From the Desk of Nancy Shemet,
Environmental Scientist:

“So… why exactly are you digging in the dirt?”

As an environmental scientist, “digging in the dirt” is all part of a day’s work. (Although the more professional terminology is “soil sampling”.)

Soil is so much more complex than people realize. It’s teeming with life! Bacteria, worms, fungi, and insects all call soil home. Not only does soil create its own ecosystem, its quite literally the backbone of our society. Ecological systems, environmental systems, and even human developments would not exist if it weren’t for the soil beneath our feet.

Which is why we need to protect it. And that’s where we come in!

Environmental, animal, and human health all depend on the health of our soils. Soil acts as a transportation highway for contaminants as well, which exist as solids, liquids, and vapors. These many forms of contamination can leech into the groundwater that we drink and invade the houses in which we live. To avoid such occurrences, we need to be aware of what is in the soil by way of sampling.

Each sampling job is different, and primarily depend on a) what the client is looking for; b) where the sampling site is; and c) the history of the sampling site itself. Once we know what the primary concern may be and where to look for it, it’s time to dig. A hand auger is most typically used to reach certain sampling depths, although if an excavator is available, that can be used to save some time. We then take a representative sample with our (gloved) hands, and place the soil directly into sample jars. Once all of the samples have been collected, they are transported to a lab for proper analysis. The analysis period can take up to ten days, depending on what contaminants are being tested for. Upon completion, full analytical results are then sent to the environmental scientist. The results are reviewed, and hopefully everything comes back clean! Sometimes we’re not so fortunate, and we then need to determine remedial measures that must be implemented for the soil to be considered “clean”. In the not-so-fortunate case, this process of sampling, remediating, and sampling again, continues until all contamination is below acceptable levels as determined by the governing regulatory agency.

Soil sampling is an integral part of any human development, as we want to keep our environment as healthy as possible, so WE can stay healthy!

I hope this post helped you understand the basics of soil sampling and its importance. 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

From the Desk of Dylan Clemente,
Project Engineer:

Design of Concrete Foundations (Or A Building Is Only As Strong As Its Foundation)

Are you thinking about starting a new construction project? Are you looking to construct a new building, or add an extension to your home’s floorplan? If so then you are going to need a foundation designed for your project.

Many people don’t tend to think about the foundation of a structure, because as you can guess the foundation isn’t usually visible, “out of sight out of mind”. However, despite the fact that foundations are the least thought about, it is actually the most important part of your structure. The idea behind this is simple once you break it down. No matter how well you design the rest of the structure, if the foundation fails the rest of the structure fails with it. This is why it is important to have a foundation designed by a licensed professional, primarily a structural engineer.

So now the question is what goes into the design of a foundation? First, you need to consider the factors that can impact the foundation’s design. The most commonly talked about factor is the frost depth, however, in many cases, this tends to not be an issue because most structures include basements which require the bottom of the foundation to go well below the frost depth.

The second necessary piece of information is what is the strength of the soil? This information is typically derived from a geotechnical analysis. The strength of the soil allows us to determine several design parameters. First it will determine the type of foundation that will be used, whether it is supported by piles or by concrete. Second, it will determine the soil bearing capacity, or the loading in which the soil can support before failing. This allows the designer to determine the size that the footings need to be in order to properly transfer the loads for the structure into the soil.

The next question is how do we determine the loading or forces that will be placed on the foundation? The initial thought most people have is that the loading on the foundation is coming from the weight of the structure, the weight of people, appliances and snow. However, there are other loads that impact the design of a foundation. These loads are soil pressure, Lateral loads caused by wind, and water pressure. Soil pressure is caused by the soil that rests against the foundation wall. This can cause the wall to overturn if not properly designed. Lateral loads from wind are transferred from the structure above ground to the foundation, the pressure is then directed towards the soil which can be overburdened if not properly designed for. Water pressure can be present in locations that have high groundwater. This requires the foundation to be waterproofed as well as be designed to resist the additional forces that the water exerts on it.

Once we know the loading from the structure, the bearing capacity of the soil, and the dimension of our footings to not overburden the soil, we move onto determining the design of our footings and foundation walls. This step we determine the thickness and reinforcement of the footings and foundation walls. These are the factors that prevent a footing from cracking and failing.

Once these design elements are complete, we need to ensure that all is code compliant. Code requirements dictate the clearances of rebar, along with both the maximum and minimum requirements for reinforcement in a concrete structure.

A good designer understands all the necessary requirements and keeping a construction budget in check

I hope that you find this information useful in determining what is needed to design a concrete foundation. 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


Dylan Clemente

Project Engineer

J.R. Holzmacher P.E., LLC

From the Desk of Sarah Caliendo
Project Engineer:

Why am I being charged another fee?

If you live in Suffolk County have you noticed the relatively new $20 “Water Quality Treatment Charge” on your water bill and wondered what it was for?  I’m here to help you understand where that money is going and why it is needed by your water supplier.

On August 26, 2020, New York State adopted new drinking water standards for “Emerging Contaminants” that include three main contaminates called 1,4 Dioxane, Perfluorooctanoic Sulfonate (PFOS), and Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA).  Some of you may recognize PFOA from the 2019 movie ‘Dark Waters,’ which was referred to as C8.  Do not worry though, the movie featured extreme conditions of exposure to PFOA, there is nowhere near that amount of PFOA in our drinking water.  The Water Quality Treatment Charge on our water bills is to help the water suppliers apply additional treatment measures to remove these contaminants from our water.

1,4 dioxane is a synthetic chemical commonly utilized as a stabilizer for chlorinated solvents as well as reportedly being present in a variety of detergents, soaps, lotions, and cosmetics and is classified as a likely carcinogen.  New York State adopted a maximum contaminant level (MCL) of 1 microgram per liter (µg/L), or 1 part per billion (ppb), of 1,4 Dioxane in the drinking water. This means each water supplier is required to reduce the amount of 1,4 Dioxane in the water below this level before being distributed.  The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) established exposure of 100 ppb over an 8 hour period to 1,4 Dioxane to be considered harmful to your health. As you can see, New York is requiring your water suppliers to reduce the amount of 1,4 Dioxane in your water to way below that amount.  The rules and regulations being in place should provide you a level of confidence that action is happening.

PFOA and PFOS are other man-made chemicals that are used in making fluoropolymer coatings and products that resist heat, oil, stains, grease, and water.  PFOA was famously found in products like Teflon and PFOS was commonly found to be the key ingredient in stain repellents. New York State adopted a maximum contaminant level of 10 nanograms per liter (ng/L), or 10 parts per trillion (ppt) for both PFOA and PFOS.  Again, this means each water supplier is required to reduce the amount of PFOA and PFOS in the water below this level before being distributed.  The EPA has established a health advisory level for PFOA and PFOS at 70 ppt. Once again, New York has established an MCL much lower than the federal regulators.

In order to remove 1,4 Dioxane, PFOA, and PFOS from your water, your water providers are adding Advanced Oxidation Process (AOP) systems and Granular Activated Carbon (GAC) units to their water plants. This is where that extra $20 on your water bill comes in. Each AOP and GAC unit costs millions of dollars to install and will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to maintain every year, so your water supplier needs this extra money to build and maintain these systems to get rid of these contaminants and keep you healthy.

For more information regarding 1,4 Dioxane, PFOA, and PFOS and how it is being handled in your neighborhood please contact your water provider or visit


Sarah Caliendo

Project Engineer

J.R. Holzmacher P.E., LLC

From the Desk of Daniel Mastrocco
Project Engineer:

Why does it actually take that long to obtain a pool construction permit?

Have you been thinking about constructing or renovating your commercial pool for the summer start? You are definitely not alone, the beginning of spring going into summer is an incredibly popular time for swimming pool construction. Even though summer is still a few months away there are requirements for commercial pools which can take weeks if not months to fulfill. Learning about the timeline can help you estimate when you will be able to take a dip in your new pool. Commercial projects beginning the permitting process in February 2021 can expect to have a finished and operational pool for the summer start of 2022.

Some might ask “Why does it actually take that long to obtain a pool construction permit”? I hope to provide some clarity to that question.

There are a few factors which impact a commercial pool’s construction timeline in the metro areas surrounding NYC. First, unlike residential pools, when constructing commercially a formal plan and application submission must be made to the local health department, and the local building department. Here they will be reviewed and then eventually approved for construction. These submissions include engineering plans which have to be signed and stamped by a Professional Engineer or Architect, permit application forms, and any other pertinent documentation such as Affidavits or letters of retention.

Next, after the plans and accompanying documents have been submitted to the local health department and building department, they will be reviewed for completeness and code compliance.  The plan review period varies depending on the local jurisdiction, but will typically take between 4 and 8-weeks. After their initial review, a round of comments will typically be issued, usually to request clarification, additional details, or revisions to the proposed design. Depending on the complexity or uniqueness of the proposed pool multiple rounds of comments may be issued, and this could extend the review process.

Lastly after a permit has been granted, inspections will be conducted during and after construction. The local health department and local building department will each conduct their own inspections. The pool contractor will typically schedule the building department inspections, and the retained engineer or architect will typically schedule and conduct health department inspections. This varies depending on jurisdiction but can be applied to most jurisdictions surrounding the NYC metro area. After a commercial pool passes the above process an operational permit will be required prior to opening the pool to the public. The operational permit typically requires a yearly renewal and is granted by the local health department.

For those looking to build a typical average backyard residential pool the above does not apply to you. The process for residential pools is usually less time consuming because the local health department does not have a role in the approval process. Your residential pool process may look something like the following. You hire a pool contractor; they file and submit all documentation to your local building department. Upon approval they begin construction and notify the building department when it is time for an inspection. After construction the owner should check with the local building department for final close out of the pool.

I hope you have found this useful in determining the time it may take for your new or renovated pool to be completed. If you have any questions, about pricing or applicability please don’t hesitate to contact us by phone at 631-234-2220, or by my email at


Daniel Mastrocco
Project Engineer
J.R. Holzmacher P.E., LLC

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 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 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



Jim Ferraiuolo

Environmental Scientist

J.R. Holzmacher P.E., LLC