Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Gearing up for EarthDay, 2010 - Looking to showcase our stormwater technologies

April 22, 2010 marks the 40th anniversary for EarthDay.  We want to do something extra special to celebrate this milestone anniversary and are looking to be part of a festival or meeting where we can educate people about the importance of improving storm water runoff, protecting our rivers, lakes and streams and showcase the latest technologies in stormwater.  Half of what we can do is educational, and for the civil engineers in the crowd, they might see something they really like.  If you are in the NY / CT area and holding an Earthday event,  we might be the right team to participate in your event!  Please contact us if you think we would be a good fit!  Click here for our website so you can see what kind of work we do.  Our phone and contact info is on the top right of our homepage.   We would love to hear from you!

Here is the link to the CT DEP list of Earthday goings-on
Here is a link to the EPA list of EarthDay goings-on and tips to help the earth

We hope to see you at EarthDay!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Cigarette Butt Litter

After reading the Keep America Beautiful report on litter and thinking more about the toll it takes on our economy and our communities, I have been more focused and more observant about litter. We followed-up on Friday with a meeting with the Keep America Beautiful folks and spoke further about their programs and one of the issues that was specifically mentioned was cigarette butt litter. While I have seen more than my share of cigarette butts out in the field, I was unaware that 1 in 5 pieces of litter is actually a cigarette butt.

After our meeting, I did a little more research and looking around and found an LA Times article "Fuming Over Cigarette Butt Litter" (written by David Lazarus, November 30, 2008) citing that the City of Los Angeles picks up 600,000 cigarette butts a month and more than 7 million butts per year.

Virginia Beach exceeded its budget to clean storm drains by $3,000,000.00 and a significant portion of this amount was due to cigarette butts.

Once in the environment, it is important to remember that cigarette butts don't disappear. 95% of all butts are made from cellulose acetate that don't break down. Butts easily travel through storm drains and end up in local rivers, lakes and streams. Ultimately, they can be mistaken as food and pose a threat to marine and wildlife.

Cigarette butts are a significant source of pollution. While education and access to proper ashtrays/disposal is key, cigarette butt littering is rampant. While we have never been approached specifically to target cigarette butts, this is one of the types of trash that we can prevent from entering the stormwater systems.

For more information about cigarette litter, click here
For a look at how we can help you improve your storm water quality, click here

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Our Planet, Our Stuff, Our Choice - EPA Video Competition

The EPA is sponsoring the "Our Planet, Our Stuff, Our Choice" video competition

Videos must be 30 or 60 seconds long and focus on these themes:
  • Reducing/reusing
  • Recycling
  • Composting
  • Consumption and environmental footprint
Videos due February 16, 2010

Hey, you can even win some CASH! How cool is that?

Click here for full details


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Trash Control - tales from the stormwater dark side

As mentioned, in yesterday's blog entry, trash and litter effect everyone and as reported in the Keep America Beautiful report, the direct costs to the US economy is a staggering USD 11.5 Billion per annum. I am still trying to wrap my head around that one - I mean, YIKES and WOW!!!! (and NOT in a good way).

In addition to educational programs, adding more trash receptacles in more convenient places and aiming to change social behaviors, another way to improve stormwater runoff is by helping contain fugitive trash and litter.

This picture shows the collection area of our TerreKleen hydrodynamic separator and about 12 months of trash collected and contained from the parking lot of a big box store. The maintenance team can easily access the collection area by removing the grates or manhole covers on top. Trash is collected by vac truck and disposed of in accordance with state and local guidelines.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Trash control - an $11.5 billion dollar problem and a major contaminant for stormwater

Stormwater contaminants are, for the most part, usually the same. The issues that we typically see in our business center on: heavy metals, hydrocarbons, phosphorous, and sediment loading. Another MAJOR issue our clients have is TRASH CONTROL.

It might not be an issue that you have thought about, but I spent some time this afternoon looking to see if anyone had calculated the amount of trash and debris that finds its way into Long Island Sound. While I didn't find information specifically targeted for Long Island Sound, I did find a nation-wide study funded by the non-profit organization, Keep America Beautiful, detailing the volume of trash/litter found in the US, the toll it takes on the American economy and behaviors that contribute to littering. The results of their survey were released on December 3, 2009.

Some shocking key findings from their report:

Litter conservatively costs our nation $11.5 billion per year. These are direct costs, including cleanup and prevention programs, and are carried largely by businesses and taxpayers. Not included in this figure are significant indirect costs:
    • Decreased property values. 93% of homeowners, 55% of real estate agents and 90% of property appraisers surveyed stated that a littered neighborhood would decrease their assessment of a home’s value
    • "Opportunity Costs” such as decreased commerce and tourism in blighted areas
    • Health effects and related costs of littered environments
The study concludes that at least 51.2 billion pieces of litter are left on roadways in the U.S.; an average of 6,729 pieces of litter per mile.

Cigarette butts comprise 38% of all items littered on the highways, streets, parks and playgrounds (in urban, suburban and rural areas of America).

The Keep America Beautiful Report detailed littering behaviors, identified factors that encouraged littering and made suggestions on how to reduce litter. I think it is an important report and encourage you to read their findings in full. For executive summary and full report, click here.

More on trash control tomorrow.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Easy retrofit solution for stormwater systems and trash control

One of our municipal clients here in CT contacted us one day because he was often called by a local resident with complaints about trash, bottles, cans and other debris which had been thrown out car windows and would travel through the storm water system and end up in this resident's wetlands/backyard. The area is more of a suburban almost rural area, so you can imagine that all of this trash was even more visible and a real eyesore to anyone driving by. The resident was just plain tired of cleaning up after everyone else and the town needed a long term solution, extremely low maintenance solution to correct the problem. What could we suggest?

After a quick survey of the area, we saw the offending storm structure and realized the best alternative in this case would be our self-cleaning, stainless steel, wedgewire screen and orifice place.

If you are not familiar with wedgewire screens, they are very cool and have a wide range of applications - not only as trash and debris screens at hydro plants around the world, but also as fish exclusion in ponds/streams and another common use is in detention ponds to prevent trash/debris and small animals from getting into the system.

In this case, sediment, trash and debris would be prevented from entering the system, yet water could still flow through the system at high flow rates. It was an easy fix for this problem and the complaints stopped!

The top picture shows the screen after the first major rain storm. You can see the leaves stuck to the screen. When the system dries out, the leaves will fall off. The system is constantly working.

The picture of the red grate is the top of the structure and if the water gets high enough, it will flow into the system this way.

Our screens are highly engineered and designed for site specific applications.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Public comment period for NYS storm water manual has been extended to Feb. 3

The NYS DEC invites public comments for their storm water manual which is currently being updated. The public comment period has been extended until February 3rd. Here is the link