Meeting the Challenge of Wastewater Management and Compliance with Confidence

The National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit program was created by the federal government under the Clean Water Act (CWA) in 1972. At its core, the purpose of NPDES is to help improve water quality by limiting water pollution at the source of discharge.

NPDES has a significant impact on thousands of facility owners, operators and other wastewater dischargers across the United States. Keeping up with the responsibilities and requirements of NPDES is no small task for any organization.

The program works at the state level, by giving states, tribes and territories permitting authority to enforce the federal NPDES rules and adding a few of their own.

From Federal to State: How Challenging Requirements Flow Downhill

For example, in Virginia, the NPDES is administered through the Virginia Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (VPDES) permit program. It mostly follows the federal regulations, but with additional state requirements, such as the need to meet water-quality-based effluent limits and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) notification requirement for unpermitted discharges or unusual discharges.

And for those identified as a “significant industrial user,” there are also local wastewater permits required in many localities and counties which can vary greatly from one region to the next.

Fortunately, ONE Environmental has developed vast expertise around the ins and outs of discharge elimination system requirements for clients in states such as Virginia, where the firm is especially skilled in VAR05, VAG84, VAN00, and VAR10 general permits.

Removing the Permitting Burden and Providing Compliance Peace of Mind

The ONE team can assist organizations of all sizes with wastewater compliance on a local and regional level. Our specialists can handle the permitting process from start to finish, including preparing permit applications, completing the required sampling for the application, and implementing the permit by performing ay required inspections, sampling, and discharge monitoring reports (DMRs).

When considering an environmental services provider, remember that wastewater management and stormwater management are each important pieces of the of NPDES puzzle, and ONE can help clients solve for both.

In fact, wastewater and stormwater permit renewal applications are a great opportunity for facilities to take a close look at their current permit and existing discharge limits, their facility operations, and any facility changes and consider if their permit continues to align with operations and is protective of water quality.

When Experience, Innovation and Focus Matters

ONE Environmental has earned a reputation for being technically sound and having a comprehensive grasp on the full spectrum of wastewater compliance regulations, as well as permitting process requirements.

The ONE team also prides itself in the way it closely examines each client’s facility operations and uses out-of-the-box thinking to ensure it receives the best permit possible for that location. The ONE approach involves examining each facility holistically, and from there determining which areas of their permit can be focused on and improved upon. 

In addition to being able to leverage years of experience to navigate the nuances of the permitting process, the ONE team thinks through the process, the data, the flows, the mapping, and any facility changes to ensure the application is fully tailored to the facility and will deliver the most favorable result.

ONE can help clients address wastewater and stormwater needs, as well as the full range of other complex environmental, health and safety compliance issues that go hand-in-hand with the planning, development, and operation of facility’s EH&S program.

Motion blur of water flowing in farm field waterway to ditch aft

The ONE Role in Erosion & Sediment Control

Construction sites engaging in land-disturbing activities must have an Erosion and Sediment Control Plan in place to minimize erosion and sediment pollution from the site.

Sediment pollution is one of the most common sources of pollution in our waterways with negative consequences for aquatic and plant species and other wildlife. When too much sediment reaches rivers, streams, lakes and ponds, increased turbidity inhibits growth of crucial aquatic vegetation and it can leave deposits that alter water flow, reduce water depth, and threaten important habitats.

ONE Environmental Group’s staff includes six erosion and sediment control inspectors certified by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (VDEQ) and the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT). Environmental Consultant Jamison Clarke is among them.

ONE’s recent work in erosion and sediment control has largely been at solar sites under construction in Virginia and North Carolina, as well as at mineral sands surface mines.

Businesses that do not meet compliance with these regulations risk a stop work order being put into place if the Erosion and Sediment Control Plan or Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP) is not being followed and there is a risk to natural resources.

ONE serves as third party auditor to ensure that nothing is overlooked that could lead to a potential violation.

For Clarke, that means boots on the ground for thorough weekly visits to the solar sites where construction continues. This entails examining the perimeter of the site, observing the control measures in place, and making sure they are operating correctly. Silt fence, for example, prevents sediment from running off the property, but if a rip, tear or hole damages the fencing, sediment can leave the property and pollute waterways.

Clarke also inspects sediment traps and basins that capture sediment-filled runoff water.

“We ensure that control measures are operating effectively and as intended in order to avoid any release of sediment from the site that can threaten our natural resources.”

Large scale storm events affect erosion and sediment control. During the wetter months, the challenges increase to keep erosion minimal.

“When we have heavy rain, erosion and sediment control is a top priority,” Clarke said. “That’s why it is crucial for us to make sure that control measures onsite are operating as intended so that the site is ready and able to handle the significant rainfall and runoff that these storms produce.”

Dry weather is another variable. Extremely dry conditions can produce excessive dust. Water trucks are needed to dampen the roads onsite to prevent sediment from becoming airborne.

Clarke’s weekly visits almost feel like hikes. “You see a good amount of wildlife,” he said. “You get some grueling exercise as well. I’ve had run-ins with turkeys, deer, otters and a fair amount of snakes. I keep snake gaiters around my legs in dense vegetation or along waterways.”

Clarke works closely with inspectors from different localities who make biweekly visits for their own inspection. Corrective actions are addressed prior to an official visit to prevent construction delays or other unintended consequences.

Pipe or tube for water sewer leading into the river.

New Wastewater Analysis Method Saves Money and Ensures Regulatory Compliance

Environmental media – from water supplies to wastewater and soil – can be put at risk by a multitude of compounds and materials that are often difficult to identify without careful analysis.

For facility operators, being able to effectively identify and manage these materials becomes very important in today’s regulatory environment. Remediation, treatment techniques, permit applicability and compliance with regulatory requirements all hinge on fully understanding what those compounds and materials are.

ONE Environmental Group has vast experience not only investigating and resolving the issues such materials present, but also developing brand new analytical methods in the lab that are helping clients address those issues with more speed and precision than ever before.

Some of these new methods are being incorporated into permit or plan requirements to overcome the limitations of traditional analytical methods.

Grit in Wastewater Method Saves the Day

For example, a facility operator recently turned to the ONE team for an analytical method that would help measure polymer beads in their wastewater stream. The original method required by a permit was inadequate and overstating the actual values, putting the client at risk of a $150,000 penalty.

The ONE team went to work investigating and managing the development of a new Grit in Wastewater Method. This novel and creative analytical approach enabled the client to successfully dispute the erroneous results of the traditional analytical method and implement a new, accurate and sensible method to show compliance going forward.

In addition to bringing the client back into permit compliance and avoiding penalties, the Grit in Wastewater Method also:

  • Lowered compliance costs for operating additional treatment systems.
  • Helped identify upstream process errors.
  • Reduced product loss and associated expenses.

The client’s relationship with regulatory agencies also improved thanks to the success of the new analytical method as a tool for effectively finalizing and verifying the status of facility compliance.

Comprehensive Portfolio of Investigative Approaches

The ONE team is also well versed in many other creative investigative approaches such as investigative microscopy, which can identify microscopic particles down to 8 microns in size. This powerful approach is used to identify unknowns and organic/inorganic substances. Particles may include fibers, contaminants, coatings, wastewater constituents or residues and build-up of polymers. Investigative microscopy can also be used for failure analysis.

Other types of microscopy and spectroscopy used by ONE Environmental Group to help clients calculate exactly what and how much is in their mediums include:

  • Stereomicroscopy
  • Polarized Light Microscopy (PLM)
  • Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM)
  • Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR) / FTIR Microscopy
  • Energy Dispersive Spectroscopy (EDS)

Methods such as instrumental wet chemistry testing are also used by ONE to qualitatively assess compound samples or to quantitatively measure the compound quantities in a given sample.

Selecting the right investigative approach for the job, ONE Environmental Group is able to help clients slash costs and confidently maintain regulatory compliance – bringing peace of mind during increasingly challenging times.

Technology background 3d rendering.

Today’s Reality Modeling Delivers Host of Benefits to Industrial Operators

Enterprises of all sizes use technology as a tool for boosting competitive advantage, increasing efficiency and meeting safety and regulatory compliance objectives. Reality modeling is just one such technology that ONE Environmental is using to deliver clients tremendous benefits in those areas and many more.

At its core, reality modeling is the process of capturing the existing conditions of a site by gathering information from a wide range of instruments and pre-existing data sources. Today’s 2D/3D modeling software applications can incorporate data from variety of sources including survey data unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) imagery, laser scanners and even smartphone cameras.

That real-world contextual data can be combined with data from pre-existing computer aided design (CAD) and building information modeling (BIM) project sources to inform critical decision-making processes.

ONE Environmental clients are implementing reality modeling in disciplines such as:

  • Operations & Maintenance
  • Design
  • Environmental compliance
  • Asset management
  • Visitor orientation training
  • New employee training
  • Specialized training for specific functions within the facility
  • Marketing

Reality models are especially effective, ONE Environmental has proven, to improve human performance and promote consistency in tasks involving daily compliance, O&M and safety, to name a few.

For example, models of an industrial facility can be easily accessed and used across multiple departments and can help ensure the use of current information. Rich 2D/3D visualizations can be shared online and viewed with everyday devices such as a PC, tablet or smart phone. Virtual reality wearables can also be used for some applications.

By sharing detailed information online, client teams can benefit from remote troubleshooting, safety enhancements and quality improvements while keeping costs low.

Following are just a few examples reality modeling use cases that the ONE team has supported with UAV mapping and modeling of industrial facilities.

  • Monitoring the integrity of landfill caps or detecting changes in other critical facilities.
  • Visualizing facility layouts and muster areas.
  • Detailing facility topography and areas of off-site discharge.
  • Promoting spatial analysis and best practices.

Other types of reality models are informed by UAV imagery and laser scans that produce colorized “point clouds,” using a single laser scan measurement to highlight a certain point. Scans are stitched together to create a complete scene. These techniques enable tasks such as:

  • Animating fly-throughs of colorized point clouds.
  • Using colorized point clouds to supplement drawings.
  • Creating visualizations that include photos, models and text.

UAV imagery and laser scanning is also a powerful way to perform inspection and inventory tasks. Clients are using these tools to enhance capabilities around:

  • Inspection and inventory of access ladders, stormwater drains and other items.
  • Keeping repair records of pumps, motors and other machinery.
  • Inventory of above-ground storage tanks (ASTs) and secondary containment vessels for spill prevention, control and countermeasure (SPCC) reporting.
  • Creating immersive illustrations for workforce training and discussion.

The possibilities are limitless. With reality modeling, the ONE team brings clients new opportunities to optimize workflows by taking advantage of real-world context and the power of visualization. Ultimately, this leading to accelerated decision-making, better regulatory compliance and a smarter, safer workforce.

Kudos to Emily Forbes, Now a Professional Engineer

Emily Forbes, a Project Manager at ONE Environmental Group, is now a Professional Engineer.

PE licensure is the engineering profession’s highest standard of competence. Forbes and Principal J. Rusty Field are ONE’s only Professional Engineers. Forbes is licensed in North Carolina, and Field in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and West Virginia.

“This license will allow ONE to expand our engineering services,” said Forbes, now able to sign and seal engineering documents, such as Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) Plans and various environmental remediation reports.

Forbes took the nontraditional route to become a PE, as she does not hold an engineering degree. She graduated from North Carolina University in 2013 with a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Technology and Management.

That meant she needed eight years of professional engineering experience in addition to passing the Fundamentals of Engineering exam and the Professional Engineering exam. The nights and weekends of studying paid off on July 15, 2021, when Forbes received a letter from the North Carolina Board of Examiners for Engineers and Surveyors acknowledging her as a PE.

“I was pretty excited, relieved, and proud of myself because I haven’t had a math class since my freshman year of college,” Forbes said. “It’s a big accomplishment that I toasted with champagne!”

Cooling tower for HVAC system with coils and fins on display wit

Boosting Safety and Compliance with Effective Water Management Planning and Legionella Monitoring

Legionella bacteria is a pathogenic group of gram-negative bacteria that grows naturally in the environment. In freshwater lakes, rivers, and streams, the bacteria is usually harmless to humans.

Things change, however, when Legionella bacteria enters and multiplies within water and plumbing systems, and the contaminated water becomes aerosolized. When legionella is inhaled at high enough levels, the bacteria can enter the lungs and cause one of the two forms of legionellosis, Legionnaires’ disease or Pontiac fever.

To be sure, chemicals get much of the focus from a water safety perspective these days, with plastics, pesticides and per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) at the top of the contaminants lists. But Legionella is still a serious microbiological public health problem when it is not properly monitored or managed. In the U.S., Legionella has become the leading cause of waterborne disease.

Elderly or immunocompromised people have a greater risk of contracting legionellosis, making it especially problematic in hospitals and other health care settings.

Good Water Management Planning Critical to Maintaining Healthcare Facility Certification

In order to cause legionellosis, Legionella bacteria must multiply in the water system before becoming aerosolized. This can happen in various ways as water moves through cooling towers, fountains or showers.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a memo in June 2017 requiring Medicare-certified healthcare facilities to reduce risks associated with Legionella and other waterborne pathogens in their building water systems. The memo outlines how Hospitals, Critical Access Hospitals, and Long-Term Care facilities must institute preventative measures to minimize the growth and transmission of Legionella to maintain certification. 

ONE Environmental Group has extensive experience performing industrial hygiene sampling and assessment services for large enterprises. This includes preparing comprehensive Water Management Plans for multiple hospitals and other healthcare facilities specifically designed to manage the risk of Legionella.

In addition to prevention, ONE also works with healthcare clients on risk analysis initiatives and emergency response planning in the event of positive test results. This critical planning provides staff clear direction on exactly what needs to happen if a water contamination incident occurs onsite. Plans designed by ONE Environmental Group satisfy the stringent requirements set forth by CMS.

The ONE team also helps hospitals monitor for Legionella by strategically collecting samples from water system locations determined in Water Management Plans as most likely to have Legionella. ONE has the samples analyzed by an Environmental Legionella Isolation Techniques Evaluation (ELITE) certified laboratory, ensuring that sampling processes meet standards set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). By partnering with ONE Environmental Group, healthcare leaders can develop robust water management planning and monitoring practices that keep patients safe while maintaining compliance with governmental regulations.