As a real estate developer or landowner, you will likely have to perform a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment (ESA) when developing a piece of property. A professional engineer or professional geologist must perform the ESA, and it must be completed in accordance with the ASTM E1527-13 standard.
The ASTM E1527-13 is updated every 8 years with a new version. The new edition of the standard will be ASTM E1527-21 and it is largely the same with updates mainly to make it more user friendly. It is set to be released this fall, but it could be the end of 2022 before the EPA recognizes the new standard as consistent with the requirements for All Appropriate Inquiries (AAI).
At McFadden Engineering, we are aware of these changes, and we are in communication with government regulators to ensure that all Phase I ESA’s that we perform are completed correctly and efficiently.
The EPA has given guidance to continue the use of the E1527-13 standard, even once the new standard is released, until the EPA officially accepts the new standard as AAI. However, the new standard can be referenced in the report, but the report needs to be completed in accordance with the E1527-13 standard.
The new E1527-21 standard is going to address different areas that cause confusion, such as shelf-life clarity. It will have a discussion on the meaning of “likely” in a report and how it can be used. Also, it is going to address data gaps and how they affect the conclusions that are made in the report.
A hot topic recently has been PFAS and the effects it has on the environment. It is not yet regulated under CERCLA, which means it does not have to be considered in the Phase I ESA. However, the new standard will have an “Emerging Contaminants” section which will provide some guidance on how to deal with the possibility of PFAS being regulated in the future.
McFadden Engineering has a wealth of experience covering a broad range of civil and environmental services. Our specialties include environmental permitting for municipal, commercial, and industrial dischargers, environmental permitting and compliance management for industrial manufacturing facilities, site assessments and remediation, master planning for utilities, water quality projects, and wastewater process design.
Planning for the Future
No matter what challenges you have within the environmental compliance requirements of your business, finding the best solution to overcome it is a necessity. We take great pride in serving some of the same clients we started with nearly 35 years ago. Our success lies within the longterm relationships we maintain with our clients. Let McFadden Engineering partner with you on your next project. We succeed when our clients succeed.
The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) regulations require that local governments prohibit changes inside flood plains that would increase base flood levels during 100-year storms. Developers wishing to build on property below the base flood elevation must demonstrate that any proposed changes to the existing elevations inside the flood plain will not cause a rise in base flood elevation during a 100 year storm event. This is accomplished by obtaining a “No-Rise” Certification from a professional engineer who is competent in hydrologic investigation and flood modelling. Here along the Gulf Coast, development in low-lying areas near waterways can be done in a manner that is both sustainable and compliant with NFIP regulations. At McFadden Engineering (MEI), we have the expertise to help you navigate local regulations and obtain permits necessary to move forward with your project. By using software developed by the Army Corps of Engineers and data collected in the field, MEI can model potential impacts to flood levels based on your proposed development. In the process of developing a flood model, MEI uses software developed by the Army Corps of Engineers’ Hydrologic Engineering Center.
Preliminary data will be gathered in the field along the flood plain upstream and downstream of the proposed development. MEI will gather information on culverts, bridges, and other structures that affect stream flow during a storm event. By entering this data into the River Analysis System (HEC-RAS) software and data from channel cross-sections of streams and flow rates, a “current conditions” baseline model of the proposed area is created. The model is then calibrated against known flood elevations for a 100-year storm event. Once the existing conditions model is calibrated, cross-section elevation data in the area of the proposed development are changed to match proposed site modifications to create a “proposed conditions” model. Additionally, if changes to existing drainage features are proposed, these can be input into the proposed conditions model. The HEC-RAS software is versatile and can be used to model flood conditions along a single river reach or a network of channels. If there are lakes along the flood model reach, the software will take into account the storage capacity of the lakes during a storm event in determining the projected water level. When the proposed conditions model is analyzed, the output will show projected water levels during a 100-year storm after the development is complete. If no-rise in the 100-year flood elevation is shown by comparison of the two models, MEI will issue a “No-Rise” certification by way of a detailed flood model report submitted to the local municipal or county engineering office.
Two Case Studies
McFadden Engineering Inc. conducted a flood model to support proposed environmental corrective actions at a 7.9- acre brownfield site near downtown Mobile, Alabama. The site, which was once home to a manufactured gas plant, was located immediately adjacent to One Mile Creek and below the base flood elevation (FEMA flood zone AE). Remedial plans for the site included covering the site with clean fill soil after excavating contaminated soil from the subsurface. The City of Mobile required a No-Rise Certificate before the corrective actions could be implemented due to the elevation change caused by the fill and changes to the site drainage. MEI collected the required data along One Mile Creek including actual flow measurements during rain events. Once the required data was obtained and put into to the HEC-RAS flood model, it was determined that the fill material at the site would not lead to a rise in flood water elevation during a 100-year storm. In the HEC-RAS flood model, it was determined that the fill material at the site would not lead to a rise in flood water elevation during a 100-year storm. The brownfield site has since been transformed into a community greenspace.
Additionally, McFadden Engineering was retained to determine if construction of a commercial carwash facility on a 1.5-acre site in West Mobile would impact flood levels. A portion of the site extended into the 100-year flood plain on the east side of the creek. Plans for the site involved raising the existing grade elevation in the flood zone from 165 ft msl to 169 ft msl.
MEI modeled the existing conditions for the 100-year flood levels. The flood model consisted of a 2-mile reach of Milkhouse Creek including a number of elevation crosssections, culvert designs, and bridge crossings that were incorporated into the model. Using the Rational Method, estimated 100-year storm flow rates were calculated for the headwaters of Milkhouse Creek and at each stream cross-section. The model reach also included Optimist Lake, which provides storage capacity during a storm event and must be accounted for by the flood model in predicting the water levels. Using the HEC-RAS software, MEI constructed an existing conditions model that, once calibrated, accurately predicted water levels at various points along Milkhouse Creek during a 100-year storm event. The existing conditions model was then modified to match the proposed grading plan for the carwash facility. Comparison of the existing flood model and proposed site modifications demonstrated that there would be no rise in water levels after construction of the facility. MEI issued a No-Rise Certificate to the City of Mobile on behalf of the facility.
In addition to changes in site elevation for construction above the 100-year flood elevation, MEI can assist you in modeling and design of stormwater collection and detention systems for your development to mitigate a rise in flood levels. Intelligent management of stormwater adds value to your development, prevents erosion and damage to your property, saving costs in the long run. Let McFadden Engineering partner with you to address stormwater and design needs.
As a manufacturer or someone that occupies a space in the industrial sector, your process will create byproducts of some sort. Environmental air emissions, waste, wastewater, stormwater, and other constituents will be regulated on a local, state, and federal level. To achieve environmental compliance, these different regulatory levels will require monitoring and reporting to remain in environmental compliance.
At McFadden Engineering, we realize that achieving environmental compliance can be a challenge for many companies. Navigating the complex environmental regulatory requirements can be costly and time-consuming if not done correctly. We excel in providing a streamlined process through safe, cost effective, and innovative solutions while simplifying the path to achieve maximum compliance.
At McFadden Engineering, we understand that environmental compliance can be a burden at times and is not always the primary focus.
We use our years of experience and expertise to create practical solutions for monitoring, reporting, and permitting that still allow clients to stay focused on essential plant components and running their business. We stay up to date on changes in regulatory requirements and provide clarity of ongoing requirements during times of political change.
McFadden Engineering has a wealth of experience covering a broad range of civil and environmental services. Our specialties include environmental permitting for municipal, commercial and industrial dischargers, environmental permitting and compliance management for industrial manufacturing facilities, site assessments and remediation, master planning for utilities, water quality projects, and wastewater process design.
Planning for the Future
No matter what challenges you have within the environmental compliance requirements of your buisiness, finding the best solution to ovecome it is a neccesity. We take great pride in serving some of the same clients we started with nearly 35 years ago. Our success lies within the long term relationships we maintain with our clients. Let McFadden Engineering partner with you on your next project. We succeed when our clients succeed.
We’re excited to introduce a monthly newsletter to share information about our team, industry news and recent projects. This month we’re discussing the essential role of environmental consultants, and the importance of building long-term relationships with our clients.
Click to download the full newsletter, and get in touch if you have questions or would like to discuss a project opportunity.
It’s been an exciting year at McFadden Engineering, partially because we’ve welcomed a few new faces to our team. One of our new staff engineers, Evan Bedwell, is a 2020 graduate from University of South Alabama. Even though he’s new to our team full-time, Evan actually began his journey with us as an intern throughout his four years of college. Although an internship wasn’t required for his major, Evan has a passion for the industry and wanted an opportunity to learn and gain real-world experience.
As a full-time staff member, Evan assists with engineering calculations, report development and water sampling when needed. He continues to learn on the job, and considers water resources to be one of his favorite areas of civil engineering to work on. Recently, Evan has worked on the design of a wastewater treatment plant in Clay, Ala. and assisted with AutoCAD drawings, hydraulic profiling and cost estimating.
One of Evan’s favorite parts of McFadden Engineering is the family atmosphere. Evan has been a part of the McFadden Engineering family for a while, both in the office and outside of the office. He attended church with partner Brad Newton for years, and was even coached by him in basketball during high school. Evan appreciates knowing the CEO on a personal level and having meaningful relationships with other members of the team.
We’ve appreciated Evan’s contributions to the team as an intern, and are looking forward to seeing his growth as a staff engineer moving forward.
McFadden Engineering is excited to announce the addition of a new employee, David Crawford. David has been working with us as a project engineer for the past eight months. His day-to-day responsibilities involve serving as a collaborative voice on all projects. He handles general project management and works closely with everyone on the McFadden team to make sure each project stays on track from start to finish.
David is originally from Mobile and attended the University of Alabama, where he obtained his Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering. He started his career in the forestry industry, dealing with air, water and waste regulations for forest products. Before working for McFadden Engineering, David ran the western region of Canfor’s environmental compliance division as an environmental manager for five years.
McFadden Engineering has a small, family-oriented culture, which attracted David to our company because he loves working in the area where he grew up. He enjoys the technical design projects and diverse industry work that we do at McFadden. David also has a longtime relationship with our CEO, Frank McFadden, from being in church together over the years.
David is a hardworking and experienced engineer, and we are excited to have on our team. We look forward to seeing everything he accomplishes in his new role as project engineer.
McFadden Engineering recently announced Brad Newton, P.E., as a new partner at the firm. Newton has worked for McFadden Engineering for more than 20 years, and his extensive list of skills includes experience in developing waste load allocations and water quality models for discharge permits, as well as designing numerous wastewater treatment and disposal systems.
“I am very thankful for the opportunity to become a partner in the firm and look forward to transitioning into this new role,” Newton says. “When I look back at the past 20 years, I am grateful for the investment the leadership at McFadden Engineering have made in my career because I believe it has prepared me for this opportunity.”
Newton has served as Vice President of McFadden Engineering and acts as project manager and senior engineer, overseeing design activities and issuance of deliverables to clients. Newton manages day-to-day operations for the company as vice president. Newton says, “I look forward to continuing to lead our staff as we grow our firm.”
Founder and CEO Frank McFadden commented, “Brad exemplifies the integrity, work ethic, and leadership standards upon which we built McFadden Engineering. His contributions to our company have made the firm a stronger and more solid place to work. In supporting his love of coaching team sports, we recognized that he could translate that coaching experience into managing and encouraging the McFadden team. His leadership for the future will be invaluable.”
Outside of work, Newton is active in the ministries of Cottage Hill Baptist Church, where he serves as a Life Group leader and deacon. He is also invested in the ministry of Cottage Hill Christian Academy, where he coaches basketball and is a member of various school committees. He has been married to his wife Jennifer for 17 years and has twin daughters, Emily and Ashlyn.
McFadden Engineering’s team of water and wastewater experts specialize in providing environmentally sound solutions to solve unique civil and environmental engineering needs. Based in Mobile, Ala. for more than 30 years, McFadden Engineering has worked on projects including environmental permitting for municipal, commercial and industrial dischargers, site assessments and remediation, master planning for utilities, water quality projects and wastewater process design. Visit mcfaddenengineering.com for more information.
Understanding groundwater preferential pathways is a critical link in the development of conceptual site models and the design of groundwater remediation strategies. Identifying and mapping transmission zones that contaminants favor, or “preferential pathways,” is crucial when making decisions about how to best approach groundwater remediation at a site. Time and money can be saved by using technology to quickly gain a comprehensive picture of subsurface hydrogeologic conditions.
Hydraulic Profiling Tool (HPT) systems are an asset in gaining a detailed picture of the subsurface. Used with mobile drilling platforms, an HPT probe system can provide boring logs that make it easy to interpret subsurface soil characteristics.
Defining Compounds Found in Soil and Groundwater VOCs (volatile organic compounds) are legally defined, but generally are organic compounds that evaporate at low temperatures, typically room temperature or below. Because of their volatility, they are more mobile than many other compounds. The USEPA and other regulatory agencies set limits for many VOCS in air, soil and water.
SVOCs (semi-volatile organic compounds) are legally defined but have lower volatility and evaporate at higher temperatures than VOCs. Because of their lower volatility, they can remain in soil or water for long periods of time and accumulate more readily than VOCs. The USEPA and other regulatory agencies set limits for many SVOS in air, soil and water.
HPT Operation and Benefits An HPT system operates by applying water through a small opening on the side of the drilling probe as it is advanced through the subsurface. Water pressure and flow rate are monitored by the HPT logging system and displayed in real time. Sandy soils that contaminants favor and clays that affect groundwater flow are easily identified. Electrical conductivity logs can also be generated using the HPT system for an added parameter in interpreting subsurface conditions.
A Membrane Interface Probe (MIP) can operate in conjunction with an HPT, and is used to detect the presence of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in real time and at accurate depths. An added benefit of HPT, electrical conductivity and MIP technology is their footprint. Nothing is removed from the subsurface which means investigation waste, along with the associated disposal costs, is nearly eliminated.
Case Study: Using HPT in the Field McFadden Engineering (MEI) utilized HPT boring logs to create stratigraphic cross sections to develop a conceptual model of groundwater flow at a large site near Mobile, Alabama. A product released into soil and groundwater at an industrial facility impacted groundwater quality over many acres. MEI was retained by the client to conduct a subsurface investigation and design an effective remediation strategy.
Preliminary site assessments revealed a very complex geologic lithology. Using HPT in conjunction with discrete groundwater sampling conducted at various depths, geologists and engineers at MEI identified preferential flow pathways for contaminated groundwater at the site. This information was used to construct two remediation systems designed to intercept, capture and treat contaminated groundwater prior to interacting with surface water in the area. Recovery wells were installed at depths that coincided with preferential pathways identified using HPT to efficiently target contaminated zones.
In teaming up with our industry partners and utilizing HPT and MIP technology, MEI can bring great value to clients that need quick assessment of subsurface conditions. By identifying and targeting groundwater preferential pathways, MEI can design effective remedial options tailored to specific site hydrogeologic and contaminant properties.
Hydrogeology is the study of groundwater distribution and movement over the ground surface and through soils and rocks. At McFadden Engineering (MEI), we have a team of professional Engineers and Geologists who specialize in hydrogeology. Contaminants that reach the soil frequently become a two-part problem as both the soil and the groundwater in the soil can be affected.
Groundwater, Surface Water and Groundwater Contamination
Groundwater is water (liquid or frozen) that has seeped below the earth’s surface and is stored in the spaces between soil or rock particles. An aquifer is created when a large amount of groundwater is stored in the same place. Groundwater flows through the soil or rock under the influence of gravity, usually on the order of a few inches to a few feet per year. Surface water is water (liquid or frozen) located above the surface of the ground, including stormwater runoff, streams, creeks, rivers, glaciers, ponds, lakes and oceans. Surface water usually flows more quickly than groundwater.
Soil and groundwater contamination impacts the public and the environment in many ways:
It can affect drinking water quality and can lead to health maladies associated with drinking contaminated water.
Contamination can devalue property and limit future uses for that property.
When buildings or residences are built on top of contaminated soil there may be a danger of vapors traveling up through foundations and into the air inside, where people may breathe in toxic compounds.
Natural habitats for wildlife may be lost in areas with contaminated soil and groundwater. This is particularly true for aquatic habitats.
Site Evaluation and Remediation Approach
When it comes to our hydrogeology expertise and working with clients, we evaluate the entire site including the soil, the groundwater, and the surface water to determine the extent of the problem our clients might be facing.
When it comes to site solutions, remediating the soil is usually the easiest option. If the area can be excavated, removing the impacted soil and disposing of the material is typically the quickest and cheapest option. However, when contamination is under a building or other structure, or it reaches the groundwater in the soil, the situation is often more complex. Furthermore, regulatory agencies are more sensitive to groundwater issues because groundwater is mobile and can travel off-site.
To tackle these challenges, we construct subsurface cross-sections and use groundwater modeling to develop hydraulic flow models for sites. These models help us predict groundwater flow direction and velocity, and indicate the best place to attack the issue with remediation systems. Using these tools and our experience in dealing with these issues, we can develop a cost-effective approach to cleaning up the site while meeting the regulatory requirements that may be present.
Timeline for Cleanup
Many variables can play a part in the timeframe for cleanup work. These can include:
Cost of remediating a site and how much funding is available to spend to solve the problem.
The chemical/physical nature of the contaminating chemical(s). For example, if the chemical dissolves easily in groundwater, it is easier to deal with than a chemical that separates itself from water (think oil/water).
The concentrations of the contaminants in soil or groundwater will affect how long it takes to remove them or break them down.
The response of time of state regulators is a big factor. It can take months to get approval from ADEM or another state’s regulatory agency to proceed with a remediation plan.
Best Management Practices
McFadden Engineering also specializes in designing Best Management Practices (BMPs) required at many sites. BMPs help minimize runoff that can ultimately allow contaminants to enter the surface water and groundwater. We can help keep clients in compliance by designing a Best Management Practices program, obtaining the necessary permits, and performing the required monitoring to help maintain compliance.
Our team has the personnel, tools and experience needed to help you develop a solution to solve your on-site challenges. If you have questions or are looking for project assistance, contact our team.
Some wastewater treatment facilities operate with an in-house facility management staff, but many other facilities do not have the resources to employ an experienced team to operate their wastewater treatment system. In these situations, it can be beneficial to consult with an environmental engineering firm with a certified wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) operator to develop optimized processes and recommendations to achieve regulatory compliance.
McFadden Engineering’s certified Grade IV Wastewater Treatment Plant Operator, Jimmy Wiggins, discusses the firm’s consultation process and benefits:
Q: What kind of wastewater treatment facilities often need assistance from a certified WWTP operator?
A: We do a lot of work with smaller and rural municipalities, water boards and other organizations that might have a facilities team, but not a dedicated wastewater treatment plant operator. Many times our clients employ an operator who doesn’t have much experience and works alone or with a very small team. We have worked with organizations of all sizes and operators of varying experience levels.
Q:When is the right time to reach out to a consulting engineering firm?
A: A process upset in the plant that cannot be resolved in house with routine corrective actions; a process is being altered or upgraded; compliance issues; applying for new discharge permits; new process equipment is being purchased and installed – each of these is a situation in which an experienced engineering firm can provide guidance. Sometimes all it takes is a sit-down discussion to answer questions, but other times an engineering firm can develop drawings, communicate with vendors, review equipment submittals and more to assist the in-house operator.
Q: What would be the first steps you would recommend to a non-compliant WWTP to help them recover?
A: The first step is to reach out to an environmental engineering firm with a certified WWTP Operator to perform a site assessment. A firm like this can make recommendations to help the plant reach recovery, which could range from mechanical and process control issues to laboratory procedures. A list of priorities can be developed to determine what issues to tackle first. Usually it starts by getting a handle on biological and lab data, then focusing on the mechanical components of the process. Additionally, recovery could include additional training for the facility’s operator and staff. It’s important to understand that when dealing with biological processes it can take time to make adjustments and corrections in order to see results.
Q: As an operator, what do you look for when initially assessing a treatment system?
A: As an operator, the first thing I want to evaluate is the lab data. This will give us a pretty good idea of how the plant is processing the wastewater. This includes monthly reporting to agencies and daily lab data if available. In addition, maintenance logs and equipment history are usually very helpful in evaluating issues. It’s important to observe the appearance and odor of the wastewater in all the processes. I also try to take a few hours with the senior operator on-site to walk through the entire process and ask questions.
Q: How important is an operation and maintenance program to the overall performance of a wastewater treatment facility?
A: Without a detailed and working maintenance program to guide the operator daily by outlining the mechanical needs within the plant, the operator could be set up for failure. All WWTP equipment should be maintained on a routine basis to add life and functionality. There are multiple free and low-cost software that can track these needs. It can be time consuming up front, but in the long run an ongoing maintenance program will allow the operator to have a better handle on equipment status, the treatment process, and avoiding issues later.
Q: What are some simple things owners can do to extend the life of mechanical equipment at a treatment plant?
A: Establish a user-friendly maintenance program using the equipment manufacturer recommendations. We recommend assigning one operator to take ownership and verify all maintenance is performed correctly, on time and that a record is kept of the activities. Routine maintenance is key, as is paying attention to the simple things – greasing bearings, checking belt tensions, changing oil and maintaining oil levels, etc. All these things can extend the life of equipment. Good housekeeping and keeping the facility clean and organized is just as important, too.
Q: What are some safety guidelines for treatment plants?
A: WWTPs can be dangerous if operators and staff are not trained properly. First, chemical training is important, as hazardous materials like chlorine and sulfur dioxide are commonly used and should be handled properly. Otherwise, it’s important to follow common sense. For instance, I always ask a new operator if they can swim. Additionally, any body of water should have a fence or barrier to prevent falls and life rings to prevent drowning. I also recommend operators employ the “buddy system” when possible. Always use the three-point rule when climbing stairs and ladders, and only allow certified personnel to work on electrical components. I also recommend that full safety training be performed by a certified trainer to all operators and staff. All training should be documented.
Q: What does McFadden Engineering offer when it comes to consulting on WWTP operations?
A: Our team of wastewater treatment experts have more than 100 years of combined experience and have been exposed to many issues and problems that individual facility operators likely have not encountered. We’re here to help operators as an ally – to solve unique problems and provide training to give them the comfort level to work confidently within their facility. We take pride in both problem solving and building operator confidence through training and expert guidance.
For more information about McFadden Engineering’s Facility Management and Operations services, click here or contact our team.
Beverly Lowery is a native of Biloxi, MS who fell in love with Mobile while obtaining her undergraduate degree in geology at The University of South Alabama. After graduating with her master’s degree in environmental science from The University of West Florida in August of 2018, she moved back to make Mobile her new home. She worked briefly at Energy Technical Services as an environmental lab technician before coming to work at McFadden Engineering. Before going back to school for her geology and environmental science degrees, she worked as an accountant for five years in Biloxi, Mississippi.
What led you to go back to school to study geology?
I had always wanted to be a geologist since I was a little girl. I started working when I was 14 and just naturally fell into the management and accounting field, but after getting my associates degree and working in the field for five years, I felt unsatisfied. I still longed to live out my dream of becoming a geologist, so I made the decision to go back and get my geology degree. I crave knowledge and enjoy learning, so going back to school to study what I love was an honor that I gave to myself. While obtaining my undergraduate degree, I became fascinated with researching natural ways to remediate polluted water. This led to me attending The University of West Florida where I got to research and create a water filter made out of biosolids biochar, while working at the university as an instructor and obtaining my graduate degree.
What attracted you to McFadden Engineering?
I first heard of McFadden Engineering when I attended a Partners for Environmental Progress breakfast that they sponsored. During this breakfast, McFadden Vice President Brad Newton got up to give a brief speech before the main guest went on. He talked about the company and their invention of the OxyShark® Water Reclamation System and when he went to sit down, I remember thinking “no wait, keep talking.”
Later a professor from UWF emailed me about an opening at the company and I knew I had to apply. I loved working at an analytical lab and testing water for various analytes, but I wanted to be part of the solution for improving water quality and eliminating excesses in these analytes that can be harmful to the environment. I felt that working for McFadden Engineering would allow me to use my skills and knowledge to better insure a safe and healthy environment.
What do you like most about being part of McFadden Engineering?
Honestly, everything, but mainly the people I work with. Being part of a great team that works together to solve environmental issues where everybody’s ideas and work comes together to form this wonderful solution, is incredible. I’m also learning a lot from everyone here and growing as an environmental geologist.