In July 2017, Water & Environmental Technologies (WET) merged with Bozeman engineering consultants Nicklin Earth & Water (NE&W). NE&W has been in business in Bozeman since 1995 offering professional environmental, hydrologic, and Bozeman engineering services to clients in the region. NE&W is known for performing environmental investigations and developing remedial alternatives for the Bozeman Solvent […]
Spurred by the release of 1.1 billion gallons of coal ash slurry from a surface impoundment at the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Kingston, TN plant, the EPA proposed two regulatory options in 2010 to address potential risks to human health and the environment from the mismanagement of Coal Combustion Residuals (CCR).
The two regulatory options were structured separately, one under RCRA Subtitle C and the other under RCRA Subtitle D. The Subtitle C regulation proposed to categorize CCR as a hazardous waste, and require CCR generators to dispose of it as such. The Subtitle D regulation proposed to establish national standards for landfills and surface impoundments that receive CCR while maintaining them under a solid waste categorization.
In 2015, Coal-Fired Power Plants supplied approximately 33% of U.S. electric power.
The United States possesses more recoverable coal reserves than any other country in the world. Of the U.S. endowment, some of the cleanest and most accessible reserves are found in the Rocky Mountain and Great Plains Region, characterized by subbituminous low-sulfur deposits that lie in thick, near-surface beds, offering substantially greater ease of access than Appalachian coal.
The Powder River Basin in Wyoming and Montana alone contributed over 40% of coal mined in the U.S. in 2011. Rocky Mountain and Great Plains coal deposits, comprised of the Power River Basin deposit, along with similar deposits in Montana, North Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado, and Utah, account for nearly 50% of U.S. coal reserves.
According to the 2015 U.S. Annual Coal Report published by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, surface coal mining operations, located predominantly in the aforementioned region, provided between 26,000 and 37,000 U.S. jobs.
Not only do Rocky Mountain and Great Plains coal reserves include a valuable portion of U.S. natural resources, but they also supply a significant percentage of U.S. energy and numerous jobs. Amidst a rebounding U.S. job market and economy, these resources and job numbers mean a great deal.
Mismanaged Coal Combustion Residuals (CCR) can pose a widespread threat to human health and the environment.
Coal ash, produced from the combustion of coal for power generation, contains elements such as arsenic, cadmium, and mercury. Although these heavy metals are naturally occurring elements found throughout the earth’s crust, mismanaging high-level concentrations, typically of anthropogenic origin, can easily contaminate groundwater, surface water, and the air.
Arsenic, cadmium, and mercury exposure, even at low levels, has been linked to multiple-organ systemic damage. Additionally, all three are either known or probable human carcinogenic (cancer-causing) agents. Consequently, attentive handling and disposal practices are essential to the mitigation of potential health and environmental risks.
In December of 2014, after eight public hearings and countless public comments, the “Final Rule: Disposal of Coal Combustion Residuals from Electric Utilities” proposed under RCRA Subtitle D, was signed. This new set of standards was entered in to the Federal Register on April 17, 2015.
The Final Rule established technical site requirements for both new and existing CCR landfills and surface impoundments to address the primary risks associated with the storage and disposal of coal combustion residuals. These technical requirements address several components:
- Reducing the Risk of Catastrophic Failure
- Protecting Groundwater
- Operating Criteria
- Record Keeping, Notification, and Internet Posting
- Inactive Units
- State Programs
- Beneficial Use
Although the more lenient of the two EPA-proposed regulations was used to structure the Final Rule, the technical requirements are stringent, and call for closure of any units that are noncompliant.
To effectively and economically utilize our valuable coal reserves while protecting human health, the environment and our job economy, strategic planning and careful attention to detail is imperative during every step in the process. From well-structured permitting to deliberate design and rigorous monitoring, every detail is vital.
The Final Rule: Disposal of Coal Combustion Residuals from Electric Utilities can be found here:
A summarized Fact Sheet for the Final Rule on Disposal of Coal Combustion Residuals from Electric Utilities can be found here:
WET’s permitting, environmental, and engineering team has extensive experience dealing with responsible CCR management at large coal-fired power plants; including landfill and surface impoundment permitting, well installation and monitoring, and periodic reporting.
Contact our team to ensure that all projects:
- Undergo proper evaluation early in the permitting process
- Are designed efficiently and economically
- Maintain high environmental standards throughout the duration of the project
As many UAS (Unmanned Aerial System) enthusiasts are well aware, 14 CFR Part 107 (the small UAS rule) went into effect on August 29th. The much anticipated rule hopefully simplifies things for commercial UAS users. As part of this rule, UAS operators (now called Remote Pilots) are required to pass a knowledge test administered by the FAA. In many ways, this knowledge test is similar to the test that manned aircraft student pilots are required to pass in order to receive their pilot certificates. A few of the knowledge areas included on the test include: The Part 107 rule, airspace classification (this is a big one!), weather, emergency procedures, aeronautical decision making, reading a VFR chart, and airport operations. Unless you have pre-existing aeronautical knowledge, you definitely want to study up or you may be sweating during the exam!
The FAA’s study guide is a good resource to start your studying.
WET has multiple employees that have passed the Part 107 knowledge exam and hold remote pilot airman certificates with a small UAS rating. This enables WET to continue to legally provide commercial UAS services to its diverse client base across the Northwest. Prior to Part 107, WET commercially flew UAS under the rules of an FAA 333 Exemption. With the implementation of Part 107, the 333 exemptions are still valid and commercial UAS users can legally fly under Part 107 or the 333 exemption. However, you can’t mix and match requirements from both.
Some noteworthy provisions of the Part 107 rule include: maximum altitude of 400 AGL, operations within controlled airspace require Air Traffic Control permission, and operating a UAS from a moving vehicle is permitted but only in sparsely populated areas (and the operator can’t be driving the vehicle). Part 107 still requires remote pilots to maintain visual line of sight (VLOS) at all times, however this is a waivable regulation. So, perhaps Amazon will be using UAS to deliver boxes to our houses sooner than we think!
Since entering the UAS market, WET has established itself as a premier provider of UAS services in Montana and the Rocky Mountain region. WET has completed a variety of projects involving UAS data collection including: stockpile volume surveys, topographic surveys (used for site development, engineering design, environmental permitting, landfill life expectancy, etc.), open pit mine planning surveys, vegetation and weed mapping, and stream temperature mapping. WET currently owns two Sensefly eBees and a DJI Phantom multi-rotor platform. WET has access to multiple payloads for the eBees including RGB, NIR (great for vegetation mapping), thermal, and high definition video applications.
Contact WET today to learn more about specific applications and how a UAS survey/mapping project can bring value to your company.
WET contracted with a Montana county to assist them with 911 data collection and mapping. Recently, the county’s map book needed an update, as their current map book was produced using an extension that is no longer compatible with the latest version of ArcMap. WET developed a solution to use data driven pages (which is included with ArcMap) to produce a similar project without having to purchase an extension to ArcMap. We use data driven pages for many different projects in our organization, and ESRI’s online help is a great reference for getting to know how to use the data driven page tools in ArcMap. You can learn more about building map books with ArcGIS (here).
Here are the basics of making a map book with ArcMap
- Create a new base map with all the layers required for your map book.
- Choose a suitable layer to use as an index (we used townships for our map book), or use ArcMap’s Data Driven Pages tools from ArcToolbox to build your index.
- There are two options in the toolbox to have ArcMap build an index layer for you:
- Grid Index Features (builds a polygon index based on an area)
- Strip Map Index Features (builds a polygon index based on a linear feature)
- Once your index is created, use the data driven pages setup button and the data driven pages toolbar to enable data driven pages, define your index layer, name field, sort field, and optional rotation, spatial reference, and page number fields. Also, use the extent tab to choose your margin and scale.
- Now in your layout view, use the Insert > Dynamic Text > to insert Data Driven page attributes into your layout.
As mentioned earlier, we used section polygons for our index but the issue we had with this approach is that some areas had significantly more detail than others so it was necessary to divide the township polygons into sections to accommodate more details into the map. Some sections of the county have sparse population where it was sufficient to show the whole township for each page, but other areas needed to be split into 2 or 4 sections to accommodate additional details. Others have used parcel fabric tools to split the polygons into smaller sections, but the problem this option is that parcel fabric is not included in ArcMap basic. After some additional research, we discovered a python script for creating a fishnet that appeared to be just what was needed. After some testing and tweaking of the python script, we were able to divide by polygons! Here is a copy of the script:
This script is designed to run with a toolbox in ArcMap. To get it to work for you, simply create a toolbox, edit the variables in the script and run! Here is what our final output looks like.
Now on to printing map books!
To learn more about WET’s 911 mapping capabilities and other GIS services, call Jeff LeProwse at (406) 782-5220 or visit our website at www.waterenvtech.com/services/gis-consulting.
Storm water regulations go you down?
Feeling overwhelmed by all of the MPDES and SWPPP related paperwork?
You are not alone!
WET was recently asked by Montana Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) staff to participate in a stakeholders meeting for the renewal process of the Montana General Permit for Storm Water Discharges Associated with Construction Activity. At the meeting, WET and several other stakeholders were asked how the permit could be improved.
For those unfamiliar with the Montana Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (MPDES), here is a quick review:
- If construction activities disturb more than one-acre, permit coverage must be obtained. The permit submittal package includes a Notice of Intent (NOI), Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP), and the appropriate fee (based on project size).
- A SWPPP requires that all possible on-site pollutants be identified. Pollutants can include petroleum products, concrete washout, or sediment – That’s right sediment, also known as soil, mud, debris… (You know, the stuff that never wants to stay on site?).
- If your site has any of these pollutants, a Best Management Practice (BMP) must be implemented to prevent it from leaving the site. A BMP can be as simple as a vegetative buffer to a more complicated silt fence or rock check dam.
- Inspections must be conducted to ensure that BMPs are functioning correctly and to complete any required maintenance. Which is usually an invitation for a certain four-legged animal to take your silt fence completely out after you leave. Only in Montana, right?
So now you are wondering how MDEQ is going to make this process easier for us. MDEQ’s Lead Compliance Inspector, Chris Romankiewicz, was present to take feedback on permit issues. Many of the stakeholders asked that the permit be simplified as much as possible and to reduce the number of total pages. Chris’s response was to provide more checklists and reduce the about of required narrative text. This was well-received by everyone in attendance.
Identifying potential on-site pollutants can be difficult for companies new to the permitting process. MDEQ is hoping to remove some of the mystery by providing a list of typical substances and sources of common pollutants. A rule of thumb is if it has any chance of adversely affecting a state water, it is considered a pollutant.
MDEQ will be providing a list of recommended BMPs in the new permit as well. While MDEQ cannot specify which BMP to use in each situation, the list will provide a convenient reference for SWPPP preparers and contractors in the field.
MDEQ also introduced a graph system that will allow the preparer to designate different BMPs for each phase of construction. Utilizing phasing in construction is one of the most powerful tools to ensure compliance. As an example, concrete washout won’t be used if it is not installed before concrete is poured. BMPs should be provided prior to a pollutant being introduced, not later as a Band-Aid.
While some parts of the permit must remain unchanged to comply with Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) rules, overall the changes discussed would be a welcome improvement. WET is excited for the new permit release in 2017, and was pleased to be chosen as one of the initial stakeholders for the renewal process.
WET has always strived to maintain a positive working relationship with state and county regulators, and our staff works hard to keep permit requirements from postponing construction schedules for our clients. WET takes a practical approach to storm water management on construction sites, and our permitting staff has strong experience with both SWPPP preparation and BMP installation and maintenance. Please don’t hesitate to contact us for any of your permitting needs.
The Out of the Darkness Walks are proof that when people work together, they can make big changes in our world. Taking place in hundreds of cities around the U.S. each fall, these community walks raise awareness for an important cause, as well as the resources needed to carry out the mission of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) – to “Save Lives and Bring Hope to Those Affected.” To fully achieve its mission, AFSP engages in the following Five Core Strategies:
- Fund scientific research
- Offer educational programs for professionals
- Educate the public about mood disorders and suicide prevention
- Promote policies and legislation that impact suicide and prevention
- Provide programs and resources for survivors of suicide loss and people at risk, and involve them in the work of the Foundation
Currently, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. Statistics show that a person dies by suicide about every 12.3 minutes in the United States. That is approximately 117 Americans every day.
In 1994, I lost my sister to suicide. I know firsthand the devastation for families/friends after the loss of a loved one due to suicide. When news of the Out of the Darkness Walk came to Butte, I knew that this is where I needed to volunteer my time. My husband and I participated in the first Out of the Darkness Walk in Butte last year and this year, on September 11, 2016, Team Pam was formed in honor of my sister. With WET’s sponsorship of the team and the contributions and participation of many amazing individuals, Team Pam raised $1035.00 for the AFSP this year. In total, through this year’s walk, the Butte community raised $20,541 for this vital cause.
For more information about this charity, visit httpss://afsp.org/.
Odds are high that the “Montana Sage Grouse Habitat Conservation Program” strikes a familiar chord with anyone who has resided for more than a week in Montana. Amidst the Executive Orders, public commentary, and permitting maze is a topic worthy of a second look. Herein lies an integral symbiotic relationship between a brave avian species, characteristic big sky rangelands, and valuable energy resources that stimulate the heart of Montana’s economy.
Ultimately, the arid climatic and sedimentary-based geological environments that host some of Montana’s valuable energy deposits also retain key soil chemistry and structural components that promote healthy growth of Sagebrush. This unique species of evergreen offers foliage containing a high percentage of crude protein, as well as abundant thermal and visual protection, providing the ideal nourishment and nesting environment for the Greater Sage-Grouse. Addressing the concerns of one interest group while protecting the livelihood of another has become somewhat of a balancing act for the Montana State Legislature.
Significant Sage-Grouse population decline has raised concerns and triggered careful examination. The result has been nearly two decades of ongoing debate whether or not to add a Greater Sage-Grouse listing to the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
The recently implemented Montana Sage Grouse Habitat Conservation Program is mutually beneficial to Montana’s Wildlife, Environment, and Industry
“The quiet beauty of our state, the grandeur of our mountains, and the vastness of our rolling plains” is simply an excerpt of the preamble to the Montana Constitution, yet eloquently embodies a state deeply valued by its residents.
Not surprisingly, Montana’s residents take pride and ownership in all that our state has to offer, which fuels a driving force behind the desire to prevent a Sage Grouse listing on the Endangered Species Act. Although ESA provides safeguards for threatened species, it also contains a number of implications that would prove detrimental to the state of Montana overall. As the vast majority of Sage Grouse habitats are under private land ownership, should the Sage Grouse become listed, the hard-and-fast stipulations of ESA Section 7 (No-jeopardy consultation requirement) and ESA Section 9 (Take prohibition) would likely impede growth with respect to energy resource development. By effectively managing the problem at a state level, an ESA listing could be prevented, thus preserving the interests of all parties.
In 2015, the Legislature passed the Greater Sage Grouse Stewardship Act, and Governor Bullock signed Executive Orders 12-2015 and 21-2015, creating the Sage Grouse Habitat Conservation Program, and involving federal, state, and private entities in a concerted effort for Montana to retain state authority over land management while ensuring that a Sage Grouse listing will not be necessary.
~ Proactive management today safeguards growth potential for both wildlife and industry tomorrow. ~
The Montana Sage Grouse Habitat Conservation Program is a carefully engineered habitat management plan that protects wildlife without precluding development.
Specific details on the Montana Sage Grouse Habitat Conservation Program can be found at:
How can I contribute to the success of the management plan?
Understand the Management Plan Basics for guiding development in designated Sage Grouse Habitats
- Avoid impacts if possible
- Minimize impacts if they cannot be avoided
- Restore impacted areas
Know your project area – Is it within designated Sage Grouse Habitat?
- Core area (Leks, nesting areas, prime habitat areas)
- General habitat (important habitat areas)
- Connectivity area (areas that link Montana populations to habitats in other states and Canada)
Designated Sage Grouse Habitats and Requests for Project Review can be found at:
Contact WET’s permitting team to ensure that projects undergo proper evaluation early in the permitting process, in order to keep your development on schedule.
In 2014, WET created an Employee Stock Ownership Program (ESOP) and became an employee-owned company. The reason for this move was obvious: we have great people at WET who have dedicated their professional lives to our company and our clients, and we wanted them to share in the benefits of ownership. It was also a smart business decision: studies have shown that companies with ESOP’s grow at a faster rate than those without. A 2000 Rutgers study found that ESOP companies grow 2.3% to 2.4% faster after setting up their ESOP than would have been expected without it. Companies that combine employee ownership with employee workplace participation programs show even more substantial gains in performance. A 1986 NCEO study found that employee ownership firms that practice participative management grow 8% to 11% per year faster with their ownership plans than they would have without them.
Since our ESOP was formed, WET has grown from 28 to 44 employees, so needless to say we are believers in the benefits of employee-ownership. With employee growth has also come the ability to provide additional services to our clients. We have significantly expanded our engineering geoscience, and Civil 3D capacity, we have a licensed surveyor on staff, and we now provide UAV surveying. Exciting stuff!
Along with our ESOP we created a Communications Committee consisting of nine employees that meet regularly and keep employees educated on ESOP issues. We want all of our employees to wear their “owners hat” and bring new ideas to the table on how we can do things better. We proudly wear our “Employee Owner” stickers on our hard hats, and take our commitment seriously.
Overall, our firm has become a more tight-knit group that is working together to become more efficient, improve performance, and grow our business, which translates directly into increased value for our clients. We’ve also increased our commitment to serving the communities we live and work in by donating our time and money to charities and causes around Butte, Anaconda, and Great Falls. It’s a WIN-WIN for everyone!
Water & Environmental Technologies – Client and Community Dedicated, Employee Owned.
It’s getting to be that time of year! The Fall professional conference season is almost upon us. Here is a list of the conferences you can expect to see WET staff attending in the coming months, either as exhibitors, attendees, or both:
Montana Association of Counties Annual Conference – September 18-22nd at the Billings Hotel and Convention Center
We will have a booth set up at this conference. Please stop by to learn more about our services, including UAV surveying, engineering, permitting, and hear about the interesting projects we do for several counties around the State of Montana.
Montana League of Cities and Town – October 5-7th at the Missoula Hilton Garden Inn
We will have a booth set up at this conference as well. Come see us and ask about our services, especially storm water and sanitary sewer engineering, surveying, and permitting.
Montana AWRA – October 13-14th at Fairmont Hot Springs Resort
WET staff members will be in attendance at this conference, taking advantage of a wonderful opportunity to learn the latest in regards to Montana’s water resources.
We look forward to seeing many of our valued clients and colleagues this Fall at these various events. It is a great time of year for our company as these conferences present our staff with the opportunity to take a break from their desks or get out of the field to network and learn with the very people that drive the industries we work in.
Since its inception in 2000, WET has grown from a highly specialized group of groundwater professionals into a full-service environmental and engineering consulting firm with office locations in Butte, Anaconda, Bozeman, Great Falls, and Kalispell, Montana and Sheridan, Wyoming.