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Cape Cod to develop a Water Quality Management Plan


The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection announced recently that the Governor's administration has signed a Memorandum of Understanding wiht the Cape Cod Commission to develop a Comprehensive Water Quality Management Plan. $3.35 million in funding will be provided for the development of this plan.

The Cape has been plagued with water quality issues resulting from excessive nutriets like nitrogen being discharged into its embayments and other water bodies from septic systems.  These excessive nutrients have lead to algae blooms, closure of shell fishing beds and other issues.

Experts have estimated the total costs to implement the solutions to the nutrient problems could range anywhere from $3 to $8 billion. As part of the Water Quality Management Plan, water resources will be prioritized based non impairment and actions and water quality goals for each water body will be laid out.  Another feature of the plan would be to develop a wastewater "Smart Map" that will link land use data with scientific and financial planning data to identify appropriate and affordable wastewater infrasture solutions.

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Algae Bloom in a Fresh Water Pond

For more information on wastewater treatment options, please download our white paper on Wastewater Treatment and Disposal Options in Massachusetts, check our wastewater treatment  page or contact Kevin P. Klein, P.E. at (508) 747-7900 extension 130.

Information from this article taken from the March 21, 2013 press release from MA DEP titled "Commonwealth Signs Pact with Cape Cod Commission to Develop Water Quality Management Plan"

New Stormwater Ordinance coming to New Bedford


New Bedford appears to be the latest Massachusetts municipality set to create a new ordinance with respect to stormwater runoff. The mayor submitted an amendment to the city's Code of Ordinance on Feb. 21 to include a stormwater management ordinance. The ordinance will help the city comply with the EPA's National Pollution Discharge Elimination Systems (known as NPDES) Stormwater Phase II permit program. This program, which is based on the density of population of an area, has a goal of reducing pollutants and contaminant being discharged by municipal storm sewers.

The proposed ordinance would establish minimum requirements to control adverse effects of runoff, reduce sediment and nutrient loading, and control erosion and sedimentation from construction activities.  Once in effect, any developer who will significantly alter or move land, change drainage patterns, or adding impervious areas, would have to obtain a stormwater permit from the City through the Department of Infrastructure.

The City Ordinance would likely be similar to guidelines set out by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection in its Stormwater Policy released in 2008. The MA DEP Stormwater Policy applies to certain projects that would also require a filing under the Wetlands Protection Act. While we haven't seen the proposed ordinance, we assume it would apply similar standards to development projects whether they are upland project or within the jurisdiction of the Wetlands Protection Act.

describe the imageNorfolk Ram is a leader in Massachusetts in Low Impact Development strategies for stormwater management. For more information on Low Impact Development, please download our free LID presentation and please check out our Raingarden brochure which highlights the benefits of one such LID strategy known as raingardens, or bioretention cells.  For further information on stormwater management, please see our stormwater management and drainage page or contact John B. McAllister, P.E. at (508) 747-7900 extension 117.

Information for this blog post was taken from a March 12, 2013 article by Auditi Guha in the Standard Times titled " New Bedford to adopt new stormwater ordinance."

Groundwater Contamination to Cost Billions over decades to cleanup


The National Academies' National Research Council (NRC) released a report on November 8 titled "Alternatives for Managing the Nation's Complex Contaminated Groundwater Sites."  According the report, there are at least 126,000 sites around the country that contain residual contamination at levels too high for site closure.  The report estimates that cleaning up these sites will cost well over $100 billion dollars to remediate.

The report cautions that the total number of sites and costs are probably under-reported, because of the way sites are tracked and its difficult to project long term management of sites.  Many of the remaining sites are some of the most difficult sites to remediate, so there is no certainty about the effectiveness of any planned remediation for them, further clouding matters.

Remediation efforts will not remove all groundwater contamination for all sites, so the report contains a call for an evaluation process to determine when or whether to transition a site to active or passive long term management.  The report also calls for a database that could be used to compare the performance of remedial technologies at complex sites.

This reports reconfirms that there is plenty of work to be done and plenty of obstacles along the way as the nation works to remediate groundwater contamination from sites.

To learn more about groundwater contamination or to discuss a particular brownfield site, please see our Site Remediation and Brownfields Redevelopment pages and for information on financing see the Brownfields Redevelopment financing page. To further discuss, please contact Jon Kitchen at (508) 747-7900 extension 154.

Information for this article taken from article entitled "Groundwater Contamination to Cost Billions, Persist for Decades, NRC Says" by Jay Landers, pages 24-26 in the January 2013 edition of Civil Engineering Magazine.

EPA Updates its NPDES Small MS4 Draft Permits


The United States Environmental Protection Agency, through its Region 1 office has issued an update to its Draft Small MS4 Permits in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. The single draft permits for all Massachusetts watersheds are expected to be issued this Spring. 

The MS4 permits are issued under the EPA's National Pollution Discharge Elimination System which is authorized under the Clean Water Act. The MS4 programs designate reporting requirements and encourage municipalities to implement stormwater treatment and management practices. The goals of the permit program are intended to reduced the pollutant loadings into our nation's waterways.

The MS4 programs apply to communities that fit the EPA's definition of an urbanized area. An urbranized area is defined as "a densely settled core of census tracts and/or census blocks that have population of at least 50,000, along with adjacent territory containing non-residential urban land uses as well as territory with low population density included to link outlying densely settled territory with the densely settled core. It is a calculation used by the Bureau of the Census to determine the geographic boundaries of the most heavily developed and dense urban areas." As you will see on the graphic below, MS4 areas can cover part or the whole of a municipality, depending on its population density. 

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To learn more about Norfolk's stormwater management and municipal engineering services please see the respective pages or contact John B. McAllister at (508) 747-7900 extension 117.  

Good advice on Environmental Due Diligence


Jon Kitchen, an Associate and LSP in our firm, has authored an article featured in the latest Cape & Plymouth Business Magazine. His article provides solid advice and guidance on the impacts environmental due diligence can have on a real estate transaction. He also discusses how an environmental issue used to be the end of a deal, but now risk tolerances can be discuss and the deal can continue to be negotiated. Please check out the article here.

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Southcoast towns may face water use restrictions in the future


An article by Ariel Wittenberg in last week's Standard Times touched on the impending water use restrictions that may be put in place by 2015 for Towns that get their water supply from the Mattapoisett River Valley. These towns include Fairhaven, Marion, Mattapoisett and Rochester, which all draw from this aquifer.

The existing system for some of the municipalities is that when the Mattapoisett River flows below a certain level, the municipalites enact a water use restriction until the water levels rise past that certain threshold. In the future, however there may be annual water use restrictions enacted in the springtime through until the fall.

The MA Department of Environmental Protection is expected to review its water-use permits for the Towns abutting Buzzards Bay in 2015.  The participating towns have formed the Mattapoisett River Valley Water Supply Protection Advisory Committee, which is exploring its options for annual water restrictions.

The DEP's goal is to implement water conservation measures that will balance the need for drinking water with the protection of the ecosystem in the area. In an area of the state where these restrictions historically haven't taken place, it may take some adjustments, but, it appears the Advisory committee is preparing for any potential changes so they can deal with it in stride.

Information from this post taken fro mteh January 21 article titled "Towns brace for potential 2015 water restrictions" by Ariel Wittenberg in the Standard Times.

For information about municipal water supplies, please contact Mark S. Bartlett, P.E. at (508) 747-7900 extension 131. Or for more information about adjusting to municipal watering restrictions through rainwater re-use systems, please see our blog articles about Rainwater Harvesting

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Norfolk Ram is exhibiting at this year's MMA Annual Conference


Every January the Massachusetts Municipal Association holds its annual conference at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston. This year, as always, Norfolk is exhibiting at the conference. Please come by our booth (number 912), and say hi to Wayne and John. Or if you are going to be around on Saturday, come say hello to Mark.

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Does weather affect surface water quality?


A recent article in Opflow, a publication of the American Water Works Association provides a very detailed breakdown of the effects climate change can have of surface water supplies and how water utilities are struggling to deal with it.

The article touches on how certain aspects of weather, particularly temperature, precipitation and wind, have the biggest influence on surface water quality.  For example, extended droughts are often followed by heavy rain events which generates a lot of runoff from the parched earth. The increased runoff will pick up sediment and nutrients on the ground surface and wash it into the water supply which will increase turbidity, contaminant concentrations, and organic matter in water supplies. 

Extended droughts lead to lower reservoir volumes and the lower reservoir volumes are susceptible to increased inflow from point sources of pollution (such as municipal sewer discharges). Sea level rise can itensify drought effects by causing saltwater intrusion in tidally influenced sections of rivers that may feed surface water supplies. Increased temperatures can increase algae growth in surface water, in particular, the highly toxic cyanobacteria, which prefer higher temperatures. All of these events create challenges for water utilities to have to deal with.

The variations in weather patterns and extremes can make it very difficult for water utilities to plan for and adjust in their water supplies. The low Arctic sea-ice levels are expected to lead to more extreme weather events continuing. These frequent variations in weather events are going to lead to costlier process changes to our drinking water supplies.  Water regulations are getting stricter and the weather is getting less predictable, so to cope, water utilities will need to have sophisticated treatment processes that will be able to deal with the extreme changes. Those sophisticated treatment processes will come with a hefty price tag, and given our economic climate, it's not all that certain where the funding for this will come from.

Information for this post taken from "Climate Change, How does weather affect surface water quality?" by Ben Wright, Ben Stanford, Josh Weiss, Jean Debroux, Jan Routt, and Stuart Khan,  page 10-15 of the January 2013 edition of Opflow.

For more information of surface water drinking supplies and water supply engineering, please see our Water Supply Engineering page and  contact Mark S. Bartlett, P.E. at (508) 747-7900 extension 131.

Grant expected for Cape Cod to create a wastewater action plan


An article in the Cape Cod Times annnounced that the Cape Cod Commission was expected to recieve a $3.35 million grant from the Massachusetts Water Abatement Trust. The grant is aimed at helping the Commission develop a water management plan as required by the US Clean Water Act.

Many people on the Cape and in the region support the move in addressing the excess nutrients and bacteria that are negatively affecting the embayments and waterbodies of the Cape.  Current costs estimates show the need for between $3 billion and $8 billion to upgrade the infrastructure to effectively manage the wastewater in the region.  The idea behind developing this regional plan is to set forth a clear strategy that will keep implementation costs on the lower end of the spectrum.

The Cape Cod Commission believes it could have a draft plan in place within a year if it recieves the grant.  Within three years, they could have a complete plan, which would include more planning tools, a public outreach program and monitoring, according to Cape Cod Commission Executive Director Paul Niedzwiecki.

Information use for this post taken from the article titled "First drops being to flow" by Patrick Cassidy, from the Thursday, January 10, 2013 edition of the Cape Cod Times.

For more information about wastewater, including management and treatment options, please contact Kevin P. Klein, P.E. at (508) 747-7900 extension 130 or

Also available for those wanted to learn more about wastewater management, you can download our white paper on Wastewater Treatment and Disposal Options.

What do the 2012 election results mean to the engineering industry?


The ballots are counted and results announced. Now the question is: “What does the recent presidential, congressional and the Massachusetts election results mean?” To shed some light on this topic, the ACEC/MA Program Committee sponsored an election wrap-up on November 8, 2012. Speakers included Larry Rasky, Chairman of Rasky Baerlein Strategic Communications and Ernest Paicopolos, Principal of Opinion Dynamic Corporation.

Larry Rasky led off the presentations. He felt that the main points of the election were: several crucial issues were debated during the election; the money spent on the campaigns was enormous; and the public made a statement to the government, as witnessed by the support to the President relative to the President’s action on the auto industry bail out.

Prior to President Obama’s first election in 2008, Mr. Rasky believes that the President did not understand how bad the economy was. Mr. Rasky felt that the mid-term election signaled the end of the “on the job training,” so in November 2010, the Republicans took over in the congress. However, the pubic appears to have approved of the stimulus money that went to hiring teachers, fire and police forces, as illustrated by the voters support and election results in industrial heartland states.

Mr. Rasky noted that the debates took on a sense of a political version of “Saturday Night Live.” The first debate gave Romney a “second life” but he never performed in a way which would change the public’s opinion and the presidential race. Mr. Rasky felt that the handling of a series of actions early on forced Romney into severe conservatism even though he was already a moderate conservatist. The President took aim at the Republicans forcing Romney to appear even more conservative, as shown by the “etch a sketch” incident. The 47% video demonstrated how disconnected Romney was from the public and escalated a poor public opinion.

Ernie Paicoplos discussed the lessons learned and offered his overall impressions of the election. According to Mr. Paicopolos President Obama was set to beat the challenger, even though there was still health care concerns and high unemployment. The Democratic team had re-framed the issues to help themselves and secure a win at the election. Hurricane Sandy clearly helped the re-election of President Obama. Mitt Romney did not know how to address the new voting group in the country.

According to Mr. Paicopolos, other key takeaways include:
• There was not a large margin to the win, suggesting that the US is still divided on who should run the country.
• Pre-election polling was validated in that the election was as close as the polls had predicted.
• Party identification still matters.
• The shift in demographics matters, such as marital status rather than gender, and independent voters not being as big an issue as it was in 2008.
• The Republican party needs to re-cast themselves to address the changed make-up of the voters, such as changes in white voters vs. non-white voters, and the increasing younger population of voters.
• Issue targeting works, when campaigning in target areas.
• There was a “super storm surge.” Hurricane Sandy clearly effected the election; 42% of voters said responses to “Sandy” by the Obama administration were important and appropriate. Even Governor Christy’s opinion of the administration had changed.
• “It was the improving economy stupid”—people believed this point of view, as noted by the 6 out of 10 who voted in Ohio in favor of the President and his car industry bailout.

Mr. Paicopolos stated that “in politics you never know what will happen.” When asked what he thought the upcoming areas of concern and attention would be, he predicted that clean energy, the energy/security bill and transportation would see a renewed focus in the next Congress, as a result of Hurricane Sandy and a renewed awareness on infrastructure. He further commented that the future for the engineering community appeared to be strong, with considerable opportunities for new work expected to be coming out in the near future.

This article comes from the Winter 2013 edition of ACEC Insights publication  and was written by Associate Wayne C. Perry, who currently serves as a member of the ACEC/MA Programs Committee. He can be reached at 508-747-7900, Ext. 193 or

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