The leaves have just about fallen off all of the trees! Avoid clogging storm drains with these great tips for proper leaf disposal.
Please feel free to print and share our Tips for Proper Leaf Disposal Infographic with attribution to Tata & Howard, Inc. A high-resolution pdf can be downloaded by clicking here.
Finely chopped leaves make for an excellent lawn fertilizer. Mulch leaves by running over them with your mower during the next cutting, and leave the remains on the lawn. You can also spread the mulch across flower and vegetable beds.
Composting leaves is a great way to create nutrient-rich soil. In a mixed pile, create a 2-to-1 ratio of dead leaves to grass clippings. Spreading leaves over food scraps will soak up moisture and help contain odors as well.
Protect Our Waterways
Avoid raking leaves into or nearby storm drains, ditches, creeks, or rivers. In addition to clogging the drains, decaying leaves use up the water’s oxygen, harming aquatic inhabitants.
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.
During the spring and summer months, stormwater pollution is especially prevalent. Water resulting from precipitation and snow/ice melt either soaks into exposed soil or remains on top of impervious surfaces. As stormwater flows as runoff to nearby waterways, it picks up pollutants including debris, sediment, pesticides, fertilizers, pet waste and more.
A major contributor to stormwater pollution is traced back to residual excess from lawn care maintenance – particularly with fertilizers and lawn clippings.
Check out the five tips below for ways to reduce stormwater pollution when it comes to your lawn maintenance.
Please feel free to print and share our Stormwater Pollution and Lawn Maintenance Infographic with attribution to Tata & Howard, Inc. A high-resolution pdf can be downloaded by clicking here.
Use Fertilizer Sparingly
A little goes a long way. Many plants don’t need as much fertilizer or need it as often as you think. Reduce stormwater pollution by minimizing your fertilizer during the spring and summer.
Use Organic, Phosphorous Free Fertilizers
In addition to reducing stormwater pollution with the amount of fertilizer you use, it’s equally important to use the proper type. Organic, phosphorous free fertilizers release nutrients slower and are less detrimental to the environment.
Proper Disposal of Waste
One of the best ways to reduce stormwater pollution is with the proper disposal of lawn waste. Leaves and grass clippings can wash into storm drains, adding unwanted nutrients to streams.
Stop pollutants from making their way into the storm drain by avoiding over-watering as well as fertilizing before a rainstorm.
6 Ways to Help Prevent Stormwater Pollution this Spring
You know what they say; April showers bring May flowers. While the start of spring and warmer days to come is certainly exciting, it’s important not to oversee what else comes with an increase in seasonal rain – stormwater pollution. Stormwater is water that comes from precipitation and snow/ice melt. The water either soaks into exposed soil or remains on top of impervious surfaces like pavement or rooftops. Most stormwater will eventually evaporate, but often times it will flow as runoff to another location. As the water runs it picks up pollutants along its path including debris, sediment, pesticides, fertilizers, pet waste and more. This polluted stormwater can cause soil erosion, stream impairment, flooding, fish and wildlife habitat loss, and reduced groundwater levels. Although stormwater pollution cannot be eliminated completely, you can do your part in preventing it. Check out these six ways to help prevent stormwater pollution this spring.
1. Only Rain Belongs in the Drain
As you start a spring cleanup in your yard, it’s important to remember that storm drains are not garbage disposals. Substances including leaves, yard waste, and other debris should be disposed of properly, and not released into neighborhood drains. Do your part to ensure that the only thing flowing into the storm drains are rain and snow/ice melt.
2. Use Lawn Chemicals Sparingly
With the arrival of warmer weather and outdoor summer fun on the horizon, now is the time when people start getting their lawns in tip-top shape. When it comes to fertilizer, remember that a little goes a long way. While a 20-pound bag of lawn fertilizer may seem small, do note that it will typically cover up to 4,000 square-feet of space (bigger than a tennis court). When spreading the fertilizer, use it sparingly to assure the excess does not overflow into runoff when rain comes. Choosing an organic fertilizer will also be less detrimental to the environment.
3. Avoid Over-Watering Your Lawn
While fresh, green grass is the end-goal for most yards come springtime, be sure not to over-water your lawn. In addition to the risk of fertilizer flowing over and out into the streets, it’s not good to have pools of water collecting in your grass. Avoid this by scheduling times each week to water your lawn, or by turning on sprinkler timers.
4. Wash Your Car Over Grass or Gravel
If you plan to wash your car at home, find an outdoor surface such as gravel, stone or grass to wash it on. Soapy water and grime will have an easier time neutralizing if it is filtered out before it reaches our streams and creeks. Try using a non-toxic or biodegradable soap as well to allow fewer chemicals to get into the water. An even safer alternative would be heading over to your local car wash where they will have a system in place for recycling or removing wastewater.
5. Pick Up Pet Waste
Although this sounds like a given, there are still many folks who do not pick up their pet’s waste. Pick up, bag, and dispose of pet waste properly to assure that unhealthy bacteria is not flowing into local waterways.
6. Plant Low-Maintenance Grasses and Plants
When it comes time to choose either grass seeds for your lawn or decorative plants, go with a low-maintenance, native (ones that occur naturally in a region in which they evolved) option. Because native plants adapt to local environmental conditions, they require far less water and are a lot better for the environment. Curious about what types of native plants are in your area? Check out this Native Plants Database to find out!
Financial Assistance through the State Revolving Fund
The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP), is now accepting Project Evaluation Forms (PEFs) for new drinking water and wastewater projects seeking financial assistance in 2019 through the State Revolving Fund (SRF). The SRF offers low interest loan options to Massachusetts cities and towns to help fund their drinking water and clean water projects. PEFs are due to the MassDEP Division of Municipal Services by August 24, 2018, 12:00 PM.
Financing for The Clean Water SRF Program helps municipalities with federal and state compliance water-quality requirements, focusing on stormwater and watershed management priorities, and green infrastructure. The Drinking Water SRF Program, provides low-interest loans to communities to improve their drinking water safety and water supply infrastructure.
This year, the MassDEP Division of Municipal Services (DMS) announced the following priorities for SRF proposals.
Water main rehabilitation projects which include full lead service replacement (to the meter) – this is a high priority for eligibly enhanced subsidy under the Drinking Water SRF.
Reducing Per- and polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS) contaminants in drinking water.
Asset Management Planning to subsidize Clean Water programs.
Stormwater Management Planning for MS4 permit compliance and implementation.
Summaries of the Intended Use Plans (IUP), will be published in the fall, which will list the project name, proponents, and costs for the selected projects. After a 30-public hearing and comment period, Congress will decide which programs may receive funding from the finalized IUPs.
To Apply for SRF Financing
Tata & Howard is experienced with the SRF financing process and is available to help municipalities develop Project Evaluation Forms along with supporting documentation, for their local infrastructure needs.
Please contact us for more information.
The MassDEP Division of Municipal Services are accepting Project Evaluation Forms until August 24, 2018 by 12:00 PM.
We Can Help
For more information on the MassDEP State Revolving Fund and assistance preparing a PEF contact us.
Health Advisory Guidelines for Per- and polyfluoroalkyl Substances Detected in Public Water Systems
The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) announced in early June, and through the Office of Research and Standards (ORS), its recommendations on the Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule 3 (UCMR 3) for emerging contaminants-specifically Perflourinated Alkyl Substances (PFAS).
PFAS or Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances are a group of man-made compounds that include perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), perffluorohexane sulfonate (PFHxS), perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA), perflouroheptanoic acid (PFHpA), and perfluorobutane sulfonate (PFBS).
According the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), all these UCMR 3 PFAS compounds have been detected in public water supplies across the US. Since PFAS are considered emerging contaminants, there are currently no established regulatory limits for levels in drinking water. However, in 2016, the EPA set Health Advisory levels (HA) of 0.07 micrograms per liter (µg/L) or 70 parts per trillion (ppt) for the combined concentrations of two PFAS compounds, PFOS and PFOA.
MassDEP’s ORS established drinking water guidelines that follows the EPA’s recommendations for health advisory levels at 70 ppt, which applies to the sum total of five PFAS chemicals – PFOS, PFOA, PFNA, PFHXS, and PFHpA. And, if the level of contamination poses unacceptable health risks to its customers, Public Water Systems (PWS) must take action to achieve safe levels. They also must provide public notice.
The EPA and MassDEP’s recommended guidelines for PFAS include:
Public Water Suppliers take immediate action to reduce levels of the five PFAS to be below 70 ppt for all consumers.
Susceptible health-risk groups (pregnant women, infants, and nursing mothers) should stop consuming water when the level is above 70 ppt.
Public Water Systems must provide a public Health Advisory notice.
The EPA also recommends that treatment be implemented for all five PFAS when one or more of these compounds are present.
Although, PFAS are no longer manufactured in the United States, PFAS are still produced internationally and can be imported in to the country1. PFAS have been in use since the 1940’s and are persistent chemicals that don’t breakdown, accumulate over time in the environment and in the human body. Evidence shows that prolonged exposure PFAS can have adverse effects on human health and the ecology.
PFAS can be found in:
Agricultural products grown in PFAS-contaminated soil or water, and/or handled with PFAS-containing equipment and materials.
Drinking water contaminated from chemical groundwater pollution from stormwater runoff near landfills, wastewater treatment plants, and firefighter training facilities2.
Household products, including nonstick products (e.g., Teflon), polishes, waxes, paints, cleaning products, and stain and water-repellent fabrics.
Firefighting foams2, which is a major source of groundwater contamination at airports and military bases where firefighting training occurs.
Industrial facilities that manufactured chrome plating, electronics, and oil recovery that use PFAS.
Environmental contamination where PFAS have built-up and persisted over time – including in fish, animals and humans.
While most states are relying on the EPA’s Health Advisory levels (including Massachusetts), some, such as Connecticut, Minnesota, New Jersey, Arizona, and Colorado have addressed other UCMR 3 PFAS pollutants as well.
Most research on the effects of PFAS on human health is based on animal studies. And, although there is no conclusive evidence that PFAS cause cancer, animal studies have shown there are possible links. However, PFAS ill-health effects are associated with changes in thyroid, kidney and liver function, as well as affects to the immune system. These chemicals have also caused fetal development effects during pregnancy and low birth weights.
PFAS are found at low levels throughout our environment—in foods we consume and in household products we use daily. PFAS in drinking water at levels higher than the EPA’s recommendations does not necessarily mean health risks are likely. Routine showering and bathing are not considered significant sources of exposure. And, while it is nearly impossible to eliminate all exposure to these chemicals, the risk for adverse health effects would likely be of concern if an individual continuously consumed higher levels of PFAS than the guidelines established by the EPA’s Health Advisory.
MassDEP is continuing its research and testing for PFAS in Public Water Systems. Large Public Drinking Water Systems have already been tested and sampling indicated that approximately 3% had levels of PFAS detected. MassDEP is currently working with smaller Public Water Systems to identify areas where PFAS may have been used or discharged to the environment.
As more information and regulations develop on this emerging contaminant, MassDEP will continue to communicate their findings. Tata & Howard is also available for any questions that may arise, as well as, assist with testing and recommend treatment options for our clients.
1 In 2006, the EPA and the PFA industry formed the PFOA Stewardship program to end the production of PFAs.
2 MassDEP in partnership with the Massachusetts Department of Fire Services (MassDFS), announced in May a take-back program to remove hazardous pre-2003 firefighting foam stockpiles and be neutralized. Manufacturers stopped making PFAS foam in 2002 and have since developed fluorine-free and more fluorine stable foams that are safer to the environment.
Signs of spring are everywhere. Flowers are blooming, leaves are budding on trees, and sneeze-inducing pollen is abundant.
Spring is also the start of beekeeping season. As one of our most important pollinators for our food crops, the health and survival of honeybees is vital to our ecosystem.
Just like all living things, bees need food and water. Honeybees however, cannot simply turn on a faucet for a drink and they rarely store water. Instead, honeybees must forage for water, bringing it into their colonies as needed, as they do pollen, nectar and propolis for their survival.
How Bees Use Water
There are several uses for water in a bee colony.
For brood to develop properly, the hive requires a constant temperature of approximately 94°F and relative humidity of 50-60%. Worker bees spread gathered water droplets on the rims of honeycomb cells, on top of sealed brood, and along the hive walls. To regulate the temperature and humidity in the hive, bees will fan their wings to evaporate the water to cool the hive—similar to how we use air conditioners to cool our own homes in the summer.
Nurse bees, who feed the developing eggs, larvae and pupae, also have a high demand for water. The nurses attending the brood, consume copious amounts of water, pollen, and nectar so that their hypopharyngeal glands can produce royal jelly used to feed the eggs. As the larvae develops, they are fed diluted honey, nectar, and pollen.
Honeybees make honey as a means of storing food to eat. This is especially important in the winter months when bees can’t forage for nectar and rely on stored honey for food. But before bees can easily consume honey, it first must be diluted. Bees add water to dilute honey to 50% moisture. Honey will also crystallize if the temperature drops below 50ºF. Bees use water to dilute the crystals back into liquid before they can eat it.
Where Bees Find Water
Bees find water in a number of places, often lining up on the edges of birdbaths, mud puddles, damp rocks, branches, and drops clinging to vegetation. Foraging bees swallow the water and store it in their crops before flying home. The water is then transferred to waiting worker bees in the hive—a process known as trophallaxis—the direct transfer from one bee to another.
It has been estimated that under really hot and dry temperatures, bees may bring back nearly a gallon of water each day to their hives.
As honeybees search for water, they often find water in agricultural areas—runoffs in ditches, culverts, or stormwater in waterways—that may contains insecticides, pesticides or fungicides. Plants sprayed with pesticides or treated with systemic insecticides exude sap and form drops on the tips of stems and leaves that bees consume. These toxins, brought back to the hive can impair bee development, contaminate honey, and sadly, can completely destroy a bee colony.
Clean water supplies are essential for the operation and survival of honeybee colonies.
Creating Water Sources for Bees
Fortunately, bees are not too picky about the type water they need. Bees tend to select the most fragrant, nutrient-rich water sources they can find. It could be the odor of mud, leaf tannin, mold, bacteria, or even chlorine from nearby swimming pools that attract bees. Minerals, salts, and other natural organic materials found in water adds important nutrients and vitamins to the bee diet.
It is widely thought it is the scent of the source that helps bees find water. Foragers will also mark unscented sources of water with their bee pheromones to communicate to others where to find these resources.
Providing fresh sources of water is easy to do. Water can be left in shallow trays, birdbaths, flower pots, and bowls—just about anything that will hold water. Bees don’t like to get their feet wet and cannot swim. So, remember to add small stones, sticks, and other floating materials, such as cork to these containers. This will allow bees to safely stand near the water source without drowning.
And, eliminate the use of systemic and applied pesticides, insecticides and fungicides—not only for the health and welfare of bees but for our own health and the environment. Pesticides and other chemicals applied to farmlands, gardens and lawns can make their way into ground water or surface water systems that feed drinking water supplies.
As the weather heats up and the days turn hot and lazy, the bees will be busy. Honeybees will travel incredible distances for their food and water, often flying two miles or more visiting 50 to 100 flowers each trip and returning to the hive as many as twelve times a day. A single bee colony can pollinate up to 300 million flowers a day. As a vital part of our food source, bees also pollinate 70 of the top 100 food crops we eat.
So, help our little pollinators by providing sources of fresh water.
Tata & Howard to Conduct Water Asset Management Plan and Hydraulic Study
Turner Falls, MA benefits from $40,000 state grant to improve water system.
MARLBOROUGH, MA, January 15, 2018 – Tata & Howard, Inc., a leading innovator in water, wastewater, stormwater, and environmental engineering solutions, was named the principal engineering firm to conduct a water asset management plan and hydraulic study for the water district in Turner Falls, MA.
Turner Falls will soon be able to assess their water inventory infrastructure after receiving a $40,000 grant from the Baker-Polito administration. Turner Falls is one of ten communities in Massachusetts to receive a portion of $388,000 in grant monies from the state to improve the town’s drinking water systems or wastewater systems.
Tata and Howard, will assist the town in completing an asset management plan and hydraulic study, which will including above and below ground reviews.
Working with Mike Brown, superintendent for the water district, the study will include an inventory of water mains, age of pipes, past inspection reports, dates when wells were installed, and water quality tests. “I was very excited to see we were qualified, said Mr. Brown. “Some of our mains are 80-100 years old and could be corroded or built up with mineral deposits.”
According to Karen Gracey, co-president of Tata and Howard, “The grant is specifically for the funding of the plan and study. We are scheduled to begin in February and complete the report by May.”
From the information gathered and analyzed, Tata and Howard will make recommendations for water infrastructure improvements and replacements.
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