The Iowa Recycling and Solid Waste Management Conference planning committee is diligently working on hosting an in-person conference October 4-6, 2021, at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Cedar Rapids Convention Complex. Naturally, we’ll be attending if at all possible. So get your vaccine and plan to head to Cedar Rapids in October.
Check back; more information to come! We are recycling it here 🙂
StormCon and WaterPro Conference to be held as parallel events in 2021. Endeavor and the National Rural Water Association (NRWA) plan to hold their annual conferences, StormCon and the WaterPro Conference, as parallel events on September 13-15, 2021, at The Wisconsin Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
StormCon 2021, the industry’s leading conference on advancing the science and practice of stormwater management, will feature these tracks and professionals such as Jonathan Meronek ready to help!
Industrial Stormwater Management
This track covers industrial stormwater management and permitting, focusing on publicly and privately owned facilities covered by industrial stormwater permits or EPA’s stormwater multi-sector general permit. Such facilities range from small businesses located in urban areas, such as restaurants and automotive repair shops, to large sites such as manufacturing plants, transportation facilities, landfills and waste transfer stations, and mining operations.
Managing stormwater at industrial and manufacturing facilities
Stormwater management in the mining industry
Concerns for oil and gas facilities
Transportation activities: airports, ports, and fleet maintenance facilities
Managing stormwater on active landfill sites
Selection, installation, and maintenance of stormwater management systems on closed landfill sites
Storage and handling of hazardous waste
Inspecting industrial sites for stormwater compliance
Integrating industrial stormwater operations with municipal permits
Flood Modeling & Mitigation
If a picture is worth a thousand words, a model is worth a million. This track will focus on cutting-edge tools and technologies for designing stormwater infrastructure based on hydrology models.
1D, 2D, and 3D modeling
Flood plain simulation
Flood risk assessment
Programs, Permits & Compliance
This track covers the various aspects of complying with municipal stormwater permits and funding, staffing, and managing municipal and state stormwater programs.
Funding opportunities, such as bonds, development impact fees, and enterprise funds
Creating and managing a stormwater utility
Stormwater credit trading
Hiring, training, and managing staff
Strategies for meeting NPDES permit requirements
Building public education and outreach programs
Illicit discharge detection and elimination programs
Transportation & Construction Stormwater
Roads, bridges, highways, airports, and ports convey goods and people and stormwater runoff, transporting pollutants in the process. Sessions in this track will address concerns at these locations and active construction sites and offer strategies for addressing challenges.
Stormwater BMPs for transportation/construction sites
Programs and management
Illicit discharge detection/elimination
This technical track discusses methods for evaluating and comparing the effectiveness of best management practices and topics and trends in stormwater research, such as standardizing testing protocols and standards.
Performance standards and testing protocols
Evaluating BMP performance
Characterizing pollutant loads
Fate and transport of pollutants
Sampling tools and techniques
Bacterial detection and identification techniques
*Please note that descriptions of technologies or proprietary BMPs must be accompanied by supporting performance data. If your presentation deals with one or more BMPs, especially with proprietary systems, your abstract must indicate what supporting data the presentation will include.
This track showcases examples of green infrastructure and low impact development (LID), practices that strive to maintain or mimic the predevelopment hydrology by infiltrating, storing, filtering, and evaporating stormwater runoff rather than moving it offsite to a centralized stormwater system.
Infiltration and bioretention practices
Maintenance of green infrastructure practices
Rainwater harvesting and stormwater reuse
The Florida Engineering Society (FES) and the American Council of Engineering Companies of Florida (ACEC-FL) promote professional engineers in Florida. FES and ACEC support engineering education, advocate licensure, promote the ethical and competent practice of engineering, and further the public’s knowledge and understanding of the profession’s importance.
These firms create innovative solutions while upholding their responsibility to the public’s health, safety, and wellbeing.
Mark your calendar for the second webinar in our 2021 Quarterly Environmental Update series on Thursday, May 6. Once again, our presenters will be the knowledgeable staff of GLGA member SCS Engineers, who will discuss critical regulatory issues that affect your plants.
About the Presenters:
SCS is an award-winning, international environmental consulting and construction firm serving the private and public sectors. They deliver environmental solutions by combining long-term experience with compliance and technological expertise. Rated a top performer in six environmental categories and solid waste engineering company by Engineering News-Record.
Thursday, May 6, 2021
11:00 a.m. Eastern / 10:00 a.m. Central
Vapor intrusion is a regulatory hot button gaining traction on states’ radar nationwide. This is driven by a growing understanding of how vapors travel through the soil into structures, posing health risks to occupants, coupled with research showing volatile vapors can be problematic even at very low concentrations.
As in California, conservative assumptions by regulatory agencies call for careful due diligence during the assessment process. These salient concerns recently brought a real estate developer in Monrovia to seek a professional engineer.
The client plans to convert a commercial property to residential use. But before moving forward, it needs to assess potential environmental issues associated with the property. That’s where SCS comes in, drawing on its concrete knowledge base in geology and chemistry—and leveraging its grasp of regulatory requirements.
The work in Monrovia entails a detailed soil vapor assessment, looking for volatile organic compounds (VOCs); the discovery at this site came as little surprise to Julio Nuno, Senior Vice President, and Project Director, as these constituents are often found during evaluations of this kind.
Assessing for VOCs
In this case, the soil contained eight VOCs, some at non-compliant levels. The good news is, after an extensive, multi-step vetting process, Nuno and his team came up with a relatively inexpensive solution to tackle a potentially daunting problem.
“As part of the soil vapor assessment, we compare concentrations we find on-site to screening levels established by the Department of Toxic Substances Control. We often see levels in exceedance of regulatory thresholds, particularly in industrial areas with releases that can travel from groundwater to soil into the building through the slab,” Nuno says.
Most prominent at the Monrovia site were two chlorinated compounds that have been used as solvents in industrial applications: tetrachloroethylene, also called PCE, and trichloroethene, or TCE. PCE is commonly present in industrial settings and communities as drycleaners widely and routinely used the chemical for decades.
Nevertheless, the work begins even before confirming VOC levels and other specifics around these compounds. The first step is a Phase I Environmental Assessment looking to see if past use of the property or surrounding property may have left a significant environmental impact. The SCS team discovered the adjacent property had a release of VOCs they identified as a ‘recognized environmental condition,’ meaning it needs further evaluation using a Phase II to determine if vapors could migrate onto the client’s property.
During the Phase II Environmental Assessment –the collection of soil and soil vapor samples –the SCS team gets even more specific, determining what’s present, specific locations, what degree of contamination, and what these findings mean for redeveloping the property and its final use.
“We confirm subsurface concentrations and if they exceed state screening levels, and if the site represents a potential risk for future residential use. The information informs our possible solutions to mitigate any migration of certain VOCs into the building and the indoor air,” Nuno explains.
Redevelopment Goals – safety and cost containment
Safety comes first, but containing project costs is a priority, which comes down to knowing design options, how to piece components together with both function and economics in mind. At this site, achieving safety and controlling costs centered largely around looking at the mandatory infrastructure– a ventilation system for a planned underground parking garage to prevent accumulation of carbon monoxide and other vehicle exhaust emissions.
“We knew the underground parking would require a ventilation system. It makes sense to look at the parameters associated with that design to verify if it serves dual purposes to ventilate the garage and mitigate the potential for VOCs to enter the building,” Nuno says.
By studying air exchanges that would occur, the number of times replacing air-containing pollutants with cleaner air per hour, Nuno gets his answer. “We determined that a second, separate system would not be necessary for sufficient ventilation; the assessment enabled us to confirm vapors would not travel into the residential portion of the building.”
The client can save $50,000 to $75,000 in capital expenses upfront while achieving their safety goals and avoids ongoing operations and maintenance costs for added infrastructure.
An added layer of protection
Identifying the issues for site developers and their tenants, then plotting the best course of action to ensure safety and regulatory compliance takes experience and knowledge. SCS devises a soil monitoring plan, alerting developers of indications of potential contamination to the soil, of odor, or anything unusual that could suggest an environmentally adverse condition. The plan advises on how to respond should there be an unexpected condition adding a further protection layer.
“It’s essential that an engineer understand the applicable federal, state, and local standards for completing assessments, as well as understand regulatory stipulations. You must also know the variations in those stipulations to effectively design a sustainable plan,” Nuno says. “In Monrovia, we comply with the Department of Toxic Substances Control requirements, the requirements of the Los Angeles Regional Quality Control Board, and others. Each has specific stipulations for evaluating each contaminant. So, we stay on top of which rules apply to which location,” he says.
Nuno has submitted a draft report for review by his client and its legal counsel; he’ll meet with them to discuss findings and explain their meaning. SCS includes an executive summary, explaining in plain language what is salient; often, a backup report includes thousands of pages. “It’s a lot of complex information, so we work on the language,” Nuno says.
“It’s important to paint an accurate picture and use terms that all parties, whether the client, investors, or other stakeholders understand. These redevelopments are major projects with many due diligence considerations. We want to provide accurate findings and recommendations that the client and their advisors can digest to help them with their decision making.”
The 79th Annual Conference is one of the Midwest’s largest gatherings of safety and health professionals. It is the perfect opportunity for decision-makers to find new products and services, and learn more about the environmental concerns they are facing. SCS Engineers’ Cheryl Moran is attending; she looks forward to meeting and greeting you soon! Cheryl is ready to share her industry expertise with colleagues and peers on safety.
Half-day sessions starting at 8:00 am on Tuesday, April 20, 2021 – Thursday, April 22, 2021
Wednesday at 10:00 AM join us at Session #17 PFAs – An Update On This Emerging Contaminant
Tony Kollasch, Project Manager, and Jeff Marshall, Vice President, National Expert on Innovative Technologies, SCS Engineers discuss the history of PFAs, why people are concerned about PFAs, the current state of environmental
regulations regarding this substance, and the likely future of PFAs concerns.
Lisa Coelho, pictured far left and right above, is a California girl, but it was a trip to Ethiopia that inevitably brought her to SCS Engineer’s West Coast hub. When she made that 7,000-mile trek, she had no idea she’d later land where she is now; she’d been traveling a very different path.
She was studying agricultural engineering, thinking she wanted to grow food. But now Coelho is about getting on top of the glut of nutritious edibles that already exist, rather than making more of them. Her title is Sustainability Materials Management Specialist. Her job: developing strategies to keep organics and some other materials out of landfills and make sure what’s of value is used as intended. And she teaches communities how to manage their discards.
What brought her to Ethiopia was a service project to help develop better systems to grow food.
“I asked a council of elders [knowledgeable of old traditions of the area] about their sustainability practices. I wanted to look at their long-standing practices before suggesting another way,” Coelho reflects.
They told her they don’t throw out the stock of kale; they eat it. They save and regrow the potato eyes. And they compost almost all their scraps to amend their soil.
“It was eye-opening to see what they were doing – going back to basics to grow food and respect land,” she recalls.
Then came a second epiphany.
“I’d flown thousands of miles to help feed people, and some of them said, ‘thank you, but aren’t there people where you live who need help?’ It was like, ding! That’s right!”
She knew that in the U.S., unlike Ethiopia, the quandary is not a lack of food; rather that roughly 40% of it gets tossed. She switched to Environmental Science, wanting to develop approaches to prevent food waste, but fast saw an opportunity to work on trash problems beyond food. That’s when she thought the waste management industry was for her. The industry was becoming part of the sustainability landscape, and their work in this space would grow, she believed.
These days Coelho spends a lot of time in the field, teaching best practices to businesses and apartment dwellers, whether how to comply with local laws around organic waste diversion or what to put in which bin.
“I tell them I’m here to talk about that place called ‘away’ where they toss something and don’t think about it anymore. That’s where I’m from –away.”
Coelho helps them break old habits and form better ones. She meets them where they are, which entails asking a lot of questions. For the Mom-and-Pop burger shop, it could be: “What containers do you need? What do you want to look out for? Maybe keeping kitchen workers’ gloves out of organics bins?”
For families living in apartments around the corner, it’s questions like “Who takes out the waste at your house, and what steps does this involve?”
It’s a dirty, tough job that has value.
One job she’s proudest of is week-long trash sorts, where she digs into mega volumes of garbage to learn what’s in the stream, then uses what she discovers to help municipalities improve their recycling and diversion programs.
She’s at the materials recovery facility before the sun’s up, unloading garbage containers and shovels from her truck, ready to join her team in the grueling task of hand-sorting 2,000 pounds of waste into several dozen categories designated by CalRecycle. Then comes the job of weighing it to calculate the proportions of each material in the total stream.
Coelho is on her walkie-talkie with the scale house asking when the next load is coming while keeping a close eye on her surroundings.
“There’s heavy equipment and hazardous materials in the waste like sharps, gas cylinders, and different chemicals. I have to be present for my team.”
Breaks are short, and she takes them standing up, wanting to miss nothing.
“You’re lifting 50 to 150 pounds of trash at a time and sweating because you’re in a Tyvek suit and steel-toed boots, and your mask makes your safety glasses fog up.
I come home smelling like trash, and my dog loves it. He loves to sniff my yucky shoes,” she laughs.
Interestingly, Coelho compares waste sorts to another personal lure: backpacking.
“The rest of the world fades. You’re not caught up in calls and emails. You’re just focused on getting to the ‘top,’ and when you get there, it’s great. A shower feels awesome, and food never tastes better!”
She got her start in Sunnyvale, California, launching a community food scraps program, then started another program like it nearby when SCS came calling, inviting her to interview for a similar position.
At the time, she had a five- to 10-year plan to be part of a large company that did solid waste consulting.
“I thought, it’s happening now? It’s here? I can help so many cities all at the same time!
My interview with Tracie Bills – my boss – who runs Sustainable Materials Management in Northern California was exciting. I’d heard her speak at conferences and knew her to be a powerhouse as a woman in the waste industry. I’m going to interview with her?”
Besides Coelho’s fieldwork, there’s her desk job writing detailed reports analyzing what’s in the waste stream; she uses them to help identify effective processing changes and design outreach and education campaigns.
Making supplier to distributor connections.
Supporting food recovery operations is her favorite job. She helps connect businesses with the surplus, edible food with the organizations that feed people in need. And she pilots her clients’ food recovery projects.
It’s not easy. There are logistical and operational barriers to breakthrough for food businesses and food recovery agencies running on razor-thin budgets.
“Food recovery has a special meaning to me because I see our fractured food system. We have all the puzzle pieces, but we don’t put them together correctly. We have edible food going to waste, and we have too many neighbors that do not know where their next meal will come from. It breaks my heart,” she says.
The notion of waste management pros being a force in moving the needle excites her.
And there’s an impetus for her California clients to take the challenge; it helps them comply with a steep state mandate: recovering 20% of edible food that is now disposed of by 2025.
“I envision our role as learning as much as possible about the existing food recovery system; supporting recovery agencies with funding, logistical innovations, and solutions to infrastructure gaps. And I see us encouraging collaboration with other industries. It’s piecing together the puzzle,” Coelho says.
She likes that she uses both mind and muscle to try and figure out creative solutions to hard-to-fix situations between all her roles.
And she likes connecting the pieces, ultimately coming full circle while working toward long-term change.
“You sort and study what people put in the waste stream. Then tailor community outreach and diversion programs based on what you learn. You sort again and see how what you did in the field is working. Then it’s back to finding ways for greater improvement.”
Curious, creative, and determined.
She got what she calls the best gift from her mother: determination.
“She told me you can do whatever you want. And I learned it’s okay to question the norm. To be the only girl at the party telling everyone out for a good time that red beer pong cups are not recyclable.”
Coelho attributes her inquisitive side and craving to solve problems to genetics.
“My grandfather wrote a lot of crazy, out-of-the-box stories, and in each one, he asked himself philosophical questions. He was always self-analyzing and wanting to figure out more … I think this is important to do as an individual, but also as an industry.”
She has never had a boring day at SCS Engineers.
“We are busy, and there’s constant change as we work toward improving systems and practices. I like that I am in a place where I’m always learning. I can try new ways to get to a goal. I can always reach further.”
Learn more about Lisa and our Sustainable Materials Management team.
More great reading:
SCS Engineers provides comprehensive environmental due diligence services nationwide and announces two new SCS National Experts to lead the expanding practice. Vice President Michael Miller and Project Manager Justin Rauzon take the helm to meet the expanding demand for these environmental services. Mr. Miller is in SCS’s Omaha, Nebraska location and Mr. Rauzon in the Long Beach, California headquarters office. Both professionals work nationwide and continue to support their regional clients in their new positions.
Miller focuses on comprehensive environmental management and consulting for private and federal clients. Project solutions typically involve solid waste, hazardous waste, environmental assessment, compliance audit, feasibility studies, environmental permitting, and training. His environmental due diligence experience includes work at fuel storage and vehicle maintenance facilities, petroleum retail sites, agricultural, chemical processing, and pharmaceutical manufacturing plants, active and closed landfill sites, abandoned chemical disposal sites, and numerous dry cleaner sites.
Mr. Rauzon has a diverse background in biological and environmental sciences and regularly performs environmental assessments and compliance audits at North American sites. Rauzon’s technical and management experience is with soil, soil vapor, and groundwater investigations on industrial, commercial, landfill, greenfield, and residential properties. He has extensive experience with environmental laws and regulations in the United States and Mexico.
Both work through all project phases, from developing cost estimates to implementing due diligence tasks ranging from site assessments to full remediation. SCS Engineers’ Environmental Due Diligence and All Appropriate Inquiries practice is comprehensive. The practice’s services cover Environmental Insurance Claims and Underwriting Support, Financing and Company Acquisition Support, Property Inspections and Abatement, Property Transactions, and Solid Waste Management Financing.
SCS’s Brownfields and Voluntary remediation engineers rely on the due diligence practice and developers, contractors, municipal officials and city managers, and advisors such as banks, insurance firms, and attorneys to private and public entities.
SCS Engineers Vice President Ashley Hutchens is now the Environmental Services Director for its Long Beach and Las Vegas operations. Besides managing her current projects and clients, Hutchens will manage the environmental professionals and technicians in each city. She is responsible for allocating resources for business development, project management, and coordinating activities with other SCS offices nationwide.
“Ashley’s proven capabilities solving environmental challenges for industries will serve our Long Beach and Las Vegas clients well,” said Julio Nuno, SCS Senior Vice President.
Hutchens has 18 years of experience in property evaluation and due diligence, site assessment, characterization, remediation; vapor intrusion assessment and mitigation; and hazardous waste management. She has led hundreds of projects, including all phases, from the development of cost estimates for site assessment, mitigation, and remediation, to groundwater monitoring and sampling, preparation and review of final reports, interfacing with regulatory agencies, and management of all aspects of projects, staff, and various subcontractors.
SCS Engineers’ environmental solutions directly result from our experience and dedication to solid waste management and other industries responsible for safeguarding the environment. For more information about SCS, please visit us at www.scsengineers.com, or contact .
Landfill operators forever work to stay on top of a diverse and complex mix of leachate contaminants—heavy metals, ammonia, and biochemical oxygen demand (BOD), among them; but lately, they think about even more. For one: how to keep concentrations of these contaminants within wastewater treatment’ plant’s tightening discharge limits. Add to this concern the possibility of more compliance pressure as the constituents’ list on regulators’ radar grows. From microplastics to PFAS and PFOA, the latter sometimes called the “elephant in the room” –some operators are preparing for what may be down the pike.
Among strategies, some are looking at are on-site leachate treatment options, and there are several. Finding the most fitting, sustainable, and cost-effective one takes vetting. This continuing blog series explores studies conducted by SCS Engineers for operators nationwide. Here you will get an inside look at what these leachate management experts found, what treatment system they recommend in each scenario, and why.
A Solution to a Nebraska Landfill’s Rising Leachate Volumes
A Nebraska landfill needs to manage its rising volumes of leachate, causing disruptions to operations. The liquid goes into a 20,000-gallon tank, is pumped into a tanker, and is driven to the municipal wastewater treatment plant. The tank was filling so fast that the operator has trouble staffing and scheduling its few commercial driver’s-licensed operators to haul it. This logistical task has become a near-daily necessity. Sometimes the liquid level indicator will go off on the weekend. Management has to move quickly, sometimes on a dime, find someone to come in, and pay overtime.
“The staffing challenge is the main issue that brought the operators to SCS. They want to understand the whole leachate management structure better, and as we answer their questions, they want to know how we can improve the overall system in the long-term, says Zach Mahon, the SCS staff professional who works on the project. “After an extensive assessment, we provide options whereby the operator no longer has to pump leachate to a holding tank and then truck it to the wastewater treatment plant. And we provide site-specific recommendations to take their leachate management practices further,” he says.
Mahon and the SCS team of leachate management experts headed to the landfill to talk to operations staff and get their historical generation records, which is the basis they start with for their assessment. “We correlate the landfill information with our research to determine yearly generation figures as well as a peak generation number over the landfill’s projected life. This site is expanding, and we want to size the equipment so that when it reaches capacity, the system can handle the higher volume,” Mahon says.
SCS plans in other ways to ensure the recommended technology will take its client into the future on solid footing. For instance, accounting for the reality that operators may one day have to remove per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) to send their multi-thousands of gallons of leachate to their wastewater treatment plant each year. Operators are keenly aware that utilities and regulators are looking with more scrutiny at PFAS and other emerging contaminants of concern.
Through due diligence, SCS engineers came up with three treatment options. Mahon explains each:
Install a leachate force main. This system includes a pipe with a pump that pushes the liquid through the force main, directly to the sewer line and, ultimately, to the municipal treatment plant. The pump kicks in automatically, negating the need to have drivers in the wings at all times. This system is quick to build and fairly simple to operate. It is the least expensive of the modifications that SCS vetted.
Install a leachate evaporator, which heats the liquids and evaporates the water molecules. This system reduces leachate volume by 90%. Managing liquids on-site eliminates dependency on drivers, but on the wastewater treatment plant too. The gas-fueled system is suited for sites with surplus landfill gas to help cut their operational costs.
Install a reverse osmosis treatment (RO) system where material passes through a membrane, which separates contaminants. RO treatment can reduce contaminated water by 90%, typically rendering it clean enough to discharge directly to surface water with appropriate permits. Or, it can be discharged to the city sewer, eliminating the permitting step.
“For each leachate treatment option, we looked at cost, the feasibility of short- and long-term implementation, and regulatory acceptance,” Mahon says. “We deliver the data with these priorities in mind, make our recommendations, and leave it to our client to decide.”
What did the SCS team recommend in this scenario?
“We suggested the force main. It solves the primary operational issue around staffing. And the economics of this comparatively inexpensive system make sense in these times when landfills are dealing with astronomical leachate management costs, among other increasing operating and capital expenses,” he says. This option does more than meet the client’s most immediate needs at a minimal cost. It provides the option to upgrade should regulators’ requirements around leachate change or should the wastewater treatment plant tighten its discharge limits. We design the modular system to add on reverse osmosis if necessary in the future. Thus, we help ensure that our client will continue having a home for its leachate.
A value-add, regardless of the operators’ decision, is more knowledge. SCS clients have a deeper understanding of industry standards. They are also more aware of how the industry is shifting in managing leachate and how these shifts could affect them. We follow up with technical bulletins explaining proposed and final federal rules in plain language influencing their operations, deadlines, and how to provide feedback to the appropriate agencies.
“We provide a lot of data to continuously inform our clients and to help them compare their operational costs now to what they would be if they invest in a new leachate management strategy. We ensure they fully understand each option’s capabilities to decide if it pencils out for their budget and operations. They have what they need to make informed decisions for a hands-off system to take them into the future,” Mahon says.