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Hurricane tips for heating oil customers


As we prepare for the pending storm, the article linked below reminded me of the many time we have seen unsecured oil tanks in basements floating/moving and releasing oil during flooding. Please remember to consider your oil tank as you prepare for the storm.

Check out these tips from the Massachusetts Oil Heat Council.

A Norfolk’s engineer will help improve drinking water supply in Uganda


As a Norfolk engineer, I have been working for several years on water projects in Massachusetts such as wastewater treatment facilities, stormwater management and drinking water supply projects.  Such water projects really interest me and that is why, in addition to my work, I have been mentoring a team of Tufts University students on a drinking water supply project in a small village in Uganda called Shilongo. My team and I belong to the Engineers Without Borders Tufts Student Chapter (EWB-Tufts), which is an organization that focuses on low-tech, high-impact projects in developing countries. EWB was founded in 2002 and now has over 12,000 members from 300 chapters. I have been participating with the project with the Engineers Without Borders Tufts Student Chapter (EWB-Tufts) for over a year.


We decided to help the Shilongo Village with improving their drinking water supply. Clean water is a constant concern for the residents, and this is consequently a true quality-of-life issue.

 Shilongo Village, in the Mbale district of Uganda, is a small agricultural village spread out over the hilly terrain in the shadows of Mt Wanale. The community has approximately 800 members, half of which are children. The community has access to water via 4 natural springs, spread around the village, and one 30 m deep borehole that was installed by the district water commission. The borehole provides the cleanest, most consistent drinking water to the community, and thus, has a high demand, particularly during the dry season. There are a few schools in the village and when they let the students out, the queue gets backed up, and residents become discouraged and end up getting their drinking water from the less reliable springs.

In order to reduce the waiting time for access to water during the dry season at the only source of clean water for Shilongo and three neighboring schools, our EWB team intends to install a bicycle pump modification and a water storage tank with multiple taps. (see picture below)

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This project started during the summer of 2009 when a member of EWB-Tufts Program in Uganda travelled to the country. He worked with the local NGO, Foundation for Development of Needy Communities (FDNC). This organization is devoted to improving the quality of life in Uganda and is involved with development in vocational training, paralegal advising, and community health. While the student was in the country, the FDNC connected him with the nearby Shilongo village that they deemed in need of assistance.  Afterwards, during the school year, I met with the students to provide guidance and advice, as well as technical information.  Now I will spend one week in Uganda (August 7-13, 2011) to help install the tank and the pump lever modification.  The students will be there for three weeks. The goal of this trip is to install the system and turn it over to the community by the end of the three weeks.


This project will improve water supply efficiency for the village and allow residents to gather their drinking water from this prime source in a more timely manner, no matter the season or time of day.


For more information about this project in Uganda, please contact John McAllister at or at (508) 747 - 7900 x 117 .


Stormwater projects in Sherborn and Westport


Norfolk Ram Group was contracted by the Towns of Sherborn and Westport to put together an application for a section 319 Non-Point Source Pollution Grant from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MA DEP)  in 2010.

The two projects intend to improve water quality through the design, environmental permitting and construction of stormwater Best Management Practices (BMP) control and treatment systems in their target watersheds. The BMP controls will include low impact development (LID) techniques such as grass swales, bioretention rain gardens, subsurface infiltration systems and gas baffles. These projects will also incorporate on-going operation and maintenance, and a public outreach and education component.

In the Town of Sherborn, the project is focused on the Charles River watershed and particularly, the Farm Pond Recreation Area. The project main goal is to control stormwater runoff which is currently discharging into Farm Pond and reduce the concentration of non-point source (NPS) pollutants contained in stormwater runoff. The BMPs will be designed to filtrate, remove pollutants though uptake by plants and recharge stormwater runoff. The BMPs incorporate underdrains to collect and direct any excess treated stormwater to the existing drainage system, which will slow the rate of discharge to Farm Pond.

The Town of Westport desired to improve water quality for the Westport River, which ultimately discharges to Buzzards Bay, by focusing on the Westport Middle School. The Westport River is considered to be one of the most significant natural features in the Town. The various stormwater BMPs to be strategically placed around the school will intercept stormwater runoff which is currently discharging into the Town’s drainage network in the street and then into the East Branch of the Head of the Westport. This project will attempt to remove the stormwater “footprint” of the school to the greatest extent practicable. 

Both of the Town’s were recently awarded the grants and given a notice to proceed from the Massachusetts DEP.

For more information about stormwater management practices, low impact development, or grant application assistances, please contact John McAllister at or at (508) 747-7900 x 117.

Testing seafood in the Gulf of Mexico after the oil spill


The Gulf of Mexico is considered to be one of the richest bodies of water in the world in terms of seafood. However the seafood industry was deeply threatened after the explosion of BP’s Deepwater Horizon Oil rig in 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico.  In 2010, 4.9 million barrels dumped into the Gulf and fishing was forbidden by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). This measure was taken to prevent contaminated seafood from entering the market. This oil spill has had many consequences on the Gulf Coast Seafood Industry, as fish harvests in the Gulf account for 20% of US Commercial Seafood Production; over 1.3 billion pounds of fish, crabs, oysters and shrimps.

However, this spill enabled one of the most intensive and public seafood safety programs ever to be launched. Just one year after the explosion, the entire Gulf was reopened to fishing by NOAA. NOAA along with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and state authorities, decided to reopen protocol with analytical testing for contaminants. This protocol focused mainly on polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and chemicals in the dispersants. The protocol also implements an ongoing surveillance  and testing program.

The main goal of the project was to strike a balance between consumer protection and seafood industry’s desire to get back in business. In order to reach this aim, an extensive program of sampling has to be implemented to find the most accurate way to show if a product is contaminated. When the spill happened, there were not any quick and accurate methods for testing. That is why multiple labs began developing new methods for sample preparation and analysis of PAHs and dispersants.

However, environmental groups and academic researchers disagreed about the government’s overall approach to risk assessment and think that the FDA underestimated risks. Considering the experience from previous spills, they feared that the methods used wouldn't be efficient to establish safe levels for contaminants and to clear oil from animal systems for example.

NOAA and the FDA disagreed  with these claims. They felt their approach was completely under control and developed in great detail. They had sensory screens and sniff-&-taste tests for all seafood samples, performed by inspectors trained at NOAA’s Laboratory, who can detect unusual odors and flavors.  Samples underwent chemical analyses as well. If there was or is one issue detected from any of the parameters, fishing areas would be closed. Besides, NOAA and FDA developed a new method in late October 2010 to complete the PAH method in order to be all the more efficient and cautious. The FDA set levels of concern for  PAH’s in Gulf seafood as shown in the table below.



LEVELS OF CONCERN (PPM)      ( C&EN Chemical and Engineering News, July 18, 2011)





Non cancer causing












Anthracene & phenanthrene














Cancer Potential

































Another part of the protocol consists of ensuring consumer confidence in the safety of Gulf Seafood. In order to do so, programs like Gulf Wild, to “track your fish” were created (who harvested it and where).


At the moment, monitoring will continue with the money that BP  gave to Gulf State agencies for seafood testing and marketing campaign. In March 2011, NOAA said it would continue testing through this summer and FDA will conduct its testing until October 2012. 


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