Fun Fact Friday: Dynamic Cone Penetrometer Testing

Fun Fact Friday: Dynamic Cone Penetrometer Testing

Dynamic Cone Penetrometer (DCP) testing is a method of measuring the strength of loose soil that has not been disturbed, or compacted materials under existing field conditions. This is an important test to perform if any type of construction is planned for the area.

According to ASTM, the test method is used to “assess the compaction effort of compacted materials” based on the force and number of repetitions that it takes for a hammer to penetrate the material. This is called the penetration rate, which helps to determine other construction characteristics of the material, such as strata thickness and shear strength.

The test uses a hammer-like instrument that is comprised of a vertical rod that is driven into the soil, which then causes a measurable extension of the rod. The measurement is then taken into consideration along with other characteristics, such as density and strength, to determine if any precautions or limitations should be implemented in the construction process.

Encorus will be providing DCP testing services for the Buffalo Amtrak station renovation and reconstruction project. Senior Geologist Andy Kucserik and Technician Adam Svensson will be performing the testing in areas that are bound by the existing Amtrak railroad lines and an underground sewer tunnel.

If you have any questions or require DCP testing services, please contact Senior Geologist Andy Kucserik at (716) 592-3980 ext. 149 or akucserik@encorus.com.

Citation: ASTM D7380-15, Standard Test Method for Soil Compaction Determination at Shallow Depths Using 5-lb (2.3 kg) Dynamic Cone Penetrometer, ASTM International, West Conshohocken, PA, 2015, www.astm.org

Fun Fact Friday: NEPA Review

Fun Fact Friday: NEPA Review

One of the several environmental services that Encorus offers is a NEPA review. NEPA is a very important component in the environmental engineering field, but many non-environmental engineers may not know what NEPA is in the first place, let alone if they need a NEPA review. This article will explain what NEPA is and why it is important in environmental engineering.

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) was signed into law on January 1, 1970. Using the NEPA process, agencies evaluate the environmental and related social and economic effects of their proposed actions. Agencies also provide opportunities for public review and comment on those evaluations. Before NEPA was established, federal agencies were missions focused, to get goals accomplished as quickly as possible, with no required regard for environmental impacts.

NEPA requires that federal agencies evaluate environmental impacts of projects by preparing Environmental Assessments and Environmental Impact Statements (EIS). These documents establish positive and negative impacts of a project on the environment. This information is used by agencies in establishing a number of alternatives to successfully reach the project goals. These alternatives can lead to the project being abandoned, if no suitable alternatives are acceptable to the agencies involved.

The public is included in this process by commenting on proposed projects. These can be submitted comments, or can be by public hearing. This gives people the ability to voice concerns or support for projects that would impact their lives, jobs, and environment. The NEPA process can be confusing and time consuming and it is recommended that you work closely with the consultants and government agencies involved.

If you are interested in learning more about the National Environmental Policy Act, or are curious if your project requires a NEPA review, please contact Encorus’s Environmental Engineer, Mary Padasak, at (716) 592-3980 ext. 144, or mpadasak@encorus.com.

Fun Fact Friday: The Importance of Professional Guidance Through the Environmental Permitting Process

Fun Fact Friday: The Importance of Professional Guidance Through the Environmental Permitting Process

Many levels of government have their own sets of environmental regulations and permit requirements applicable to business owners, land developers, and more. On a federal level, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) operates to regulate environmental interactions across the country. On a state level, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC) operates to preserve the environment in our state.

Compliance with environmental regulations is a critical component of operation in any industry. Not only are they often required in order for a business to legally operate, but in addition, many existing regulations serve to protect a business’s reputation and the health and safety of its workers. Additionally, in today’s society, where environmental responsibility is becoming a consumer consideration, being found in violation of regulations can be detrimental to business efforts as a result of consumer boycotts and slander.

The US EPA and the NYS DEC have three major State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (SPDES) general permits required for activities associated stormwater discharges.

In the case of many industrial activities, a Multi-Sector General Permit for Stormwater Discharges Associated with Industrial Activities (MSGP) is required to address stormwater runoff. In order to obtain this permit, a facility must have Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plans (SWPPPs) and monitor their activities as required per their industry to submit for annual reports to the DEC. Most SWPPPs are written documents describing the pollution prevention practices and activities to be implemented on the site for each major phase of the planned activity.

SWPPPs are also required to obtain a General Permit for Stormwater Discharges from Construction Activities. This permit is required for the undertaking of any construction activities which will disturb one of more acres of soil.

In urban areas a federal regulation known as Stormwater Phase II requires permits for stormwater discharges from Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems (MS4s). Any individual or corporation seeking a permit is required to have an adequately developed Stormwater Management Program (SWMP) and submit annual reports to the DEC.

Additionally, a State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) is required in order for a government agency to approve permits or propose projects when environmental impacts are possible. This review is important in legally protecting the agency undertaking the project, as failure to comply with SEQR requirements allows citizens or groups who are able to demonstrate that they may be harmed by the failure to take legal action against the agency.

Most environmental permits have complex and dynamic processes both to fill the necessary requirements and to provide adequate documentation and verification to the appropriate government agency. These processes can be confusing and lengthy if undertaken without suitable knowledge, which can threaten a business’s ability to perform and earn revenue. This makes expert knowledge critical in successfully acquiring permits to get a facility up and running in a timely manner and allow businesses to operate efficiently, safely, and without hassle.

Encorus Group has a strong team of environmental professionals, including engineers, geologists, and technicians who are well versed in navigating various permitting and approval processes, creating SPCC and SWPPP plans, organizing SEQR and NEPA reviews, and completing designs and evaluations for Petroleum Bulk Storage and Chemical Bulk Storage Tanks. These individuals are highly capable and experienced at fulfilling environmental regulation requirements.

If you need environmental compliance or permitting assistance, contact Environmental Engineer Mary Padasak at (716) 592-3980 ext 144 or mpadasak@encorus.com.

Fun Fact Friday: Environmental Site Assessments

Fun Fact Friday: Environmental Site Assessments

Phase I and Phase II Environmental Site Assessments (ESAs) are procedures which have been developed by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) to evaluate environmental issues at a real estate site. These assessments are usually performed when land is changing ownership or usage, but are also occasionally performed for an existing property owner who wants to know the toxic history of the property, or if a regulatory agency suspects toxic conditions on the site.

Environmental Site Assessments are usually performed as part of due diligence requirements. These requirements are regular parts of corporate law. Additionally, these assessments help protect potential property owners. The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA) holds land owners, lessors, and lenders to be responsible for resolving environmental issues, even if the hazards were the result of activities from a previous property owner. This makes an ESA critical in ensuring that a potential new property does not provide an unexpected risk of liability for decontamination.

A Phase I ESA is a quick, simple, noninvasive report used for the identification of potential or existing environmental contamination liabilities for real estate properties. This assessment is completed by reviewing records, completing a surface-level site inspection, and interviewing owners, occupants, neighbors, and local government officials. The goal of a Phase I ESA is to determine the likelihood that any Recognized Environmental Concerns (RECs) are present, which may then be further investigated through a Phase II ESA. The RECs could be contamination from activities which took place on site or contamination from adjacent properties. Essentially, the Phase I ESA is intended to determine the history of the property and ensure that there are no obvious concerns.

The Phase II ESA is a more invasive assessment which requires collection and testing of soil, groundwater samples, and/or building materials. While the Phase I ESA is more purposed to determine presence or absence of environmental concerns, the purpose of a Phase II ESA is to determine the scale and details of the discrepancies found by the Phase I investigation. This phase of investigation can take a significant amount of time to allow for sampling and testing, as well as any monitoring activities deemed necessary by the Phase I results.

While a Phase II investigation is not always required, performing a Phase II ESA is a good practice, especially for those considering purchasing real estate. Without a Phase II ESA, it is possible that environmental hazards on the property could go unnoticed, and the cost of dealing with removing those hazards often greatly outweighs the cost of the Phase II ESA. This makes the examination extremely helpful in allowing potential real estate buyers to fully understand the liabilities of the property before they make their purchasing decision.

Environmental Site Assessments are unique in their ability to allow property owners and buyers to make more knowledgeable decisions. These activities can prevent massive liabilities for buyers and allow property owners to catch potential problems before they cause massive damage or become harder to resolve.

Encorus Group provides a variety of environmental services, including Phase I and Phase II ESAs. If you need Environmental Site Assessment services, contact Encorus’s Geologist, Andrew Kucserik, at 716.592.3980 ext. 149. or akucserik@encorus.com.

Fun Fact Friday: Civil and Environmental Engineering

Fun Fact Friday: Civil and Environmental Engineering

Civil and Environmental Engineering: Disciplines that Intertwine to Improve Society

Two of the several services offered by Encorus Group are civil and environmental engineering. Environmental engineer Mary Padasak gives some insight on how the two disciples work hand-in-hand to improve the infrastructure of our communities.

Civil and environmental engineering are similar, but not the same. They often compliment each other and overlap in many areas. A lot of people who go to school for environmental engineering end up as wastewater engineers, working on how to best clean sanitary sewer and stormwater flows. Civil engineers work on building roads and the infrastructure around the sanitary and stormwater piping. Engineers in both fields are heavily involved in infrastructure, from roads to pipes to tanks to bridges.

At Encorus Group, both the civil and environmental engineers wear many varied hats. The civil engineer will work on the grading and drainage plan for a property, while the environmental engineer is routing the stormwater, drinking water, and sanitary lines through the same parcel. The civil engineer will design for the grading and paving of an area, while the environmental engineer designs the bulk storage tank and required secondary containment that will sit on the pavement. Civil engineers design the bridge, road, or parking lot, but the environmental engineer does the regulatory permitting and stormwater design for construction. These close overlaps are why many people confuse the work of civil and environmental engineers. We have to work closely together so that the lay of the land works efficiently with the use of the land.

One of the often-overlooked specialties of civil and environmental engineers is developing grading and drainage plans. Grading is the process of laying out how the land should be flattened and worked so that people can easily traverse it. It also lays out the low spots for stormwater to flow for drainage. Everyone has experienced poor grading and drainage. From a car driving through a puddle on a rainy day and splashing people on the sidewalk, to water running into your garage from the driveway, somewhere along the line grading and drainage was done poorly. Poor grading also makes walking and driving difficult or awkward. Have you ever driven down a road on a left-hand turn, but the low side of the turn was on the right? It feels like the car is going to fly off the road, and that is poor grading.

Efficient grading and drainage let people and vehicles get where they need to go without water following or impeding them. If it is done correctly, everything should feel natural and you should not notice any abnormalities. When done poorly, grading and drainage stick out like a sore thumb and cause an inconvenience to the public.

Next time it rains and you notice that there are no puddles on the sides of the road, or you go around a properly graded turn in your car, remember that you have civil and environmental engineers to thank for not being splashed or flying off the road.

Fun Fact Friday: SPCC Plans

Fun Fact Friday: SPCC Plans

One of the environmental engineering services that Encorus Group offer is the creation of an SPCC Plan. Environmental Engineer Mary Padasak gave us some insight into what exactly SPCC Plans are and why they are important.

Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure Plans (SPCC Plans) are documents created for facilities containing large reserves of oils, both petroleum and non-petroleum based. Their purpose is to protect navigable water and shorelines by helping prevent spill scenarios, and to provide roadmaps for cleanup and control of a spill should one occur. SPCC plans are required under federal law 40 CFR 112 for facilities that have greater than 1,320-gallon aboveground storage capacity or greater than 42,000-gallon completely buried underground storage capacity. Each SPCC Plan is unique to the facility and its contents. SPCC Plans include procedures to prevent spills during operations, control measures to be in place to prevent oils from entering the environment should a spill occur, and countermeasures to contain and clean up the spill, as well as mitigate any impacts to the environment. SPCC Plans must be certified by a Professional Engineer. They must also be reviewed annually and re-certified every five years.

New York State has requirements that go above the federal standard and are more protective of the environment. Under 6 NYCRR 613, tanks over 110 gallons, with some exceptions, must be registered to an owner who is responsible for their care and maintenance to prevent discharges to navigable waters. These registrations must be renewed every five years and are periodically audited by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation. For underground tanks, trained operators are also required. These operators have been trained on the specific tank system they are using or registering, are knowledgeable in safe operation of the system, and know how to control, contain, and mitigate impacts should a spill occur.

Encorus Group has knowledgeable staff in the writing and review of SPCC Plans and tank registrations in New York State. Our professional engineers are able to certify the reports as required by federal law. We also have trained operators that can manage your underground tank systems and train your low-level operators. If you require an SPCC Plan, please contact Sheila Ransbottom, PE at (716) 592-3980 ext. 153 or email sransbottom@encorus.com.