Industry news

TxDOT Changes DBE Requirements for March 2020 Letting

The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) has implemented changes to specification regarding Disadvantage Business Enterprise (DBE) commitments for the March 2020 Letting.  All bidders must submit a DBE Utilization Plan within five calendar days of each bid opening.  For more information visit TxDOT Submission Deadlines – DBE Utilization Plans – Fiscal Year 2020.  SSCI Environmental is a TxDOT certified DBE with certifications and experience in TxDOT projects.

SSCI currently serves as the Hazardous Materials Manager for the SH 288 Toll Road Expansion Project and the Emergency Response contractor for Grand Parkway Segments F1, F2, and G.  We are pleased to have held contracts on TxDOT and other roadway construction projects for over 30 years.  SSCI is TxDOT pre-certified in Environmental Studies including hazardous materials initial site assessment and wetlands.

Our services:

  • Phase I and Phase II Site Investigations
  • Asbestos abatement, disposal, oversight and monitoring
  • Well installation, sampling, monitoring and plugging
  • Monitoring of workers for hazardous material exposure
  • Hazardous waste sampling, profiling, transportation and disposal
  • Removal of impacted soil and groundwater
                                        • Wetlands, critical habitat and archaeological surveys

 


Phase I ESA Services

IMMEDIATE AVAILABILITY

RUSH TURN AROUND WITH NO FEE

COMPETITIVE PRICING

ASTM AND AAI COMPLIANT

SSCI’s approach to risk audits and Environmental Site Assessments (ESAs) assures sounds, reliable findings and cost-effective solutions.  SSCI has over thirty years of experience in Phase I, Phase II, and other environmental services.  SSCI is experienced in HUD grants, GLO grants, and SBA loans.  Our staff has set a professional standard in the industry and conducts investigations in accordance with the standard practice of ASTM E 1527-13.  With offices in Texas and Louisiana, SSCI can respond quickly to your ESA needs.

EXPERIENCED PROFESSIONALS

  •  Phase I Environmental Site Assessments, ASTM E 1527-13 and AAI
  •  Phase II ESAs, ASTM E1903-97
  •  Transaction Screens, ASTM E1528-14e1
  •  Property Condition Assessments
  •  Inspections:  Asbestos, Lead-Based Paint and Mold, Vapor Intrusion, Indoor Radon
  •  Remediation, Abatement and Decontamination
  •  Natural Resources:  Wetlands and Threatened and Endangered Species
  •  NEPA Considerations:  Categorical Exclusions, Environmental Assessments, Environmental Impact Statements

We specialize in serving the public and private sector!

General Site Inspection

     Review of Site Records and Activities

Regulatory Records Research

Title and Historical Records Search

Initial Facility/Site Assessments

Oversight of Remediation Contractors

Individual Interviews

Geological Evaluation

Asbestos and Lead-Based Paint Surveys

Extended Records Review

Detailed Land Use Evaluation

On-site Sampling and Analysis of Soil

Water and Building Material Sampling

Operations Review

SSCI Job Timeline: Culvert Construction

SSCI provided maintenance activities to a damaged culvert owned by an HOA located in Dickinson, Texas (Site) where existing articulated concrete blocks (ACBs) were uplifted and separated during a Hurricane Harvey.  This caused the subgrade to be eroded and a large hole to form at the base of the culvert. SSCI was able to mobilize quickly and efficiently to solve the problem.  The work involved designing a new, more effective culvert layout that would significantly reduce erosion during large rain events.

The following construction services were also completed during the remediation:

  • Pumping of standing water in the washout area;
  • Replacement of soil and re-grading of subgrade slope;
  • Salvage and placement of ACBs onto subgrade;
  • Placement of inlet and piping;
  • Paving of high-flow areas in the culvert to reduce erosion.

A final post-repair visit to the Site was conducted to ensure the satisfaction of the HOA and replace ACBs in an aesthetically pleasing pattern. The HOA continues to work with SSCI on other detention pond, erosion, and maintenance activities.  SSCI finished the work ahead of schedule even after being impacted by weather-related delays.

New Emergency Preparedness Training Requirements for Hospitals

The implementation date for the new training requirements is November 15, 2017.  The new rule establishes national emergency preparedness requirements that include adequately planning for disasters that fall on a continuum between disruptive to disastrous.  The new regulations apply to healthcare providers, including hospitals, critical access hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, and long-term care facilities.  To find out more, please follow this link to Occupational Health and Safety magazine.  https://ohsonline.com/articles/2017/11/01/cms-emergency-preparedness-training.aspx

If you need assistance with assessing your training needs or if you are looking for a training provider, please contact SSCI at 800-324-7724 or visit our website at www.sscienvironmental.com or SSCI-HEALTH-SAFETY & TECHNICAL TRAINING_201509.

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.

 

 

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

 

 

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.