Supporting Environmental Opportunities for Boston Youth

Introducing X-Cel Education

 

Meet Gemma Kite, P.E., one of HW’s DEI Leaders

Gemma Kite is a talented engineer and water industry professional who has nurtured a relationship with a Boston based non-profit, X-Cel Education (X-Cel). Through networking with the Charles River Watershed Association, she met Aaron Dale, Program Manager of X-Cel Education’s Conservation Corps. Once they talked, she realized HW’s staff expertise and skills might match the training priorities for the program, and she launched a volunteer program. Many of these students are considering career options that do not require a four-year degree, like wastewater and drinking water treatment system operations. Currently X-Cel is graduating 30 students per year.

 

“X-Cel’s goal is to provide training and exposure for young people in the environmental and conservation areas. X-Cel Education improves economic opportunity in underserved Greater Boston neighborhoods through accessible, individualized, and free high school equivalency education, post-secondary preparation, and career readiness development.”

X-Cel Education

 

Wastewater Training  &  Stormwater management

 

The wastewater sector may not sound appealing to many, but truth be told, it is a growing field that is not going away anytime soon. X-Cel’s program offers classwork combined with hands-on field training with professionals, like the engineers and scientists at HW, to learn and hone the skills they will need as treatment facility operators. The trainings help to increase the students’ awareness of environmental career paths and other opportunities. Students learn how to take samples and witness wastewater operations  during tours of nearby treatment facilities. Through HW, participants have also learned about stormwater management  practices by helping with site maintenance and meeting our engineers.

 

Partnerships

 

HW and fellow engineering firm Woodard & Curran are corporate partners to X-Cel Education. We have teamed together to offer training at client sites including The Pinehill’s LLC. wastewater treatment plant. After two successful trainings held last year, six trainings are planned for 2022. Our favorite part of the training is sharing our career choices and milestones one-on-one with the students! We look forward to participating in future training events where we can meet new people. 

 

Future opportunity

 

We hope that by reading this blog post and learning about X-Cel Education we can bring much needed attention to the program and the participants. Currently Gemma is considering co-authoring a presentation at a water focused conference that will also help spread the word. X-Cel has only a handful of partners and is looking for more connections that can expand on the training opportunities . Woodard & Curran have found that it is a great avenue to find young wastewater operators. You can read about their experience at their site.

 

Next Steps

 

Learn more about X-Cel Education.

What other training opportunities are a good match for this program?

Reach out to Gemma Kite to start a discussion.

 

 

Horsley Witten awarded EPA small business award

 

The EPA’s Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization has recognized Horsley Witten Group for outstanding small business accomplishments. The announcement was made during the Annual Small Business Program Awards Ceremony on May 5, 2022. These awards recognize program activities, individuals, businesses, and state and local entities for their outstanding contributions during Fiscal Year 2021.

HW was one of two small business contractors acknowledged for Outstanding Accomplishments by a Small Business Contractor.

“Thank you, Horsley Witten Group, for your exemplary customer support and technical adaptiveness, acquisition specific managerial, and responsiveness during COVID-19. Thank you for your outstanding commitment.” -EPA award annoucement

For more information, please view the Administrator’s 32nd Annual Small Business Program Awards Ceremony press release and awards ceremony recording.

 

“The Horsley Witten Group is honored to have been recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for its work in supporting the Agency and its mission. Our firm addresses environmental and social challenges with sustainable solutions and it is gratifying to work with a federal agency that thinks the same way.”

– Tom Noble, HW Principal

 

 

a Master Plan for Habitat, Stormwater, & Recreational Improvements

Nantucket land bank

Lily Pond Park wetland and boardwalk today. Inset: Geese in Lily Pond in the 1890’s

How often do you get the chance to restore the landscape, improve water quality, and reduce localized flooding?

Not often, but Lily Pond Park in the heart of historic Nantucket is one place where it could happen.  HW worked with the Nantucket Land Bank on a Master Plan to improve the hydrologic, ecological, and recreational function of the park, a 6.2-acre property located within the residential outskirts of the historic downtown.

Stormwater runoff from over 90 surrounding acres drains into the park’s existing wetlands before ultimately discharging to the Town’s drainage system and out to Children’s Beach. A watershed services workhorse, the quality of this wetland habitat has degraded over time due to stormwater runoff inputs, hydrologic changes, and an invasive species explosion.

 

It’s such a gem, tucked into a residential area, I’m excited about what it could be in the future.” 

-Anne Kitchell, HW Associate Principal, Senior Watershed Planner


The Master Plan presents a preferred approach to restore and diversify wetland habitats, treat runoff with green stormwater infrastructure, and enhance the user experience with improved connectivity and signage. Key features include looped boardwalk extensions, more seating areas and entrance enhancements, daylighting of the existing outlet drainpipe into a surface stream, and restoration of a shallow marsh system with open water pockets. Stormwater Best Management Practices (BMPs) along the park perimeter (constructed wetlands, bioswales, etc.) provide initial water quality treatment.

Constructed wetland and habitat restoration illustrations above

Proposed Plan:
The plan prepared for the Nantucket Land Bank Commission includes priority invasive management areas, a phased implementation approach, and planning level construction costs plus contingency. The phases of construction are based on site constraints and staging feasibility include:

  1. Restoration of the central wetland and surrounding boardwalks and overlooks
  2. Restorative daylighting of the original stream
  3. Installation of a constructed wetland and entrance enhancements at North Liberty St.
  4. Construction of a cascading bioswale and constructed wetland with boardwalk at the existing Lily St. entrance
  5. Entrance improvements and upland amphitheater at 36 Lily acquisition

Example precedent images (left to right) of open water portion of a restored wetland, restored surface stream, constructed wetland, and cascading bioswale

Project Benefits:

  • Water quality – twice as much sediment removal and 1.5 times nutrient reduction over existing conditions
  • Flood management—by lower ponding elevations and shortening of inundation periods in the park and adjacent properties
  • Habitat enhancement—restoring diversity of wetland and stream habitats and controlling invasive plants
  • Improved visitor experience—enhanced park entrances, additional seating, more programmable upland areas, and looping boardwalks

Next Steps:
There is still much to be done including discussions with permitting agencies, DPW, and neighbors. We look forward to working with the Nantucket Land Bank and others moving forward on soil evaluations and water level monitoring, advancing restoration designs, and permitting.

 

Peter ogonek, eit

Project Engineer

Welcome Peter Ogonek to our Providence team! Peter has experience primarily in Philadelphia working on green infrastructure design and planning analyses, trails, and park rebuilds for public and private clients. He also led a volunteer team through Philadelphia’s Community Design Collaborative to create a Campus Sustainability Master Plan for a church  which received the Design Collaborative’s 2020 Project Team of the Year Award! He earned his B.S. in Civil Engineering with a Minor in Sustainability, Energy, and the Environment from the University of Dayton in Ohio.

When he is not working on engineering design projects Peter can be found hanging out with his cat Sebastian, baking sourdough bread, biking his way around the city, or hiking his favorite trails in RI. Welcome to HW Peter!

 

 

A rain garden guide for homeowners

By: Michelle West, P.E.

Michelle is a senior water resources engineer with more than 18 years of professional experience. With a background in both engineering and natural resources, she is passionate about using her skills to restore the natural world while improving the human experience.

Before we get started,  a few questions.

  • Have you joined the rain garden craze yet? 
  • Have you been inspired by an article, your neighbor’s rain garden, or our Rain Garden Wednesdays social media posts?
  • Want to do your part to improve your local water quality and wildlife habitat?

It’s easier than you think!

The two illustrations above, right show how “breaking the impervious chain” slows, cleans and reduces the stormwater leaving a site.

The bottom photo shows Michelle leading a rain garden workshop at Walton’s Cove in Hingham, MA.

What is a Rain Garden?

Rain gardens are actually very simple.  They are just shallow depressions – too shallow to even call a hole! – with plants.  But, rain gardens are not just isolated depressions placed randomly out in a yard.  They are specifically sized and placed to absorb stormwater runoff, the water that flows from your built impervious surfaces such as rooftops, driveways, roads, parking lots, and even compacted lawn areas when it rains.  And that’s it!  Well, not quite, since rain gardens do take a bit of planning and physical labor, which we will get to in a bit.

 

 

   Why a Rain Garden?

What’s so bad about stormwater runoff?  Why all the fuss?  It’s just rainwater straight from the sky – isn’t that natural? 

Unfortunately, no.  All of those impervious surfaces that we built for our shelter and transportation prevent the clean rainwater from soaking into the ground like it did before we developed the land.  Dirt, fertilizer, soaps, oils, metals, and even animal poop build upon these hard surfaces and get carried away with the stormwater.  In addition to creating water pollution, when your runoff joins up with your neighborhood’s runoff, it can cause flooding and erosion, damage infrastructure, degrade aquatic ecosystems, and close shellfishing areas and beaches.  While runoff from just your home or business may not cause much of a problem, the cumulative impact from everyone’s home and business really does.

Rain gardens are one beautiful way to break the impervious chainof roof to downspout to driveway to road to stream, pond, or bay.  They use soils and plants to filter pollutants and help water soak in rather than runoff.  Please remember that rain gardens are NOT ponds or wetlands – they should drain in less than 24 hours after a rainfall. 

Download the file below to create one at your house!

 

Cross-section of a typical rain garden:

  

 

Click to Download: How to Build a Rain Garden