From the Desk of Andrew Hine
Project Engineer:

IA OWTS What are they and do I need one?

I recently had a conversation with a friend who was looking to replace his home’s sanitary system and I found myself answering a bunch of questions that I deal with on a daily basis as an engineer. I later realized that other people may be asking themselves these very same questions without knowing where to go for answers. I am writing this post to provide information to the average homeowner that may need a new sanitary system for their home but still has questions.

Q: I’m building a new house/renovating my existing house and I am being required to install an IA-OWTS system. What does IA-OWTS stand for? What are the steps involved in getting an IA OWTS system approved and installed?

IA-OWTS stands for Innovative Alternative On-site Wastewater Treatment System and is in essence a personal treatment system for your house’s wastewater. Some areas on Long Island are serviced by a sewage treatment plant which treats wastewater by removing nitrogen. However, many of the properties on Long Island, primarily Suffolk County, are not connected to a sewage treatment plant and instead are serviced by their own on-site septic system; in the past typically cesspools were used. We are now in the process of replacing these cesspools with IA-OWTS systems.

Q: Well, why can’t I just use a cesspool as my sanitary system? Why are we making the change?

Cesspools were not designed to remove nitrogen from wastewater and this nitrogen has been making its way to our groundwater and other surface waters such as our beaches, bays, lakes and rivers. IA-OWTS systems are designed to greatly reduce nitrogen before allowing the wastewater to leach back into the ground, reducing nitrogen pollution. Why should you care about nitrogen getting into our water? Nitrogen pollutes our water and causes a decrease in water quality and can also cause harm to our environment.

Q: Well, how does this IA-OWTS system remove nitrogen in the wastewater?

Chambers in the IA’s septic tanks create an environment where natural bacteria, or “bugs”, can grow and breakdown waste to create energy for themselves, which in turn reduces the nitrogen in the wastewater. The wastewater is then allowed to exit the septic tank, enter a leaching pool, and dissipate into the ground (with a much lower concentration of nitrogen than when it leaves your house).

Q: Okay well that sounds great for the environment but what about my wallet? How much do these IA-OWTS systems cost?

There are a few costs associated with installing these sanitary systems. The initial cost is in preparing the sanitary design (which needs to be done by a licensed engineer or surveyor) and having the health department review and approve said design. Next there is the cost of the installation, hookup, and inspection of the system. Finally, annual maintenance is required for an IA-OWTS system to make sure everything is functioning properly and the nitrogen eating bacteria are doing their job. Luckily there are grant programs that are in place to help the average homeowner get one of these systems installed without having to file for bankruptcy.

I hope this has given you some useful information on IA-OWTS systems and answered your questions on why Long Island is moving towards having these systems installed. If you have any questions, including pricing and applicability, please don’t hesitate to contact us by phone at 631-234-2220 or send me an email at andrew@holmacher.com

Cheers,

Andrew Hine
Project Engineer
J.R. Holzmacher P.E., LLC

From the Desk of Mia Tagliagambe
Project Engineer:

“What are you doing?!”

“Are you from the town?”

“Are you supposed to be here?”

 

These are questions I get asked often while I am on site performing Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan inspections also known as SWPPP (Pronounced SWIP). After a couple of times of being asked the same questions it occurred to me that not many people have heard of or even realize what erosion control is or how it is managed. A person may see a silt fence as just a regular black fence that acts as a construction fence but those little black fences are a part of a much bigger picture called Stormwater pollution prevention.

To be clear A Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP) is a site-specific, written document signed by a company executive that (1) identifies all of the activities and conditions at their site that could cause water pollution, and (2) details the steps the facility will take to prevent construction site stormwater from polluting receiving bodies of water of the state.

When starting a new construction project, one of the most important tasks is achieving erosion control within the site. A SWPPP, defines the process of controlling stormwater runoff and pollutants from a site. SWPPP implementations occur during and after construction activities. This includes scheduled inspections by trained personnel to confirm all aspects of the SWPPP are being maintained. All projects including redevelopment projects disturbing one acre or greater of soil require a SWPPP.

You may be asking yourself, how do get a SWPPP for my site? Who do I contact? A SWPPP must be prepared by a professional engineer or landscape architect. JRH can provide these services for you. There are three different categories that your site could fall under. These categories include: Standard SWPPP, SWPPP Standard Conditional Release, and SWPPP Conditional Release Self-Certification.

A Standard SWPPP is a document that shows a projects ability to contain stormwater runoff on site using NYS-approved methods and designs. A SWPPP Standard Conditional Release is a document that supports the theory that runoff from the site cannot by any means discharge to waters of the State. Conditional Release documents are for sites where there are no surface waters in the surrounding areas. This document will prove that no sediments or water from your site, will reach any State waters. Therefore, this will release you from having to provide a full Standard SWPPP. This Conditional Release contains a preparer’s certification statement and are reviewed for consistency by a third party. Lastly, SWPPP Conditional Release Self-Certification is a document that also supports the theory that runoff from the site cannot by any means discharge to waters of the State. This self-certifying release contains a certification statement and are stamped by a licensed professional. The professional stamp indicates the professional’s certainty that the project will apply the practices of SWPPP measures.

Once it is determined which document most relates to your site, it is prepared and submitted to the municipality that the site falls within. The municipality reviews, comments and approves the SWPPP. At this time implementation of the erosion control measures begin. There is a fee associated with the submitting but that is determined by the municipality’s acreage formula.

Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plans are an essential and required element when it comes to dealing with stormwater runoff and pollutants.

I hope this post has helped you understand the basics of Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plans, SWPPP. If you have any questions, including pricing and applicability, please don’t hesitate to contact us by phone at 631-234-2220, or by my email at mia@holzmacher.com

Best,

Mia Tagliagambe

Project Engineer

J.R. Holzmacher P.E., LLC

From the desk of Jim Ferraiuolo
Environmental Scientist:

What is Environmental Science?  Well, the best way to truly grasp the meaning of Environmental Science is to break it down into its components.  Environmental- relating to your surroundings.  Science- the process of how we come to observe, interpret, and explain the unknown.  Therefore, Environmental Science- the observation, interpretation, and explanation of the unknown elements of our surroundings.

 

A common misconception is that Environmental Science is the study of the natural world.  Yes, it can be, but it may also be the study of the human environment which is simply an area occupied by humans.  For example, I have conducted many Phase I Environmental Site Assessments (Phase I ESA) for commercial/industrial properties.  The purpose of a Phase I ESA is to research the environmental status of a property prior to its purchase. Most often, banks require a Phase I ESA before they provide a potential buyer with a loan.  Ultimately, a Phase I ESA is a critical component of any industrial/commercial real estate exchange because it assists in protecting the potential buyer from any environmental hazards that they may become liable for once they have purchased the property.  While a Phase I ESA may provide legal protection from liability, it also provides physical protection from environmental hazards that may cause harm to prospective occupants of a property.  In essence, a Phase I ESA is a study of a human environment.

 

Wondering what exactly goes into a Phase I ESA?  There are three major investigative components; a site inspection; interviews with present and past owners, operators, and occupants of the property; and a search/review of records pertaining to the property of interest.  Generally, the objective of these investigative components is to identify recognized environmental concerns (RECs) and historical recognized environmental conditions (HRECs).  As defined by ASTM International, the organization that writes the standards relevant to Phase I ESA’s, a REC is essentially “the presence or likely presence of any hazardous substances or petroleum products in, on, or at a property: (1) due to release to the environment; (2) under conditions indicative of a release to the environment; or (3) under conditions that pose a material threat of a future release to the environment.” Additionally, ASTM International defines an HREC as “a past release of any hazardous substances or petroleum products that has occurred in connection with the property and has been addressed to the satisfaction of the applicable regulatory authority or meeting unrestricted use criteria established by a regulatory authority, without subjecting the property to any required controls (for example, property use restrictions, activity and use limitations, institutional controls, or engineering controls).”  RECs may require further investigation as part of a Phase II ESA, but that’s a story for another blog post.  The fourth and final component of a Phase I ESA is a written report detailing the findings of the investigative portion.  In this report, all identified RECs and HRECs are discussed in a detailed, yet easily interpretable manner.  Additionally, the report also describes recommended actions based on the findings of the investigation.  These recommendations may call for a Phase II ESA, based on identified RECs, but like I said before, that will be covered in a future blog post.  In closing, I hope this post helped you understand the basics of Phase I ESAs.  If you have any questions, including pricing and applicability, please don’t hesitate to contact us by phone at 631-234-2220, or by e-mail at jimf@holzmacher.com.

 

Best,

Jim Ferraiuolo

Environmental Scientist

J.R. Holzmacher P.E., LLC