl drinking water from outdoor water fountain

More information about local water sources is available on DrinkTap.org.

About Drinking Water Week 
For more than 40 years, AWWA and its members have celebrated Drinking Water Week, a unique opportunity for both water professionals and the communities they serve to join together in recognizing the vital role water plays in daily lives. Additional information about Drinking Water Week, including free materials for download and celebration ideas, is available on the Drinking Water Week webpage.

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Founded in 1992, Tata & Howard, Inc. is a 100% employee-owned water, wastewater, stormwater, and environmental services consulting engineering firm dedicated to consistently delivering innovative, cost-effective solutions in the water environment. Tata & Howard has gained a solid reputation as an industry leader in the Northeast by bringing knowledge, integrity, and dedicated service to all-sized markets, both public and private. The firm has offices in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and Arizona. For more information, visit www.tataandhoward.com

Established in 1881, the American Water Works Association is the largest nonprofit, scientific and educational association dedicated to managing and treating water, the world’s most important resource. With approximately 51,000 members, AWWA provides solutions to improve public health, protect the environment, strengthen the economy and enhance our quality of life.

Why You Need a Business Practice Evaluation

Why You Need a Business Practice Evaluation

Have you thought lately about the overall health of your business?  In today’s economy, it’s important to not only deliver your service, but to operate effectively and efficiently. An excellent way to gain insight into this is through conducting a Business Practice Evaluation (BPE). A BPE assesses the health of a utility by developing the framework for a structured approach to managing, operating, and maintaining assets in a more business-like manner. The goal would be to minimize the total cost of operating, managing and maintaining utility assets while still delivering exceptional service to customers. This is accomplished by providing more effective preventive maintenance to reduce capital investment.

The evaluation process will ultimately enable utility managers to assess the efficiency and effectiveness of their business practices in comparison to industry standards. Developing system specific plans, programmatic approaches, and realistic timelines to optimize utility programs are included in this process.

Similar to management consulting services, a BPE has potential to bring incredible value to your utility. While the list of benefits is copious, here are a few of the major advantages of conducting a Business Practice Evaluation.

business practice evaluation graphic with words and icons including innovation, process, research, development, management, teamwork, marketing, analysis, strategy and efficiency

Next Level Growth

Firstly, conducting a BPE will provide a baseline of exactly where a utility or company’s business practices currently are. Through a rating criterion, findings report, and subsequent scoresheet, the opportunities for improvement will become clear. A company can then make modifications to their business practices to reach the next level of efficiency and effectiveness.

Objectivity

As a manager, it may be hard to focus on the cause of an issue when you are immersed in it every day. Conducting a BPE will allow for an industry expert to look at a situation objectively and make the best-informed recommendations based on the BPE’s proven history of success.

Cost Reductions

A successful Business Practice Evaluation will help companies cut costs by simplifying and refocusing existing business practices. Expert BPE consultants can look at costs from a different lens and offer insights based on data and effective-practice knowledge.

piggy bank with money falling into it

Improved Communication and Relationships

In big and small companies alike, communication is key. An open line of communication is particularly critical between management and field personnel in water and wastewater utilities. Through field observations of current business practices, valuable insights in reference to efficiency and effectiveness will be provided. Management and field personnel can then identify and prioritize opportunities for improvement, as well as come to a consensus in all business practices. A successful BPE will help to eliminate the fissure between management and field staff, eliminating the ‘us versus them’ mentality.

Staff Accountability

A Business Practice Evaluation is completed through a series of interviews within a diagonal slice of utility staff. Recommendations from the BPE findings report will aid in staff accountability by identifying and implementing realistic performance measures. For example, the report may show within the Administration category that an Emergency Response Plan (ERP) is not in place. Subsequently, a Public Water Supplier could then take the necessary steps to implement an ERP and provide staff with the required ERP training.

A Way Forward

One of the most valuable pieces of information obtained from conducting a BPE is knowing where a business stands from a micro-level view. Once the scoresheet is complete, a company can determine if their primary business functions are being efficiently and effectively managed (or not). Moreover, the risks and consequences of not moving forward with proposed recommendations are identified. Having this information allows management the ability to prioritize business practices and supporting attributes, and sets the business on the right path going forward.

Improved Quality of Life

Changes resulting from the completed Business Practice Evaluation have the potential to improve quality of life and staff morale by communicating and providing a clear management plan to move forward. While improvements may not always be evident prior to the BPE, management and staff alike will be happy when positive changes are made. With more efficient and effective business practices and improved communication, the business continues to thrive.

 

Image of business people hands on top of each other symbolizing support and power

Interested in the full scope of the Business Practice Evaluation? See the step-by-step process below.

  • Review utility documents and documentation of business practices
  • Develop rating criteria to determine level of performance of business practices
  • Develop business practice categories and supporting attributes scoresheet with the assistance of your utility staff
  • Conduct kick-off, consensus, and findings workshops
  • Conduct interviews within a diagonal slice of the organization
  • Conduct field observations of current business practices (not people)
  • Develop a BPE findings report
  • Develop a BPE scoresheet from the findings report

In conclusion, it is critical to stay on top of internal functionality regardless of the type of business you operate. Keep in mind, no matter how well-oiled a machine is, there is always room for growth and improvements. Organizations that have conducted a BPE significantly improve the management, operations and maintenance efficiency of their utility.

 

Earth Day 2019: Make a Difference with Water

Earth Day 2019: Make a Difference with Water

Happy Earth Day 2019! We hope you will do your part to keep our earth clean and read on to learn about the ways that you can make a difference when it comes to preserving water and keeping it clean.

Making a Difference since 1970

Since the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970, the environmental movement has continued to grow with each passing year. What started as a way to bring ecological awareness to the forefront of people’s minds, became the catalyst for greater causes including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species Acts. The Earth Day that we have grown to know encourages people from around the world to advocate for a cleaner earth.

Clean Water Act

As civil engineers in the water environment, we are particularly grateful for the CWA that stemmed from 1970 Earth Day efforts. When amended in 1972, this act:

  • Established the basic structure for regulating pollutant discharges into the waters of the United States
  • Gave the EPA the authority to implement pollution control programs
  • Maintained existing requirements to set water quality standards
  • Made it unlawful for any person to discharge any pollutants from a point source into navigable waters
  • Funded the construction of sewage treatment plants
  • Recognized the need for planning to address critical problems caused by nonpoint source pollution

Since 1972, many other laws have been put into place to aid in the cleanliness of our waters. In addition, clean water for all has become an issue that millions of people around the world care about.

Curious in how you can contribute to a better water environment this year?

Turn off Your Faucet

Did you know that you can save up to eight gallons of water each day by turning off the faucet when you brush your teeth, wash your face or shave? This equates to more than 200 gallons of water each month! This is one of the simplest and most effective ways to save water. Start this habit on Earth Day 2019 and carry it through every day!

faucet leaking water

Buy Products with Minimal Chemicals

If you’ve ever looked at the ingredients list on the back of any bathroom or kitchen product, you likely saw a number of words you can’t pronounce. While these ingredients serve their purpose, many are not good for the environment. Because of this, it’s important to be mindful of what gets washed down the drain. Although the water that comes through our showers and faucets has been treated, there are still many chemicals that end up in our water supply that cannot be removed.

Stop Polluted Stormwater Runoff

One of the most detrimental sources of pollution in rivers is polluted stormwater runoff. Chemicals and harmful pollutants that collect on impermeable surfaces like pavement and concrete get washed into rivers, streams and creeks. Fertilizers, road salt, pesticides, trash, car oil and more are just a few examples of harmful pollutants that flow into storm drains and straight into natural water sources. This kills fish, erodes streams, pollutes swimming areas, floods homes, and amongst other problems.

You can do your part in preventing polluted stormwater runoff by using products that are not harmful to the environment. Using organic fertilizer, green soap solutions, and minimizing the use of salt during winter will help tremendously. Being mindful of what goes into storm drains will help as well. So, keep in mind – only rain goes in the drain.

Another solution is to use native plants to capture and filter polluted runoff. Rain gardens, rain barrels, downspout diversions and permeable pavements are also excellent at-home solutions.

Use Refillable Water Bottles

Each year, Americans use an average of 50 billion plastic water bottles. Of that, roughly 9 percent of them are recycled. The rest go into landfills, or become litter, polluting our rivers, streams, and oceans and harming wildlife. Invest in a reusable water bottle and refill it throughout the day to save the environment, and your wallet!

camel back water bottle. fill your reusable water bottle on earth day 2019 and every day

Take Action!

The best way you can help contribute to cleaner water for all is to get involved. There are programs in your community, and around the country and world that are dedicated to keeping waters clean. Water for People and Water Mission are among the hundreds of organizations whose mission is to provide clean, safe water for all. In addition, getting out in your own neighborhood and collecting garbage from streets and water is an excellent starting point!

Happy Earth Day 2019!

 

Six Great Reasons to Work with a Small Engineering Firm

Six Great Reasons to Work with a Small Engineering Firm

There’s a lot to consider when it comes to addressing your water needs and ultimately awarding a project to the most qualified bidder. Whether you’re in need of a large scale project such as the design and construction administration of a water treatment plant, or something smaller like a new water main, the deciding factors are equally important. Although it may seem daunting to weigh the magnitude of experience and qualifications across all the competing bids, we are big proponents for small engineering firms. Read on to see six great reasons why working with a small engineering firm could be a huge benefit to your company, institution, or municipality.

True Experts in the Field

In choosing a small engineering firm, you’ll have the opportunity to work with engineers who have expertise in both a specialized service as well as experience across multiple facets of the business. It is common to see groups of small teams within a firm that focus on particular segments of the business, be it water, wastewater, stormwater, or construction. Given the nature of a small firm however, there are large opportunities for teamwork and collaboration across the different services. For example, an engineer with a focus on stormwater, may have contributed their knowledge to a wastewater project.

Folks in smaller, privately owned firms, also tend to stay at the company for longer periods of time. With a feeling of trust and community within the company, experience will always increase with longevity.

Client Focused and Reliable

From first interaction to project completion, the team will be there to assist through every step. Teams within small engineering firms are known to go the extra mile to meet the needs of their clients and stop at nothing to make sure all expectations are exceeded. More so than the project itself, a solid client-firm relationship is critically important. When a company is small, team members are often more accessible and eager to help.

Familiar with the Area

Most small, regional firms tend to have a majority of clients close to their headquarters and satellite offices. Having a level of familiarity within a tighter geographic region provides huge benefits for firms and clients alike. For example, when a firm works with a town, they learn the ins and outs of new and existing systems. When it comes time for another project in the same town, the small, local firm is then one step ahead of the competition. Firms that are more local to the client also are more likely to have greater connections with other contractors and utilities nearby.

Tata & Howard worked with the town of Milford, MA on a Wastewater Treatment Facility

Engaged Engineers

According to a 2017 study by Gallup, smaller companies have higher levels of employee engagement. From 2012-2016, the percentage of engagement levels in small companies grew by five percentage points. In the same time frame, engagement levels in larger companies barely budged. Similarly, 42% of employees working at companies of 10 or fewer were engaged at work versus the 30% who worked at larger companies. Use this stat when you’re thinking about the team of engineers working on a project (i.e. 10 person companies can easily be equivalent to 10 person teams.)

Transparency

A big component of a solid working relationship is honesty. In any project, big or small, there will always be bumps in the road. A small engineering firm is more inclined to reveal challenges and concerns and face them throughout the course of the project. With full transparency, the firm and client can then work together to address all needs and achieve the end goal.

Small Firms – Big Hearts

In this day and age, ‘giving back’ is incredibly important to consumers. You want to know the company you’re doing business with cares about the world around them. Often times, you will see smaller firms participating in ways well beyond dollars. Giving time, partnering with local charities, and finding a cause that employees truly want to be a part of are what small companies tend to excel in.

tata and howrad employees introduce young girl scouts to engineering

 

How to Stay Eco-Conscious During the Boston Marathon

How to Stay Eco-Conscious During the Boston Marathon

(For Runners & Spectators)

For Massachusetts natives, Patriots Day – or as we like to call it, ‘Marathon Monday’ – has become one of the most anticipated days of the year. On the third Monday of every April, the Boston Marathon takes place, hailing more than 30,000 runners and 500,000 spectators from around the world. While this special Boston event is celebrated by millions, it’s notorious for creating a tremendous amount of waste. From water bottles, disposable water cups, and food remains, to clothing items, Mylar blankets, and paper – the waste that floods the streets and storm drains quickly piles up. Interested in how runners and spectators can stay eco-conscious during the Boston Marathon this year and in the future? Read on and check out our infographic to find out.

workers paint boston marathon finish line on boylston street in boston
(Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Hydration Packs/Camelbacks/Personal Water Bottles

A great way for runners to help eliminate waste during the race is by using a hydration pack. Coming prepared with a personal water source means that runners will not have to waste the paper cups available at the hydration stations. While some hydration packs can be a little bulky, there are items like the Hydrapouch that are super lightweight and can be filled throughout the course of the race at water stations. Vacation Races, a racing organization that specializes in hosting races in the world’s most desirable destinations, implemented a cup free racing policy for their races. Vacation Races provides Hydrapouches for all their runners or gives them the option to bring their own water source. 83% of their runners found this process completely satisfactory.

Hydration packs can also help in reducing the number of disposable water bottles, a number that crept up to 62,000 in 2017.

four different types of hydration packs that runners can use to drink water while they run

Want to learn more about the benefits of avoiding bottled water? Check out our infographic here.

Compostable Cups

According to the Boston Athletic Association (BAA), 1.4 million paper water-cups were distributed to runners across the 26 hydration stations in 2017. Often, these cups are thrown on the ground as runners quickly take their sips and continue the race. Even though the cups are picked up by crews and volunteers post-race, many get left behind or fall into storm drains. Cities with large marathons would benefit from compostable cups since they are made exclusively with materials that can break down without leaving toxic residue. Compostable cups are also great because they are made with 40% less water than that of Styrofoam cups.

four sizes of compostable cups that say "all green. all the time."

Place Garbage and Recycling in Designated Areas

There are designated trash and recycling bins along the route. If you see any trash or recyclable items on the ground, be sure to place them where they belong.

Limiting Printed Materials

Between program brochures, event schedules, and all the promotions included in each runner’s race packet, there is a wealth of paper material distributed throughout the course of the marathon. For example, during the 2017 Boston Marathon, 171,380 paper brochures and visitor’s guides were printed. The BAA said brochures are now smaller and that a lot of the race information is disseminated virtually in efforts to save paper.

Most questions for runners and spectators can be answered here.

The Future of Revolutionizing Marathon Waste

Although it may take some time for Boston to become a cup free race, there certainly is hope when it comes to eliminating waste. Oohoo Water is a startup company that makes ‘edible water bottles,’ an innovative alternative to disposable water bottles. This solution makes water available in little pods encapsulated in seaweed – so they can be nipped and sipped from or eaten whole. The London Marathon will trial these this year.

water inside of a seaweed pouch that runners can eat whole or bite and sip from.

While Boston is making their best efforts to remain eco-conscious during Marathon Monday, there is still room for improvement. Events including the Chicago Marathon, Ironman Boulder, and Houston Marathon are among a group of certified events within the Council for Responsible Sport. These events have proven their methods to meet the new norms for social and environmental responsibility. For instance, the London Marathonannounced earlier this month that they aim to become a world leader in sustainable mass participation events.

Should you be running the Boston Marathon this year or watching, we hope you will do your part to stay eco-conscious and keep our streets and water clean!

 

Everything You Need to Know About Water Main Flushing

Everything You Need to Know About Water Main Flushing

Chances are that at some point in early spring, you have noticed fire hydrants being flushed and releasing large amounts of water into the streets. While it may appear that hundreds of gallons are going to waste, there are actually several benefits to this hydrant flushing process. Water main flushing is an important preventative maintenance activity that:

  • verifies proper operation of the hydrant
  • evaluates the available flow to the hydrant
  • allows utilities to deliver the highest quality water possible to their customers
  • removes mineral and sediment build up from the water mains
fire hydrant flushing water

Proper Operation of the Hydrant

According to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP), the process of water main flushing is one of the most critical practices carried out by public drinking water systems. This practice allows water operators to identify broken or inoperable valves and hydrants to assure that they are working at their maximum potential.

Fire & Emergency Needs

During the flushing of a hydrant, operators can assess the water pressure and available flow rate for firefighting purposes. It’s imperative that each hydrant is operating as firefighters rely on them for fire-ground operations.

firefighter attaching hose to hydrant

High-Quality Water

Over time, water settles, ages, and is affected by biofilm (a thin layer of microorganisms) that grows on the inside of the distribution piping. Each of these factors affects the quality and taste of the water, so it is important to flush the water out of the mains and hydrants regularly. Flushing can remove water from areas of the distribution system that have low water use, since the older water may no longer have the desired chorine residual.

water coming from faucet

Mineral and Sediment Build Up

Throughout the course of several months or a year, loose sediment and mineral deposits may slowly build up inside of the water mains resulting in discolored water and reduced capacity. Flushing the water mains can remove the sediment and mineral build up, and improve the color, odor and taste of the water if it has been problematic.  Unidirectional flushing at the minimum required velocity will improve the carrying capacity of the mains.

Questions?

Now that we’ve discussed the benefits of flushing our water mains and hydrants, you may have some questions about the process and how it will affect your day-to-day life. We’re here to help!

When will a hydrant near me be flushed?

Hydrant flushing normally takes place at the start of spring. Your Pubic Water Supplier (PWS) should notify you of what streets will be undergoing flushing and when.

What can I do to prepare for flushing?

Prior to local hydrants being flushed, you may want to obtain water (in pitchers prior to flushing) for your everyday use including drinking, cooking, etc.

When the flushing is taking place, water quality may temporarily be reduced. Using water for tasks such as dishwashing, laundry, or showering may result in the discoloration/staining of your clothes or household items. Plan ahead and be sure your laundry and dishes are done before the flushing process begins!

How does water main flushing work?

Water main flushing usually takes place in one of two ways – conventional flushing or unidirectional flushing (UDF). WATER Finance & Management does a good job describing the difference between the two methods. In conventional flushing, hydrants are opened in different targeted areas and discharge water until accumulations are removed and water runs clear. While easy to conduct by water operators and crews, this method requires a lot of water, and may not always clean the pipe completely. With UDF, each pipeline is isolated to create flow in a single direction and quickly clean the pipe. By concentrating the flow, UDF creates higher velocities to clear the pipes and requires less water.

Learn more about the benefits of unidirectional flushing in our infographic here.

UDF-infographic

How will flushing affect my water?

During the process, you might experience a difference in the water pressure in your faucets as well as some discoloration in the water.

How long does it take to flush the hydrant?

Typically, this process takes between 30 and 60 minutes.

When will my water be back to normal?

Once the hydrants in your area have completed their flushing, it won’t be long until your water is ready for normal use again. In most cases, water should run clear with just a few minutes of faucet flow. Turn your faucets on cold and let the water run for 5 minutes or so. If you are still seeing discolored water or sediments in the water, continue running cold water on all your faucets until it is clear. Should your water still be discolored after several hours, please contact your water supplier.

Is water main/hydrant flushing a waste of water?

Although you will see water flowing for up to an hour, rest assured that most of the water that was flushed will return to a river, stream, or aquifer.  Flushing is a necessary process to help keep our water mains clean and clear of sediment, allowing your public water supplier to provide excellent water quality, and increased pressure and flow.

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