Author: Joe Ducharme

Joe is the Regional Manager for Hoyle, Tanner’s Municipal Engineering Services Group overseeing our civil, site, and environmental engineering staff. Joe’s experience spans 30 years and for the past decade has been in the role of Senior Engineer/Senior Project Manager on a variety of municipal infrastructure projects. Joe's technical expertise is with public infrastructure improvements, with a focus on water quality projects. Joe embraces his role developing and maintaining client relationships and managing staff to deliver successful projects to our clients.

PFAS Contamination in New Hampshire Drinking Water: What Our Water Quality Experts are Learning about this Emerging Contaminant

picture of a faucet in someone's kitchen pouring water into a sink to show drinking water contaminants

The whatTeal circle with "NH PFAS Sources" written on top and inside circle, text explaining where PFAS contaminants originate in NH

Perfluoroalkyl compounds (PFAS) are manmade chemicals that are characterized by very stable carbon chains that allow them to act as a strong repellent to oil, water, and stains from other liquids. These desirable properties mean they are found in hundreds of consumer products as well as in firefighting foams.

There are more than 1,000 forms of PFAS compounds that have different chemical makeups and properties and different levels of toxicity. To date, the most commonly found PFAS compounds are ‘perfluorooctanoic acid’ (PFOA) and ‘perfluorooctanesulfonic acid’ (PFOS).

These forms have long carbon chains, do not readily break down in the environment, are water soluble, and have been found in some New Hampshire groundwater supplies at elevated levels.

The why

The public health concern is for PFAS to be consumed, absorbed and accumulated in the body at toxic levels. Although more research is needed, initial scientific studies indicate that long-chain compounds like PFOA and PFOS may cause developmental effects in infants, interfere with the body’s natural hormones, increase cholesterol levels, affect the immune system and increase the risk of cancer. Scientists are still learning about the health effects of PFAS and their toxicity, though it is believed that the PFAS compounds having shorter carbon chains are potentially less toxic since they remain in the bloodstream for shorter periods of time.

Are these compounds in your public water supply?

The who

In 2017, EPA recommended PFAS levels they believed would not lead to toxicity while allowing states to consider more stringent levels for compounds of concern. The NH Department of Environmental Services (DES) has been working diligently on amendments to their drinking water rules to protect public health and the environment from PFAS in our drinking water. New rules were recently adopted that will affect every public water system in the State of New Hampshire.

The when

Last week, Hoyle, Tanner’s water quality experts attended the NH Drinking Water Exposition and Tradeshow learning about New Hampshire’s new PFAS limits. DES submitted amended public drinking water rules in July 2019 to the state legislature which voted in favor of the new standards. The new standards became effective on September 29, 2019 setting  the Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCL) in public drinking water for specific PFAS compounds as follows:

  1. PFHxS = 18 ppt
  2. PFNA = 11 ppt
  3. PFOS = 15 ppt
  4. PFOA = 12 ppt

The new rules require public water supplies to begin sampling and reporting levels of these four PFAS compounds beginning in the fourth quarter of 2019 (Oct-Dec) with continued quarterly sampling and reporting in 2020 and beyond. The regulatory thresholds will be based on a 4-quarter running average for each of the PFAS compounds with compliance indicated by a 4-quarter average that is less than the MCL for each compound.

By January 2020, DES will be submitting draft rules on PFAS in surface water to the New Hampshire legislature – more to come on this front!

The how

Proper sampling is critical to avoid contaminating samples. Many communities are not equipped to perform the sampling themselves and will rely on certified laboratories for proper sampling, analytical methods, and meeting the quarterly sampling and reporting schedule.

The DES Water Quality Experts

Hoyle, Tanner’s water quality engineers are committed to keeping at the forefront of emerging regulations and technologies to be able to better serve the communities where we live and work.  You may contact me, Joe Ducharme, Regional Manager of Environmental Services, at 603-669-5555, x-142 or email me with any questions or water quality needs – we are here to help!

What you need to know about New Hampshire’s Drinking Water

This summer, New Hampshire has made noteworthy steps in keeping our drinking water safe by enacting stricter Maximum Contamination Levels (MCLs) for contaminants of concern.  Regulations were approved lowering the regulated MCL for four ‘per’ and ‘poly’ fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) chemicals detected in NH drinking water, and the MCL for arsenic has been cut by half.

Arsenic Levels in our Drinking Water

Arsenic is a naturally occurring chemical element in groundwater and is a regulated inorganic compound for NH public drinking water supplies. NH adopted the federal maximum contaminant level (MCL) of 0.010 milligrams per liter (mg/l) many years ago. This July, the Governor signed a bill lowering the arsenic limit to 0.005 mg/l to further improve public health. NH public water supplies currently treating for arsenic will need to reevaluate their treatment systems to determine whether they meet the new MCL of 0.005 mg/l by the compliance deadline of July 2021.

Regulating PFAS in our Drinking Water

PFAS chemicals have been found in some New Hampshire drinking water sources. They include perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA) and perfluorohexanesulfonic acid (PFHxS).

Since the 1940s, these compounds have been steadily increasing in the environment, as they are used in a variety of household, industrial, and commercial products worldwide. Some common products containing PFAS chemicals include non-stick (Teflon) cookware, flame retardant foams, and food packaging, such as microwave popcorn bags and fast food wrappers.

Once in the environment, these chemicals do not break down easily and are known to accumulate in the human body over time. Research on these compounds is still limited, but the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) has identified health issues like decreases in fertility and vaccine response, increase in cholesterol levels, and evidence of carcinogenicity (specifically testicular and kidney cancer), as possible effects of excessive exposure to PFAS chemicals.

This July, the NH Joint Legislative Rules Committee (JLCAR) voted to approve rules proposed by the NH Department of Environmental Services (DES) that set limits for PFAS compounds in NH community drinking water systems. Applicable water systems are defined as non-transient systems serving 25 or more people, more than 60 days per year. The rules are intended to protect the most sensitive populations over a lifetime of exposure and includes the following compounds:

New Hampshire is now the first state to set new PFAS Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs) that are well below the federal health advisory level of 70 parts per trillion (ppt). The new MCLs becomes effective October 1, 2019. Mandatory quarterly PFAS testing will start in the fourth quarter of 2019 on all community water systems. Those results will be combined with the first three quarters of results in 2020 to develop a running four-quarter average concentration that will determine the systems in compliance, and those needing remediation. Remediation could mean installing treatment and filtration systems with estimated costs (for compliance with the new rules) reportedly as high as $200 million. NHDES approved these changes in an effort to make the state’s drinking water safer for consumption. To read the full report, visit the NHDES website.

 

Planning Your Assets – Part 2

*This post has been updated for 2020.

Building the proper foundation of an asset management program will provide a community with a short and long-term decision-making tool that community stakeholders update regularly as needs are addressed over time.  As outlined in the Key Elements of a Successful Asset Management Program and Planning Your Assets – Part 1 we shared the process of starting an asset management program as well as taking a more in-depth look at the first five of those steps. This post will round out the original nine steps covering the last four below.

Recall from our last post that with the “life-cycle” costs projected out for 50 years a community will have a long-term picture of the value of their system and the costs to own and maintain it.  The remaining four steps will help define the economic needs to maintaining a high level of service for the defined assets and define how to implement the plan successfully.

FUNDING STRATEGY FOR ASSET MAINTENANCE AND REPLACEMENT – The funding strategy for asset maintenance and replacement considers the current day value of the assets as well as defines the need for increased revenue over time for the long-term management of the assets. Based on the expected maintenance of the selected assets, the estimated cost will be calculated using Asset Management software (several programs and electronic file formats are available).  Assembling asset valuation data will provide the required information for generating updated GASB reports and define the expected investment needed in the system.  Rehabilitation costs and increased life expectancy will also be used to develop a replacement maintenance ratio for the assets to help evaluate the proper funding for repairs and replacement of the system assets.

CAPITAL IMPROVEMENT INVESTMENT PLAN (CIIP) – A summary of findings on asset condition and need for replacement will be used to develop a CIIP so the community can schedule repairs and replacements in a logical manner while managing the financial impacts to the community. As with any CIIP the priorities should be re-evaluated and updated annually as unplanned events (emergencies, extreme weather, asset failure) can cause a community to reset priorities from year-to-year.  Many communities now use a rolling five, or six-year CIIP that is updated annually to reflect work completed, adjust priorities, and consider timing of large capital projects to coincide with retiring debt.

IMPLEMENTATION PLAN – This implementation plan will be developed by collaborating with management and frontline staff to create “buy-in”, long-term support, and a thorough understanding of what needs to be done to maintain the selected assets. The implementation plan will describe how the community will continue to maintain and use the asset management program and how the community will incorporate energy and water conservation into day to day operations.  At this stage of the asset management program workflows will be developed to help identify the appropriate steps to maintain the Program to provide the defined Level of Service expected.

COMMUNICATION PLAN – Prepare a communication plan using the most effective methods to communicate to stakeholders the benefits of the asset management program and its capabilities will be key to gaining and maintaining public support for the program. The communication plan should be presented in a public forum to inform staff, community management and customers of the Asset Management Program and its capabilities.  The communication plan will demonstrate how internal and external entities will maintain the Asset Management Program in the future.  It will include Standard operating Procedures (SOP) so communities have a clear understanding of the program.  This will be a living program and should be evaluated and revised on a regular basis.

To learn out more about the Asset Management services we provide to our clients please contact Joe Ducharme, Jr., PE, Regional Manager for our Northeast Municipal Engineering Group.

Planning Your Assets – Part 1

*This post has been updated in 2020.

As outlined in the Key Elements of a Successful Asset Management Program post we shared earlier, the foundation of an asset management program will provide a community with a short and long-term decision-making tool that community stakeholders update regularly as needs are addressed over time. The program provides a methodical process of organizing, operating, maintaining, renewing, and disposing of tangible assets while tracking each asset’s useful life and risk of failure to ensure the greatest return on investment.

By creating an asset management program, communities can balance the cost of making repairs and upgrades to aging assets while maintaining a high level of service for the community.

VISION STATEMENT – This is a collaborative effort to define a vision that describes what the community wishes to achieve through development of an asset management program. When properly crafted, this community-specific vision statement will help communicate to stakeholders the purpose and overarching goals of what asset management will do for the community. The vision statement should identify and define all stakeholders (both internal and external) who will benefit from the program.

ASSET INVENTORY – Creating an asset inventory, including a naming convention specific to the community, will help identify the location and all pertinent information known about each asset. The asset inventory should include each asset name, location and all pertinent information known about each asset including age, condition, and years in service.

LEVEL OF SERVICE (LOS) WORKSHOP Prepare and conduct a workshop to gather input from a cross-section of stakeholders and ratepayers to develop a level-of-service matrix summarizing goals that are sustainable, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely (SMART). In maintaining an asset management program over time, also include methods to evaluate and reassess (SMARTER) levels of service to make sure they continue to meet the goals and needs of the stakeholders. The workshop should include input from stakeholders, such as: system operators, management, ratepayers and supporting input from the engineer (if applicable). Participation in the workshop by outside stakeholders is encouraged. Many communities have found that a balanced scorecard type matrix is helpful in developing and using LOS. These LOS goals should be reviewed frequently and modified accordingly.

PRIORITIZATION OF ASSETS – Prioritize assets based on condition assessment and criticality. Many communities have found that a risk assessment type matrix comparing likelihood of failure versus consequence of failure is an effective and useful tool for helping to prioritize assets and to visualize the state of the community’s assets.

LIFE CYCLE COST ANALYSIS (LCCA) – Analyze life cycle costs of each asset including capital costs, operating costs (including energy costs for all vertical assets) and maintenance costs for the life of the assets.

Coming up in Part 2 we will cover the additional steps in this process.

Key Elements of a Successful Asset Management Program

Step by step asset management graphic in blue and green

*This article was originally published in 2015 and has been updated in 2020.

The elements of a successful asset management program are similar from one project to the next, but each community will have specific challenges and needs that define their program. Below is a description of the ‘core elements’ that form the foundation of an asset management program designed to be a short and long-term decision-making tool that community stakeholders update regularly as needs are addressed over time. The program provides a methodical process of organizing, operating, maintaining, renewing, and disposing of tangible assets while tracking each asset’s useful life and risk of failure to ensure the greatest return on investment.

By creating an asset management program, communities can balance the cost of making repairs and upgrades to aging assets while maintaining a high level of service for the community.

  1. VISION STATEMENT – Define community-specific vision statement to communicate to all stakeholders, the purpose and overarching goals of what asset management will do for the community.
  2. ASSET INVENTORY – Create an asset inventory, including a naming convention specific to the community, that identifies the location and all pertinent information known about each asset.
  3. LEVEL OF SERVICE (LOS) WORKSHOP – Conduct a workshop to gather input from a cross-section of stakeholders and ratepayers to develop a level-of-service matrix summarizing goals that are sustainable, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely (SMART). In maintaining an asset management program over time, also include methods to evaluate and reassess (SMARTER) levels of service to make sure they continue to meet the goals and needs of the stakeholders.
  4. PRIORITIZATION OF ASSETS – Prioritize assets based on condition assessment and criticality by developing a risk assessment matrix comparing likelihood of failure versus consequence of failure to prioritize assets and to visualize the state of the community’s assets.
  5. LIFE CYCLE COST ANALYSIS (LCCA) – Analyze life cycle costs of each asset including capital costs, operating costs (including energy costs for all vertical assets) and maintenance costs for the life of the assets.
  6. FUNDING STRATEGY – Identify a funding strategy for asset maintenance and replacement that identifies the current day value of the assets as well as defines the need for increased revenue over time for the long-term management of the assets.
  7. CAPITAL IMPROVEMENT INVESTMENT PLAN (CIIP) – A summary of findings on asset condition and need for replacement should be used to develop a CIIP so the community can schedule repairs and replacements in a logical manner while managing the financial impacts to the community.
  8. IMPLEMENTATION PLAN – Develop an implementation plan that describes how the community will continue to maintain and use the asset management program and how the community will incorporate energy and water conservation into day to day operations.
  9. COMMUNICATION PLAN – Prepare a communication plan using the most effective methods to communicate to stakeholders the benefits of the asset management program and its capabilities.

To learn out more about the Asset Management services we provide to our clients please contact Joe Ducharme, Jr., PE, Regional Manager for our Northeast Municipal Engineering Group.