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.

Meet Kayla McMurray

From hiking to biking to sports, Kayla McMurray grew up enjoying everything about the outdoors. That made it only natural for the Christiansburg, Virginia, native to pursue a career protecting the environment.

Kayla is an Environmental Consultant in ONE Environmental Group’s Richmond office. While new to the company, she already feels at home.

“I can tell this is a tight knit group with the team here and they really care about what they do,” she says. “I’ve always valued relationships and like that they are an important aspect of the mission at ONE.”

Kayla will spend ample time away from her desk with responsibilities in due diligence, industrial hygiene, and sampling of stormwater and groundwater

Growing up 25 minutes from Blacksburg, Kayla didn’t stray too far for college, attending Virginia Tech. She earned a Bachelor of Environmental Science with a focus on Land Restoration and Management — a niche she discovered thanks to the influence of her great uncle, the Southwest Regional Director of Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.

During her time at Tech, Kayla discovered timber sports as a member of the Forestry Club.

“Knife throwing, ax throwing, sawing; we even went to LSU one year for a big tournament and we hosted one,” she says. “We did fundraising, and I was a big part of that.”

Kayla is rarely idle in her spare time. Her father introduced her to motorcycles, and she looks forward to planning her first long distance road trip. Despite her 5-foot-4 frame, Kayla is a longtime volleyball player. She looks forward to finding new trails to hike and kayak in Richmond while also making time for regular trips back to her hometown to visit family and friends.

city water purification top view

Tapping the Power of Continuous Digital Modeling for Industrial Lagoon Management

Lagoon systems are used by industrial operators to meet a variety of wastewater management requirements. But lagoons themselves must also be managed, both above and below the surface.

Conventional lagoon management and monitoring methods are highly manual and require significant coordination to get a comprehensive “as-is” representation of above ground and underwater features.

Recently, hydrographic survey capabilities have advanced greatly thanks to continuous digital 3D modeling technologies and techniques.

The ONE team has experience creating continuous digital 3D models of industrial lagoons that present a detailed view of the contoured terrain above and below lagoon water levels. These 3D models can be used to create a baseline for existing lagoon conditions, and periodic model updates can easily be made to detect changes in important metrics.

In addition, the 3D model interface can be accessed and shared online to support real-time collaboration across project teams. Unlike traditional methods that involve preparing figures with CAD software and emailing attachments that quickly become outdated, this method ensures team members have the most current information at their fingertips.

The ONE team recently put its continuous digital 3D modeling tools and expertise to work for one of the world’s leading manufacturers of wood products.

The project began with aerial mapping conducted with an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (commonly referred to as a drone). The aerial drone followed a prescribed flight pattern to achieve the specified ground sampling distance.

The mapping process then took to the water. A hydrographic survey of two client lagoons was performed using another type of drone – an unmanned surface vehicle (USV) or “drone boat.” The drone boat is equipped with state-of-the art technology such as: autonomous navigation (autonav) system, survey-grade Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS), Real-Time Kinematic (RTK) Receiver, and echosounder.

The drone boat’s autonav system provided precise control for the vessel to accurately follow prescribed grid patterns to detail lagoon terrain below the water surface. Manual measurements of sludge thickness at the bottom of the lagoons were collected along with surveyed ground control.

Georeferenced data collected from the drones were compiled and processed into 2D and 3D representations of the industrial lagoons. Ground control data were utilized to confirm the models were accurate and could be used for purposes such as:

  • Taking precise sludge volume measurements.
  • Calculating soil volumes needed to raise berms to specified elevations.
  • Identifying specific utilities that will be affected as proposed construction plans are considered.

Ultimately, by leveraging these new models facilitated by the ONE team, the client can complete a variety of important lagoon management tasks more efficiently, with less risk and greater accuracy.

Groundwater Collection

From Permits to Plans, ONE Keeps Industry Compliant with Stormwater Requirements

ONE Environmental Group offers a range of stormwater consulting services, which include assisting industrial clients with applying for a stormwater discharge permit, developing an ensuing stormwater prevention plan and ensuring all requirements are met to maintain compliance.

 The Clean Water Act established the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) program in 1972 to limit pollutant discharges from industrial facilities and prevent them from reaching streams, rivers and bays. In Virginia, the state’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) administers the Virginia Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (VPDES) program

Why is monitoring stormwater discharge a priority? ONE Principal Jeff Duncan likes to drive that point home during facility employee training, which  is one of the stormwater permit requirements. He will ask for a show of hands to these questions:

  • Who likes to fish in our rivers and the Chesapeake Bay
  • Who enjoys swimming, boating or recreating in these areas?

Who would want to do these activities in impaired or polluted water? While enforcement measures in the form of penalties and fines are in place, it’s important for employees to understand why a stormwater plan cannot be an overlooked priority.

Stormwater runoff, if not handled properly, can carry industrial pollutants, which are then discharged into the waterbodies where we swim, boat, fish or simply enjoy from the shore. Contaminants can impair waterbodies, degrade biological ecosystems and even affect drinking water sources.

“It really helps employees to hear what’s behind why we do what we do,” Duncan says. “In reality, we’re keeping stormwater clean from the facility because it leads to that ditch that leads to that river and ends up in the bay where we fish, swim or boat.”

Contaminants can range from oil, grease, and metals to toxic chemicals and debris. Essentially any discharge from an industrial facility can impact stormwater runoff, which has the potential to pollute the water. A transportation facility is going to be focused on the impact of Total Suspended Solids (TSS). A material recycling facility would add monitoring for metals.

Check your Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) code to determine if your facility needs an Industrial Stormwater Permit. This four-digit code is a descriptor of the kind of work being done at your facility. It’s up to the owner/operator of the facility to know if a permit is required; ONE can verify whether a permit is necessary.

“Many owners/operators aren’t aware they need a permit,” Duncan said. “If they purchased the facility from another operator and the previous operator never had a permit, it might not be on their radar.”

A facility that operates under roof without exposure to stormwater can apply for a no-exposure certificate, which will likely require a site visit from DEQ prior to approval.

ONE can handle each of the steps required to obtain and comply with the permit, starting with the development of a Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP). The plan specifies the party responsible for implementing the actions, lists best management practices and details monitoring requirements.

It’s imperative that best management practices are ongoing to ensure compliance continues. Once the permit is received, the process is ongoing, not over.

“We conduct facility inspections, monitoring and preparation of Discharge Monitoring Reports (DMRs),” Duncan said. “We are full service and can perform our services as an augmented staff member. We can implement the entire stormwater program.”

KEY STORMWATER CONSULTING CONTACTS: Jeff Duncan

Pressure gauge on the cylinder of the industrial refrigeration.

Assisting Industry with Refrigerant Reporting and Compliance

It’s not just good business to have a plan regarding refrigerant use — it’s the law. ONE Environmental can make sure your company complies with current regulatory requirements.

ONE Environmental Consultant Austen Meyer has expertise in this area and new regulations that went into effect in 2020.

Facilities must document and retain service and maintenance records for appliances containing refrigerants, depending on the unit type and refrigerant capacity. Often, facilities are unaware of the specific requirements (i.e., calculated leak rate, successful initial and follow-up verification tests, leak inspections, etc.) and inadvertently are not in compliance with the refrigerant regulations.

Facilities are also required to submit a report to EPA (due March 1st each year) for specific types of units, if in the calendar year 125% of the unit’s capacity is added to the appliance.

Refrigerants, specifically hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), fall under Section 608 of the EPA’s Clean Air Act. Facilities with units greater than 50 pounds that leak or are serviced with more than 125% of the unit’s capacity in the previous calendar year are subject to reporting requirements under the federal regulation found in 40 CFR 82.157. The latest update became law on April 10, 2020.

Units with refrigerants that contain 50 pounds or more of any Class I or Class II Ozone- Depleting Substances (ODS) fall into this category. One caveat, substitute refrigerants (R-410a) are now exempt from the recordkeeping and reporting requirements, so realistically only older units that contain R-22 or R-123 are subject to the March 1reporting deadline.

A leak rate must be calculated for any appliance that requires service.  Keeping strict records for these calculations is essential, and often, this is where missteps can occur, Meyer said. Facilities often rely on the servicing contractor to calculate the leak rate, whereas the responsibility falls on the owner/operator.

“The regulations can get a little confusing,” Meyer said, noting ONE can assist clients with knowing their responsibility and ensuring all necessary documentation is complete.

Performance and recordkeeping of verification tests are another compliance area often overlooked. There are two types of verification tests: the initial test that must be completed to make sure that repairs were successful before refrigerant is added back into the appliance and a follow-up verification test that must be completed within 30 days of the successful initial verification test.

Another troublesome area is leak inspection. If a leak exceeds a certain threshold, depending on the capacity and type of the unit, an inspection must be performed either annually or every three months.

“The leak inspection must be conducted by a certified technician, but the owner/operator must document that the inspection was completed,” Meyer said.

When ONE works with a new client, the first step involves a comprehensive review of the facility and an audit of their current refrigerants program to determine compliance with the applicable regulations.