Category Archive: Industry News

ONE Principals Part of DEQ Technical Advisory Committee Implementing a TMDL for PCBs

Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) aren’t a new concern. These persistent organic pollutants do not break down easily and linger in the environment for extended periods of time.

ONE Environmental Group Principals Kerry McAvoy and Jeff Duncan are part of a new Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) that will implement TMDLs — Total Maximum Daily Loads or cleanup plans — for PCBs.

The intentional production of PCBs was banned by the Environmental Protection Agency in the late 1970s, but once bottom dwellers absorb the material, PCBs aren’t easily excreted and the food chain is affected. They make their way into the tissues of aquatic animals, including fish, and can invade human digestive, neurological, and reproductive systems when people consume fish. Another growing body of research suggests that PCBs can be produced unintentionally through certain industrial processes – such as pigment production used in paints and inks.

These more recently created PCBs, along with PCBs produced in the past, continue cycling through the environment today. That’s the major reason why Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is implementing a TMDL — the calculation of the maximum amount of a pollutant allowed to enter a waterbody so that the waterbody will meet and continue to meet water quality standards for that particular pollutant.

In representing Virginia Manufacturing Association (VMA) on the TAC, McAvoy and Duncan will focus on two sets of waterways:

  • What’s known as the upper James River, which includes 13 miles of the Jackson River, 17 miles of the Maury River and 182 miles of the James River. Since 2004, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) issued fish consumption advisories on portions of the Maury and James rivers based on the high levels of PCBs that DEQ monitoring revealed in fish tissue.  DEQ began collecting fish tissue in state waters in 1993. The initial elevated fish tissue PCB levels resulted VDH issuing fish consumption advisories, which grew in number and size as more data was collected through following years of monitoring.
  • What’s known as the Tidal James or the lower part of the James River and the Elizabeth River. Fish tissue monitoring began on the Elizabeth River in 1993, and in the tidal James River and tributaries in the following years. In 2004, the VDH issued a fish consumption advisory for the Elizabeth River, the tidal James River and its tidal tributaries. Water quality monitoring to support the development of a cleanup plan began in 2009, with around 275 water column and sediment samples collected. Data from this monitoring effort allowed for an assessment of PCB sources and also identified additional PCB hotspots in six tributaries.

McAvoy and Duncan are the eyes and ears for their clients and stewards of the environment for what promises to be a lengthy, ongoing process.

“We’re participating in the public meetings, noting the questions and comments, and compiling any input that our clients in the VMA want to submit to the DEQ,” McAvoy said. Public input from a wide variety of stakeholders throughout the TMDL development process is integral to ensure that the final outcomes are reasonable, realistic, and reflect local insight.

Municipalities Encouraged to Apply for a VBAF Grant to Revitalize Brownfields

Grant funds are available to transform your brownfield into an economically viable property.

FY21 applications are available from the Virginia Brownfields Restoration and Economic Redevelopment Assistance Fund Review Committee, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and Virginia Economic Development Partnership.

The deadline to apply is April 1, 2021. Find the application here. Awards are expected to be announced in May 2021.

Jeff Duncan, Principal at ONE Environmental Group with offices located throughout the Commonwealth, encourages municipalities, eligible for awards up to $500,000, to apply.

“If you have a property in need of assessment or planning or if you want to remediate the site, these funds could be just what is needed to support revitalization,” he said.

Grants help fill a financing gap for projects or phases of work for restoration and redevelopment of brownfield sites as well as address environmental problems or obstacles to reuse so that these sites can be effectively marketed to new economic development prospects that have not already commenced.

Virginia Brownfields Restoration and Economic (VBAF) Site Assessment and Planning Grants, in amounts of up to $50,000, are available to assist with the costs of:

  • Environmental and cultural resource site assessments.
  • Development of remediation and reuse plans. 
  • Necessary removal of human remains, the appropriate treatment of grave sites, and the appropriate and necessary treatment of significant archaeological resources, or the stabilization or restoration of structures listed on or eligible for the Virginia Historic Landmarks Register.
  • Demolition and removal of existing structures, or other site work necessary to make a site or certain real property usable for new economic development.

VBAF grants do not reimburse costs already incurred for a project or phase of work that has begun or is already completed.

Remediation grant funds, in the amounts of up to $500,000 can be used for:

  • Remediation of a contaminated property to remove hazardous substances, hazardous wastes, or solid wastes.
  • Necessary removal of human remains, the appropriate treatment of grave sites, and the appropriate and necessary treatment of significant archaeological resources, or the stabilization or restoration of structures listed on or eligible for the Virginia Historic Landmarks Register
  • Demolition and removal of existing structures, or other site work necessary to make a site or certain real property usable for new economic development.

Duncan said ONE recently completed a successful project for the Parks and Recreation Department of a municipality in the west-central portion of the state. ONE assisted with the application and obtaining grant funds to complete assessment and remediation work to obtain a Certificate of Satisfactory Completion within the DEQ Voluntary Remediation Program (VRP). The property was remediated to render the property available for future recreational use by the Department.

The grants are coordinated, administered and awarded by DEQ and VEDP.

Duncan can answer questions about the application and help with its completion. Contact him at .

Due Diligence Through Phase I ESAs

The land you’re eyeing for your next acquisition might look perfect, but remember your due diligence.

While it’s easy to see what’s there now, it’s certainly not obvious for almost any buyer to know what the land looked like 10, 20 or even 50 years ago. There might be no trace of a former business that could be responsible for contamination migrating from a neighboring property or previous hazardous substance storage.

That’s where ONE Environmental Group comes in to help.

Jeff Duncan, Principal from ONE Environmental Group, recently completed Phase I Environmental Site Assessments (ESAs), the main component of environmental due diligence, on a couple tracts of land that were approximately 2 acres each in the Williamsburg, VA area. Only this was something of a special project. Habitat for Humanity Peninsula and Greater Williamsburg was the client.

The nonprofit acquires land to develop homes for low-income families. The tracts of land located in Williamsburg will hold the future homes of families who have never owned a home because of their lower income.

“I certainly took it to heart,” Duncan said. “We know their cause, and it’s a great one. We are fortunately in a position to complete the effort at a very cost-effective rate.”

Habitat for Humanity home at 123 Forest Heights Road in Williamsburg Wednesday February 17, 2021.

There was a time when a Phase I ESA involved trips to obtain historic information at sources such as Virginia Department of Transportation’s Richmond headquarters to examine historical aerial photographs and topographic maps of the property.

“Their hardcopy files were stored in large rotating storage systems and you’d have to locate the necessary age ranges of the aerials needed and make copies,” Duncan said. “You’d have to go to the public library to pull and copy city directories.”

Today’s online environmental database sources provide a more precise record in addition to removing the logistics. Duncan ordered environmental database reports that included all the regulatory recordings compiled by the Department of Environmental Quality, the Environmental Protection Agency as well as other regulatory and informational sources.

“If there’s ever been a spill or a leaking petroleum tank, they are usually found in the regulatory databases,” he said.

Reports can be hundreds of pages; Duncan sifts through all of the material looking for red flags. Sending out Freedom of Information Act requests to city and county entities, including fire, planning and health departments, is an additional step.

One of the final steps — a site reconnaissance — remains an important one. Even in the era of computerized reports, Duncan left his Tidewater office to walk the land himself.

Front bedroom of the Habitat for Humanity home at 123 Forest Heights Road in Williamsburg Wednesday February 17, 2021.

“I look for anything that is an environmental concern — vent pipes, storage tanks, soil staining and/or stressed vegetation — to name a few” he said.

Ultimately the user of the report, in this case Habitat for Humanity, would qualify for innocent land owner defense if needed since a qualified Environmental Professional has performed a Phase I ESA following current American Society for Testing Materials (ASTM) guidelines. A Phase I must be completed within six months of closing.

Duncan did not find any Recognized Environmental Concerns (RECs) during his assessment. That means the Habitat crew can begin laying the foundation for what will be lucky homeowner’s future houses and backyards.

Moved by the Habitat for Humanity Peninsula and Greater Williamsburg mission? Visit them online at HabitatPGW.org to learn more and support their work.

dog and cat play together. cat and dog lying outside in the yard

3 Clients, 3 Sets of Needs — ONE Solution

Drew Lucas calls it a unique juggle.

Converting the property that housed a Triad brewery for 37 years into a multimillion dollar pet food company has allowed the Senior Project Manager from ONE Environmental Group to wear various hats for multiple clients.

His success speaks to one of the core values of ONE — relationships matter.

“Our goal is to best support our clients,” he said. “I’m on my third new set of relationships with this project, and after communicating with the client, I learn what they need and then make it happen.”

Nestlé Purina Petcare will open a $450 million, 1.3-million square-foot cat and dog food factory in Eden, North Carolina, next year, which will bring hundreds of jobs and the largest capital investment to Rockingham County in its history.

ONE has been instrumental in every facet of the project. Lucas and former tenant MillerCoors enjoyed a lasting professional relationship that started long before the brewery closed the plant in 2016.

“I have been involved with MillerCoors as a contractor/consultant at multiple sites for years and years and years,” Lucas said. “When they decided to shut down the Eden, North Carolina, brewery, ONE Environmental won the contract agreement to complete the environmental closure.”

Lucas spearheaded the year-long undertaking for ONE in consultation with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality. The task list included cleaning out the tanks, wastewater plant lagoons, the sewer systems and pipelines. Abandoned wells had to be closed, grouted and capped in compliance within regulatory guidelines. The mega operation called for bringing in vacuum trucks, dredges and presses and even draining a lake that had turned into a liability.

“We restored the lake to its original stream bed from back before they ever dammed it up,” Lucas said. “We even had to hire a wildlife biologist to protect and relocate the fish.”

The fish were relocated to their natural habitat.

“It looks great now and it’s restored and operating as it should,” Lucas said. “MillerCoors is happy, the state’s happy and the new owners are happy.”

Once environmental cleanup concluded, ONEl transitioned into a new role — what Lucas calls “maintenance phase.” Stormwater and air permits had to be maintained just as if the facility was still operational.

Of course, the brewery that previously produced nine million barrels a year of beer had to be gutted, a mammoth process that involved dozens of other breweries flying in to tag the equipment they wanted.

“We had 20,000 line items of equipment and materials to ship out of this mega brewery,” Lucas said. “That took almost a year.”

Lucas then partnered with MillerCoors to market the facility while continuing the property management phase. Even the smallest details — making sure the grass was regularly cut — fell under his supervision.

Greensboro-based D.H. Griffin, a demolition and site development company, bought the property and kept ONE aboard as both an environmental consultant and property manager. Multiple buyers expressed interest and sent commercial real estate brokers to Eden to tour the facility.

“From electric cars to mattresses to German food — I met all types of people from companies that wanted to expand,” Lucas said.

Then COVID-19 hit. A reluctance to travel brought progress to a halt until Lucas received a call that an anonymous company was expressing interest.

Lucas got creative in an effort to showcase the property’s features. In preparation for a virtual tour with the potential buyer, he hired a buddy of his who had been laid off due to the pandemic. His friend owned a drone.

Having the drone fly over the 1,600 acre property meant the buyer could get a full overview and ask questions along the way. Lucas narrated the two-hour virtual tour, and almost as soon as it was over, the company asked to see the site in person.

That started a series of visits, all following COVID-safe protocols, from St. Louis-based Nestlé Purina PetCare. Its engineers regularly flew out on Wednesday mornings and returned that same evening.

“We were able to support our client, D.H. Griffin, and give them everything they needed along the way,” Lucas said.

On Sept. 30, 2020, Purina purchased the property.

“My client was ecstatic.,” Lucas said. “I was ecstatic, thrilled, especially to be able to help a client in my hometown. When the brewery closed, that was 550 jobs overnight gone and probably another 500 with it with the ancillary businesses also impacted.”

Purina plans to initially hire 300 employees and the company’s capital improvement plan calls for further expansion in Eden.

Now Lucas works with Purina supporting its general contractor to secure all the proper permits for construction. He is also continuing ONE’s property maintenance role.

“The Purina folks have already moved in a dozen people, so we have this live active building with people coming to work and we have this $450 million construction going on,” Lucas said.

The facility, deemed “a game-changer” for the local economy by government officials, will be operational in 2022 and fully staffed by 2024.

The Team Effort to Delist the Jackson River

Freshwater fish are flourishing in the Jackson River, a major tributary of the James. After two years of exhaustive data collection, an 11.36-mile stretch of the river is on its way to being delisted from EPA’s list of impaired waterways.

As rewarding as this is from an environmental perspective, the unique effort that made it happen reflects the beneficial results that occur when public and private sector entities partner together for a cause.

“It was a team effort between an industrial facility and a state agency working together,” said Kerry McAvoy, Principal at ONE Environmental Group. “This work involved three different organizations collaborating toward the same collective goal. I really enjoyed seeing that happen.”

This portion of the river south of Covington was listed on Virginia’s 303(d) list for not supporting the Aquatic Life Use standard due to dissolved oxygen levels. The low dissolved oxygen levels impacted fish and subaquatic vegetation, both of which were unable to thrive due to the conditions.

The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, in conjunction with an industrial facility, took a proactive approach for this project.  ONE came aboard to provide assistance with water quality monitoring and the ensuing data analysis to ensure that oxygen levels had improved enough to request the river be removed from the list of impaired waterways.  That meant ONE consultants Jamison Clarke and Amanda Leonard visited the site in the western part of Virginia three times a week for roughly three months during the fall seasons of 2019 and 2020.

While collecting samples from the banks would have been easier, they plunged knee deep into the river for optimum results along with McAvoy.

“We suspended our monitoring equipment off the sides of bridges in areas where wading was not possible,” McAvoy said. “To get the best sample, you have to be in the middle third of the river where water is flowing properly.”

Water tends to be more stagnant and pools in areas along the riverbank, which would not provide a representative sample.

The stunning scenery made for a good day at the office.

“The river is absolutely beautiful,” McAvoy said. “It’s gorgeous and offers some of the best flyfishing in the country.” 

Clarke, can attest to the improvements that have been made in the river’s ecosystem based on the number of fish he caught and the countless sightings of beavers and river otters while sampling on the river.

It takes years to officially delist an impaired waterway, but McAvoy said that in the next few years, she hopes this stretch of the Jackson River will no longer be on the 303(d) list for dissolved oxygen impairment.

Protecting the Fish Communities in the James River

Many of the nation’s industrial systems rely on surface water to cool their equipment — a process that results in billions of gallons of cooling water per day being withdrawn from waterbodies, the James River included.

A provision of the Clean Water Act authorizes the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate these cooling water intake structures (CWISs) to minimize fish impingement and entrainment.

ONE Environmental Group Principal Kerry McAvoy collaborated on a fish impingement study on the lower part of the James River over a six-month period.

It’s critical for industry to be in compliance with the EPA requirements in place to protect the fish communities and the waterbody.

“We researched which fish are expected to be in the area, what their swim speeds are, where they spawn, and other ecological parameters to determine the risk of impingement,” she says.

Notably in the James River, the Atlantic sturgeon, a federally endangered species, was a primary concern. Fortunately, due to the size and power of these fish, the likelihood of them succumbing to the velocity from the intake structure is unlikely.

The process fascinated McAvoy, excited to examine fish behavior using underwater acoustic cameras that operate similar to sonar. Essentially, the state-of-the-art technology offered a firsthand glimpse of fish activity around the CWIS to determine if fish were actually being impacted or impinged and if so, how frequently. McAvoy also investigated the benthic habitat of the area, taking note of any biological and ecological stressors.

“The facility we were studying had an abundance of fish activity in the area and very little impingement which shows that there is minimal impact to the fish community from the facility’s surface water withdraw” McAvoy says.

McAvoy was able to witness some intriguing moments throughout the study—including a compelling interaction between fish in which a juvenile fish outsmarted a larger predatory fish.

To determine impingement rates, ONE employee, Jamison Clarke was on site twice a week for a 6-month period to observe and record debris and organisms that are impinged on the traveling screens and the corresponding water quality parameters.  While field work never gets old for the ONE team, it did get hot for this project. The team baked in the Virginia heat on the river during the height of the summer.  “The river is stressed during the hottest part of the year,” she says. “That is also when facilities have to draw the highest volumes of water to cool their industrial processes.”

For two full July days when temperatures soared on the James, the team completed benthic sampling to identify the macroinvertebrate and vegetative communities in the area. They coupled that with a site-specific bathymetric survey and velocity profiling to generate images displaying the topographical features of the river bottom and the spatial velocity profiles in the area of influence of the CWIS.

McAvoy looks forward to more impingement and fisheries biology projects.

“This work is important because these regulations are protective of the water and the fish communities that live there,” she says. “It’s important for facilities that use our natural resources use them responsibly.”