SSCI Environmental

Environmental & Consulting Services

TIPS Consulting and Other Related Services Award

SSCI has been awarded a contract with The Interlocal Purchasing System (TIPS) care of Region 8 Educational Service Center.  SSCI’s contract extends through 2020!.  SSCI’s TIPS profile provides contract information and a listing of our services.  Our services include, but are not limited to, environmental site assessments; soil and groundwater investigations; asbestos/mold/lead surveys and abatement and management services; soil and groundwater remediation, risk-based assessment modeling and evaluation; engineering assistance and oversight; construction services; environmental compliance audits; hazardous and non-hazardous waste disposal; and natural resource assessments and investigations.

The Interlocal Purchasing System, better known as TIPS Purchasing Cooperative, began in 2002 as a small regional cooperative of the Region 8 Education Service Center (ESC).   Region 8 ESC is one of twenty Education Service Centers located strategically across the state of Texas.  The ESC’s serve primarily as intermediate education agencies bridging the gap between the Texas Education Agency and the more than 1,000 public school districts and charter schools located in the state.  TIPS is now a national operation. The Interlocal Purchasing System currently serves entities such as state and local governments and non-profit organizations, including but not limited to:

  •         K-12 school districts
  •         Charter Schools
  •         Private Schools/Daycare Centers
  •         Colleges and Universities (State and Private)
  •         Cities/Municipalities
  •         Counties/Parishes
  •         Churches
  •         Charitable Organizations
  •         State Agencies
  •         Emergency Services Districts
  •         Other entities with legislated purchasing/bidding requirements

Total Eclipse, August 21, 2017

On Monday, Aug. 21, 2017, a total eclipse will cross the entire country, coast-to-coast, for the first time since 1918.  Check out when you’ll be able to see the solar eclipse at NASA.  NASA is sharing information on safe eclipse viewing with community centers, and citizen science projects are developing.  If you can’t watch Monday’s total solar eclipse, don’t worry. Another one will be visible in the U.S. in 2024.

According to NASA, the following materials should never be used to view a solar eclipse:

  • sunglasses of any kind
  • color film
  • medical X-ray film
  • smoked glass
  • floppy disks

 

The only way to safely view the Sun – eclipsed or not – is to either project or filter the Sun’s rays.  The pinhole projector is a quick DIY project.

You Need:

  • a long cardboard box or tube
  • scissors
  • duct tape
  • aluminum foil
  • a pin or a thumbtack
  • a sharp knife or paper cutter
  • a sheet of white paper

What to Do:

  1. Cut a rectangular hole at the end of the box. You can tape 2 boxes together to make a long box. The longer the box, the larger the projected image.
  2. Using the scissors, cut out a piece of the aluminum foil slightly larger than the rectangular hole. Make sure the foil is completely flat and not crinkled.
  3. Tape the foil over the rectangular hole in the box.
  4. Use the pin to poke a tiny hole in the center of the foil.
  5. Tape the sheet of paper on the inside of the other end of the box.
  6. Stand with your back toward the Sun. Place the box over your head with the pinhole towards the Sun. Adjust your position until you see a small projection, a reversed image, of the eclipsed Sun on the paper inside the box.

Using a Tube?

If you are using a long tube or taping 2 tubes together, cut the end of the tubes and tape the foil with a pinhole on 1 end. On the other end, tape a piece of white paper over the end of the tube. This will act as the screen. Close to this end, cut a rectangular hole using the knife. This will be your viewing window.

With your back toward the Sun, point the end with the foil toward the Sun, angling the tube along the Sun’s rays. Look into the tube through the viewing window until you see a reversed image of the eclipsed Sun on the screen.

 

SSCI Awarded Contract with HGACBuy

SSCI has been awarded the Emergency Preparedness & Disaster Recovery contract with HGACBuy.  HGACBuy has established contracts with firms to provide professional planning, consulting and interim recovery services in the areas of Homeland Security, Disaster Preparedness and Recovery, Emergency Response and All Hazards Planning, Continuity of Operations and Recovery Services, and FEMA programs. SSCI’s services under the contract include Environmental Assessments, Asbestos Containing Materials Services, Emergency Response, Construction and Remediation, Oilfield Services, Wetlands and Ecological Services, and Storm water Management.

HGACBuy is an award-winning, nationwide government-to-government procurement service operated by the Houston-Galveston Area Council. Beginning in 1975, HGACBuy assembled a team of experienced professionals, who, collectively, offer more than 150 years experience to members.  HGACBuy is active throughout the United States and provides nearly 6,000 members with 36 major categories of products and services from more than 800 highly qualified contractors. Entities eligible to participate in HGACBuy include:

• Municipalities, Cities, Counties and State Agencies
• Councils of Government
• Schools, School Districts, Colleges, Universities
• Hospitals, Hospital Districts
• Emergency Medical Services and Services Districts
• Volunteer Fire and Rural Fire Departments
• Prevention Districts
• Special Law Enforcement Jurisdictions
• Judicial Courts and Districts
• Emergency Communications Districts
• Utility Districts (MUDs, WCIDs, Irrigation)
• Authorities (Airport, Port, River, Water, Toll Road)
• Not-for-Profit Corporations [501(c)3] providing government functions and services

SSCI has a long standing relationship with many public sectors clients and is pleased to be part of the HGACBuy team of consultants who are ready for any emergency, or natural disaster. SSCI provides services under the Emergency Preparedness & Disaster Recovery, which include:

• Emergency Operations and Response
• Contingency and Risk Assessment
• Hazard Identification
• Training and Consultants
• Emergency Preparedness/Safety Equipment

For more information regarding HGACBuy Emergency Preparedness & Disaster Recovery please click and download HGACBuy Information.

 

 

City of Houston Experience and Certifications

SSCI Environmental has recently renewed our certification as a City of Houston Disadvantage Business Enterprise (DBE).  SSCI also holds the City of Houston Women Business Enterprise (WBE) and Historically Underutilized Business (HUB) certifications.  SSCI has worked successfully with the City of Houston on projects as a prime and as a subcontractor for many years.  These projects include Asbestos Surveys and Mold Assessments, Asbestos Air Monitoring/Abatement, Phase I Environmental Site Assessments (ESAs), and Phase II ESAs. SSCI provided Professional Environmental Consulting Services, General Environmental Services, and Asbestos and Lead Program Services.  More information regarding these project is provided below.

SSCI has conducted multiple Asbestos Surveys and Mold Assessments. These projects involved analysis of bulk samples of suspect Asbestos Containing Materials (ACMs) using Polarized Light Microscopy (PLM) as well as analysis of air and surface samples to determine the presence of mold, and identify the type of mold present. All the information gathered from analyzing samples is presented in a technical report. SSCI is a Texas Department of State Health Services (TDSHS) certified Asbestos Management Planner Organization and all work is performed under an Individual Asbestos Management Planner.  Services have also included conducting Asbestos Air Monitoring/Abatement in accordance with Texas Asbestos Health Protection Rules (TAHPR). A TDSHS inspector was present and inspected the work place, monitored air conditions, collected air samples for phase-contrast microscopy (PCM) analysis, and provided clearance of the work place.

SSCI conducted Phase I ESAs in accordance with the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) Standard Designation E 1527-13 including All Appropriate Inquiry (AAI). The Phase I ESAs conducted by SSCI included detailed historic reviews of each site (aerials, topographic maps, city directories, fire insurance maps, chain-of-title, interviews), environmental setting reviews, thorough property inspections, and regulatory database reviews (federal, state, local, tribal) to identify recognized environmental conditions.  Services have also included performance of Phase II ESAs to determine whether historic operations in connection with a property had affected soil and shallow groundwater. All field activities were conducted in accordance with SSCI’s Health and Safety Program and under the supervision of a State of Texas licensed Professional Geoscientist. The Limited Phase II ESAs consisted of soil and groundwater sampling, analysis, and a detailed report presenting findings and recommendations in accordance with the Texas Risk Reduction Program.

We are pleased to continue our relationship with the City of Houston and look forward to many more years of service.

City of Houston Certification is also accepted by the following agencies:

  • METRO
  • Port of Houston Authority
  • Houston Independent School District
  • Houston Community College
  • Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
  • Houston Housing Authority
  • Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts
  • Texas Department of Transportation
  • Airport Transportation Agencies Statewide

To learn more about DBE certification, visit the City of Houston Office of Business Opportunity.

Hazards of Invasive Zebra Mussels

Zebra Mussels have been positively identified for the first time at Lake Travis in Central Texas.  Zebra Mussels are an invasive species originating from eastern Europe and western Russia. A single adult female zebra mussel can produce up to one million larvae each year that cannot be seen by the naked eye, causing infestation to occur before a sighting. Zebra mussels attach to any hard surface in the water including submerged infrastructure, piping, watercraft, and even native mussels. Currently, there is no known way to eliminate zebra mussels from entire lakes without harming native species and colonies, and are expensive to remove from surfaces. With infestation occurring rapidly due to the swift reproduction rate, zebra mussels require large amounts of plankton to survive, depriving other species of food.

First discovered in Texas in 2009, zebra mussels have now infested 11 lakes including Belton, Bridgeport, Canyon, Dean Gilbert, Eagle Mountain, Lewisville, Randell, Ray Roberts, Stillhouse Hollow, Texoma, and, as of June 22, Lake Travis in Austin, Texas. Lake Travis is upstream to Lake Austin and Lady Bird Lake making infestation to the downstream lakes inevitable.  Zebra mussels damage boats, plug water systems, and sink navigation buoys.  Millions of dollars are spent each year controlling, cleaning, and monitoring zebra mussels.  Zebra mussels have a high rate of filtration which leads to an increase in water clarity and decreases beneficial phytoplankton like diatoms and green algae.  Water temperatures increase and the depth at which light penetrates the water increases negatively impacting organisms at deeper water depths.  Zebra mussels also feed on zooplankton and will smother an existing colony of native mussels.

It is important to take safety precautions to prevent spread of the invasive species to other lakes. Boaters are required by law to drain all water from their boats when leaving or approaching public water. This includes sailboats, kayaks, canoes, etc. It is important to inspect the watercraft after use and remove any attached vegetation, mud, or unknown objects. All compartments of the boat must be dried, including the exterior, for at least a week. If it is not possible to leave the boat outside of water for a week, the boat should be washed using high pressure soapy water. Transporting zebra mussels, knowingly or unknowingly, is illegal and first-time offenders can be fined up to $500.  For more information about the invasive species in Texas, visit texasinvasive.org.

SSCI: Hazardous Materials Manager for SH 288 Toll Lanes Expansion Project

SSCI began work on the State Highway (SH) 288 Toll Lanes Expansion Project in Harris County providing hazardous materials management and emergency response in July 2016. Since that time, SSCI has assisted in construction activities, hazardous material handling and disposal, and in managing environmental hazards associated with the project. Construction activities have taken place in the early morning hours before rush hour traffic and in the middle of the night.  We’ve been there to see it all.

The project consists of expanding three major interchanges within a 10.3-mile stretch from US Interstate 59 (US 59) to the Harris County line at Clear Creek. The completed project will provide direct accessibility to the Texas Medical Center and relieve traffic congestion on SH 288.  The construction of new toll lanes will connect Sam Houston Parkway (Beltway 8) and Interstate Highway (IH) 610, and includes the construction of new tolled lanes, direct connectors, an Electronic Toll Collection System, utility adjustments, and adjustments of existing lanes.  Construction began in October 206.

 

Visit Drive288 for information regarding the construction activities and lane closures.

 

 

Environmental concerns for the project were identified in the Environmental Assessment prepared for SH 288, US 59 to CR 60, Harris and Brazoria Counties, prepared by the US Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) in April 2013.   The project area is located with an highly urbanized community south of Houston.  The Environmental Assessment was a comprehensive review of the construction project and any impacts on the environment including but not limited to socioeconomic impacts, environmental justice, wildlife, vegetation, soils, threatened and endangered species, fish habitat, water quality, noise, air quality, floodplains, coastal zones, cultural resources, and hazardous materials.  Several hundred potentially impacted properties were identified in the immediate vicinity of the expansion project. Further investigation included soil and groundwater sampling to depths greater than 60 feet below ground surface in specific construction areas.  Ultimately, the FHWA determined that a significant impact to the human or natural environment would not be created by the proposed project.  

SSCI’s role in the project has been to provide construction oversight regarding potential hazardous materials identified during the performance of the Environmental Assessment. These hazards have included asbestos and chemical compounds in soil and groundwater.  Our team of professionals have developed a Soil Groundwater Management Plan working closely with the Drive 288 team and TxDOT.

 

A look a Harris County Flood Control District

With over 4 million people living and working in Harris County and nine-eight percent of the population living in urban areas, we rely upon our roadways and drainage ways to keep us moving.  Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) is charged with devising flood damage reduction plans, implement the plans, and maintaining the infrastructure.

HCFCD was created by the Texas Legislature in 1937 in response to devastating floods in 1929 and 1935.  In addition to serving the 1,756 square miles of Harris County, the district includes the 22 primary watersheds that flow within the county boundaries and total over 2,500 miles in length.  Presently, street drainage is handled by Harris County but the bayous and channels are handled by HCFCD. HCFCD maintains over 2,500 miles of bayous and creeks and 35,000 right of ways.

The City of Houston was founded on August 30, 1836 by Augustus C. Allen and John K.  Allen who paid just over $1.40 per acre for the 6,642 acres of land on Buffalo Bayou.  Texas independence had just been won by General Sam Houston’s Texas army on April 21, 1836 and Houston was incorporated in 1837.  The Allen brothers established the town at the confluence of Buffalo Bayou and White Oak Bayou.  Heavy rain and flooding lead the early settlers to “drain” the land and to clear it of natural vegetation making room for towns, agricultural development, and new construction.  Channels were constructed to drain the water to a lower gradient and the channels became deeper and wider as the flood waters rose and flowed to the Gulf of Mexico.

Houston experienced 16 major floods from 1836 to 1936.  The 1929 flood resulted in over $1.4 million in property loss with double that loss in the 1935 flood.  The Port of Houston, railroads, and business districts came to a stand still due to these devastating floods.  Since creation of the HCFCD, Harris County has experienced over 30 damaging floods with the most notable being Tropical Storm Claudette in 1979, Hurricane Alicia in 1983, Tropical Storm Allison in 2001, Hurricane Ike in 2008, Memorial Day and Halloween Floods in 2015, and multiple spring and fall floods in 1989, 2009, 1981, 1998, and 1994.

The most recent of these storm events, the Memorial Day of 2015, resulted in areas receiving 10 or more inches of rainfall in a six hour period. This was the most significant rainfall event for the Houston area since Tropical Storm Allison in 2001.  Between 3,000 and 6,000 homes were damaged and over 7,000 motorists were stranded.  HCFCD estimates that over 8,000 homes along Brays Bayou were saved from any flood damage because of the flood damage reduction projects completed in the past 20 years which included detention basins and channel improvements.

The Halloween Storm of 2015 occurred on October 30th and 31st and included severe flash flooding, one fatality, flooding of over 400 structures, and flooding of multiple roadways in Harris County.  Federal projects that had been completed along Sims Bayou, Brays Bayou, White Oak Bayou, Halls Bayou, Greens Bayou, and Hunting Bayou prevented damages to thousands homes.

HCFCD serves as a local partner to leverage federal tax dollars for flood damage control.  The United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has provided major federal funding for drainage projects in Harris County since the 1930s.  Capital Improvement projects for HCFCD are posted online for Fiscal Years 2017 to 2021. Recently completed projects between the district works with the USACE include Sims Bayou, Clear Creek, and Greens Bayou.

Sims Bayou (construction completed in 2015)

  • $395 million total cost
  • HCFCD share $125 million (32%); Corps share $270 million (68%)
  • 4 percent (25-year) level of flood protection (under full development)
  • 1 percent (100-year) floodplain removed from approximately 35,000 homes and 2,000 commercial structures (according to original Corps estimates)
  • Benefit-to-Cost ratio = 6.5

Clear Creek (General Reevaluation Report approved in 2013)

  • $193 million total estimated cost; expenditures to date total $55 million
  • HCFCD and two other Local Sponsors share $68 million (35%); Corps share $125 million (65%)
  • 1 percent (100-year) floodplain removed from approximately 2,100 structures
  • Benefit-to-Cost ratio = 1.8

Greens Bayou (design and construction underway)

  • $58 million total estimated cost
  • HCFCD share $9 million (25%); Corps share $29 million (75%)
  • 10 percent (10-year) level of protection for partial development
  • Benefit-to-Cost ration = 4.9

HCFCD also partners with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to implement both structural and nonstructural projects to reduce the risk of flooding as well as manage flood insurance rates in Harris County.

SSCI has a long standing relationship with HCFCD, USACE, and FEMA and has provided storm water, detention/retention pond, and wetland and ecological services to these agencies.  In partnership with our clients, SSCI has assisted land developers, property owners, and investment groups with navigating the permitting and compliance issues related to living and working in the bayou city.

 

Article Sources:

Harris County Flood Control District, www.hcfcd.org

HCFCD Annual CIP Report for FY 2017

HoustonHistory.com

 

 

Wetlands Permitting, Continuing Education

Project Manager, Chrystal Fretwell, recently attended a Wetland Permitting Workshop based on the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Regulation and the Clean Water Act (CWA) Enforcement requirements.  The workshop included documentation of wetland delineations, review of hydric soils, and performance of a Hydrology and Hydric Soils Field Practicum at Jesse Jones Park and Nature Center in Humble, Texas.

 Gathering soil data using the Munsell Soil Color Book. Wild strawberries growing at the Jesse Jones Park & Nature Center.
   
 Iron deposit fissures in the soil indicate hydric soils. Soil testing location.

Mr. Jim Herrington, PWS was the course instructor.  Mr. Herrington, PWS has over 30 years of professional Natural Resources experience, and worked for the Environmental Professional Agency (EPA) for 14 years of his career.  Ms. Fretwell, “Found this workshop highly informative, with Mr. Herrington, PWS having a profound amount of knowledge regarding wetland classification and permitting”.  Ms. Fretwell further stated, “I can’t wait to continue my wetland education, by attending a second Wetland Permitting Workshop in November of 2017”!

SSCI provides Wetland and Ecological Services, and we can’t wait to utilize Ms. Fretwell’s newly found knowledge on projects!

Drones in Environmental Investigations

The usage of drones by civilians has increased significantly over the past few years.  An estimated 600,000 drones will be in use by commercial enterprises by 2018. The top industry using drones in the United States is photography with the second largest being real estate ( DMR, www.expandedramblings.com).  Drones have been used in military applications for years but as the drones move to the commercial industry and to hobbyists, concerns have been raised regarding safety and enforcement of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations.  The FAA refers to drones as an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) and regulations apply for personal and professional use.  With drones becoming more common, it’s important to know the rules.  Even if you’re just flying a drone for fun, you must register with the FAA, stay at least 5 miles away from airports unless you have prior permission from air traffic control, and have the drone in a person’s line of sight at all times.  Visit the FFA’s website for rules regarding Fly for Fun, Fly for Work.

Scientists have been exploring the use of drones in environmental applications for several years.  Drones can be used to collect ecological data by aerial surveillance without disturbing sensitive environments or species thus limiting human interaction that can often be damaging to the environment.  Drones have also been applied to situations to minimize the risk of human injury such as surveying elevated heights or assessing conditions that may result in physical danger.  The usage of drones also provides efficiency in surveying.  For example, drones are used to survey pipeline corridors from remote stations saving both time and energy by not using aerial flight to photograph corridors.  Drones use a number of imaging techniques including infrared sensing, which can be used to measure vegetation growth and photogrammetry, a remote sensing process that creates an “ortho-mosaic” of the area.  This technology has been used in real estate functions such as Property Condition Assessments and Phase I Environmental Site Assessments.  Other environmental applications include detecting water intrusion, animal management and conservation, coastal management, river and flood management, plant conservation, forestry, regulation enforcement, and monitoring change.

There are two UAS Platform Types of drones: fixed wing and rotary. Fixed wing drones generate lift through wings while rotary drones generate lift by rotating propellers. This allows rotary drones to land and takeoff from the ground while fixed wing drones must be started by throwing into the air. Fixed wings have longer endurance times, are generally faster, and are more efficient for large areas. Rotary drones are more flexible, can hover, fly lower, and are better for inspections/higher resolution pictures. Both drones can be autonomously flown using apps or by defining a set path.  Drones are now being researched for use to count livestock, check fence lines and roads, find missing animals, and measure the nutritive value of forage.

SSCI participated in a webinar entitled “Drones on Rangelands–The Basics” presented by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service ecosystem science and management unit.  In the presentation, an example of drone use in range land application was provided.  The drones map out the area surveyed and then a computer software is used to search for the shape of the cattle and take out the background aerial image leaving only the cattle, as seen on the right side with the yellow background. The program then counts the number of outlines of cattle.