Thursday, March 16, 2006

Wolfeboro NH ~ Wastewater Storage Dam ~ Failure Risk

March & April is the critical time of the year when the Wolfeboro Wastewater Treatment Facility Reservoir approaches its capacity of 95 million gallons. This Reservoir is a Class B Dam of "significant hazard potential" (according to the Army Corp of Engineers). The hazard or risk is signifacant due to the many thermodynamic and hydraulic cycles this Dam has experienced throughout its history and due to the fact that this Dam could be subjected to severe seismic activity.

Because this is a Class B Dam, an Emergency Action Plan is required in the event of a catastrophic failure. This Plan was commissioned by the previous Public Works Director and Town Manager in 1998. However, the Plan is deficient in that it does not represent a worst case scenario resulting from failure due to seismic activity concurrent with a full Reservoir. In that situation, the total volume of cascading water and slurry mixture descending upon the Town could be more than 3 times the volume delineated in the EAP because seismic activity can cause liquification of soils.

Furthermore, the recent departures of Town Manager Skowron and Public Works Director Bilafer have created key vacancies in the EAP Notification Call List. Those positions are now being filled by "interim" personnel.

This raises several very pertinent questions:
1. Who is the Emergency Management Director if this Dam were to fail?
2. Will the Town or the State be in charge of emergency response?
3. Who will be in charge of the Emergency Operations Center?
4. Who will be the On-Scene Commander?
5. Has the "interim" Town Manager familiarized himself with the Emergency Action Plan?
6. Has the "interim" Public Works Director familiarized himself with the EAP?
7. Has the Notification Call List been updated as required by NHDES Rules?
8. Has an emergency notification drill been held as required by NHDES Rules?
9. Has the EAP been tested to determine how effected people will be evacuated?
10. Is there a designated shelter for evacuated people?
11. Have alternate response and travel routes been designated in the event of road damage?

These are just a few of the questions that need to be addressed and answered. The people who live and/or work below this dam ("In Harms Way") may have some other questions of their own.

On 15 March 2006, there was an earthen dam failure in Hawaii and at least 1 person was killed and many others remain unaccounted for. There are earthen dam failures in the USA every year. There have been prior failures in New Hampshire and there will probably be more in the future.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Wolfeboro NH ~ Infrastucture Failures ~ Root Cause:

On 13 July 2005, Wolfeboro resident John Linville wrote a very perceptive and poignant letter to the Granite State News Editor, which is repeated here:

"If we accept, at face value, the dire consequences predicted by the Town Manager and the Board of Selectmen if the voters do not approve the special warrant for the sewage plant, it then is clear this is a major trauma for Wolfeboro. Loss of economic vitality, potential for high fines and other penalties may be brought to bear on the town. Doesn't it make sense then to find out how we got into this calamity?
I ask the Board of Selectmen to appoint a special committee to do a root cause analysis. Root cause examines what failed in the town processes that led to the situation with regard to disposal of treated sewage effluent. Root cause does not deal with individuals but with processes.
This technique is used by utilities, NASA, airlines, and many other businesses who are interested in learning from their mistakes. The main point is to fix the process so similar problems don't happen again. There are clear indicators that something went wrong long before the NHDES appeared before the Board of Selectmen in January...
We taxpayers and voters need assurance that this process failure has been corrected on a generic basis before it affects some other portion of the town infrastructure. We should not, as has been suggested, consider the past is the past and move forward. To ignore history is to relive it again and the town can ill afford another repeat of this type of issue."

Of course, the Board of Selectmen did not take action on Mr. Linville's recommendation even though he was definitely on the right track.

Mr. Linville correctly points out that "root cause does not deal with individuals but with processes".

Therein lies what is the most probable root cause of these failures. Essentially, there are NO WRITTEN ENGINEERED TECHNICAL PROCESSES, STANDARDS, METHODS OR INSTRUCTIONS in use within the Town of Wolfeboro government.

And the absence of such engineered processes, standards, methods and instuctions precludes compliance and accountability.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Wolfeboro NH ~ Violation #12 ~ Environmental Regs:

Public records on file at the Town of Wolfeboro demonstrate continuing violations of the Wastewater Treatment Facility environmental groundwater discharge permit during 2002.

The State Permit limits the discharge of wastewater over the 100 acres of sprayfields to 2 inches per week, including precipitation.

According to the records kept by Woodard & Curran, the contracted Facility Operator and Manager, the State Permit limit was exceeded during 6 weeks of the 27 week spray season. This represents a 22% non-compliance rate.

Woodard & Curran was legally obligated by the terms of their contract with the Town to comply with the conditions of the State Permit. However, this does not absolve the Town Manager and the Public Works Director, as the permittees, from their statutary responsibilities to comply with all environmental rules, regulations and permits.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Wolfeboro NH ~ Violation #11 ~ Environmental Regs:

The Town of Wolfeboro owns and operates a Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4). This storm water collection, treatment and disposal system comes under the jurisdiction of the NH Department of Environmental Services and the US EPA. As with any environmental protection and pollution prevention system, it is incumbent on the owner and operator, by rule and regulation, to maintain this system in accordance with the concepts known as "Best Management Practices" (BMP) and "Best Available Control Technology" (BACT).

A section of the Wolfeboro stormwater system failed during the fall of 2005. This failure occurred on Bay Street with the washout and collapse of the culverts at Clows Brook.

This incident was entirely preventable and the fact that it occurred is another indication of Town officials' total lack of a "sense of urgency" and their failure to get priorities in the right order. These managerial failures are putting citizens, employees and visitors "IN HARMS WAY"!!! These managerial failures are also causing costs to skyrocket.

About 5 years ago, the Public Works Highway Foreman and the Town Engineer inspected and photographed the deteriorated condition of the twin culverts on Bay Street. They agreed that this situation warranted immediate attention. Later, they repeated their inspection with an engineer from Wright-Pierce, who concurred with their findings and determination.

Therefore, the Town Engineer prepared a Capital Improvement Program Project Request for the construction of a replacement structure.
The Request was designated DPW Ser #01-37 and entitled: Bay Street Culverts at Clow's Brook Replacement: Construct.
The PROJECT PRIORITY was designated "URGENT".
PROJECT JUSTIFICATION was: Inspection reveals that these culverts are in a severely deteriorated condition and are experiencing "wash-out". Expeditious replacement is warranted. Culverts are 31' long x 36" high x 48" wide, with an 8" space between.
PROJECT RATIONALE was: Removes imminent threat to public health/safety; Alleviates substandard conditions or deficiencies; Responds to federal or state mandatory requirement. The estimated cost was $500,000 with potential for 80% NH DOT grant reimbursement.

This Project Request was submitted to the Town Manager via DPW Bilafer for performance during 2001. TM Skowron later rejected this Request. Concurrently, the Town Engineer initiated a hydraulic flow analysis with the expectation that the results would allow the replacement structure to be classified as a "Bridge" because replacing the culverts with a bridge could make the project eligible for a grant reimbursement in the amount of 80% of total costs.

The Town Engineer resubmitted this Project Request to the Town Manager via DPW Bilafer for performance during 2002. TM Skowron again rejected this request. However, the design work was approved in the amount of $5,000 for 2002 under Project Request Ser # DPW #02-36.

On 10/4/02 HEB Engineers submitted their hydraulic analysis showing that the replacement structure should qualify as a "bridge" and thus be eligible for NH DOT aid. On 10/23/02, a DPW letter was sent to NH DOT requesting Project inclusion in the State Bridge Program. On 12/5/02 NH DOT approved the Project for State Bridge Aid.

The Town Engineer resubmitted this Project for performance during 2003. This time it was approved by the Town Manager and subsequently approved at the March 2003 Town Meeting - Warrant Article #16.

At that point, DPW Bilafer and TM Skowron should have gone "Hell Bent For Election" to get that project moving. But they took no action. Their ignoring that critical infrastructure replacement project could be construed as both unconscionable and having the potential for public endangerment because that deteriorated structure could have failed while someone was driving over it, resulting in serious injuries.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Wolfeboro NH ~ Violation #10 ~ Environmental Regs:

Town of Wolfeboro officials have refused to conduct any environmental inspections or assesments of the Town owned landfill known as Foss Field. This is an "unlined" landfill that does not have an "engineered" cap. This landfill is situated under a Town owned recreation facility, a Town owned municipal parking lot and privately owned shopping centers.

The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services has "strongly" recommended that the Town conduct the requisite inspections and assessment.

According to Andrew Huffman of the NH DES, elevated arsenic levels are a typical occurrence at landfills in the state. According to a recent Dartmouth College study, higher-than-normal concentrations of arsenic are a by-product of the chemical attenuation process that occurs in landfills. The NH safe drinking water standard for arsenic is 10 parts per billion.

Dartmouth College scientists and researchers recently found arsenic concentrations as high as 300 parts per billion in the North Hampton, NH landfill. That landfill has gone through the proper closure process and it has an engineered cap. That landfill, an EPA Superfund site, is also under a monitoring program and their goal is to eventually restore the water beneath the landfill and in the surrounding wells to drinkable condition, even though there is no specific timeline for reaching their goal.

If the Town of Wolfeboro ever acts on the NH DES recommendation to conduct an inspection and analysis of the Foss Field Landfill, it is most probable that high concentrations of arsenic and other toxins, such as benzene and PCBs, will be found.

Until the requisite inspection and analyses are performed, people continue to work and play on that unlined, inadequately capped landfill. And the leachate from that landfill continues to flow out into a tributary of Lake Winnipesaukee. In addition, the leachate also surfaces onto the recreation facility as the groundwater level rises during periods of high precipitation.

The people who work on top of that landfill (employees of the Town and private businesses) fall under the jurisdiction of the NH Department of Labor which is supposed to ensure that those employees are protected against workplace hazards. People who make use of the recreation facility and the Town's adjacent municipal parking lot should be provided warnings of the risks to which they are exposed. Those warnings should come from the Town, the NHDES and the EPA.

The people deserve to be officially informed of the risks associated with the Foss Field Landfill. If these government agencies can factually assert that the risks are "zero", then they should state their position and the factual basis for it. If they cannot factually claim that the risks are "zero", then it is incumbent upon those agencies to inform the people as to the degree of risk that they face.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Wolfeboro NH ~ Violation #9 ~ Environmental Regs:

According to Public Records at the Town of Wolfeboro and the NH Department of Labor, the operational readiness and condition of the Town's Drinking Water Treatment Facility on North Line Road had been allowed to go through a long-term period of neglect and deterioration.

Since that Facility is permitted by the NH Department of Enviromental Services, it was incumbent on the Town, by Rule and Regulation, to continually apply the regulatory concepts of "Best Management Practices" and "Best Available Control Technology".

That was not done as evidenced by the following deficiency list promulgated by Facility Operator John Beebe when he "Blew-The-Whistle" on his supervisor Brian Carroll, when on March 1, 2003, he issued a scathing report to Public Works Director Martin Bilafer with a copy to the Technical Services Administrator:

Boiler A...........................................Circulator Motor burned up
Boiler A...........................................Covers not replaced
Boiler B...........................................Pump cavitates
Furnace Stage 2............................Sequencer inoperable
Soda Ash System..........................Mixer Motor worn bearings
Soda Ash System..........................Feeder oscillating paddle broken
Soda Ash System..........................Pump #3 inoperable (cannibalized)
Soda Ash System......................... Piping is deterioated and inadequate
Chlorine System...........................Pump #3 inoperable (cannibalized)
Chlorine System...........................Valves need upgrade to CPVC
Alum System.................................Pump #2 (new) inoperable
Filter Wash Nozzles......................Not functioning properly
Filter Wash Nozzles......................Clarifier Gauges sticking
Filter Wash Nozzles......................Waste Gate Valve #1 air leak
Filter Wash Nozzles......................Waste Gates rusted bushing housings
Air System Dryer..........................Operating in "Red" zone
Potassium Permanganate Sys.....Piping unconnected (cannibalized)
Zinc Orthophosphate System......System totally cannibalized
Polymer System............................Mixer motor missing
Polymer System............................Piping & valves missing
Plant Lighting.................................Various inside lights burned out
Plant Lighting.................................Exterior security lights don't work
Backwash Lagoons.........................Recirc Motor (lower) inoperable
Backwash Lagoons.........................Catwalk (lower) partially painted
Backwash Lagoons.........................Catwalk (upper) needs painting
Building Trim..................................Needs painting
Main Bldg Chimney........................Flashing pulled away
Laboratory......................................No Ph meter buffer solution
Laboratory......................................No Chlorine buffers
Plant Interior Paint........................Paint peeling from walls
Plant Interior Paint........................Piping paint faded, peeling, unprimed
Pump House....................................Sample Pump trips off line
Chlorine Shower Unit.....................Base rotted completely away
Waste Tank.....................................High Level Alarm pipe broken

Recognizing this situation as another example of apparent environmental disregard and lax managerial oversight, the Technical Services Administrator further "Blew-The-Whistle" on Bilafer by forwarding Beebe's Report to Town Manager Skowron.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Wolfeboro NH ~ Violation #8 ~ Environmental Regs:

Wolfeboro Officials, i.e., Town Manager Skowron, Public Works Director Bilafer, and the Board of Selectmen, apparently have failed to conduct an analysis of the water and sediment in Upper Beach Pond (the Town's drinking water supply) for Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDEs), which studies show can cause liver and thyroid damage.

The University of Wisconsin and the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration are finding increasing concentrations of PBDEs which apparently are getting into waterways via airborne transmission. PBDEs are used in the manufacture of computers, televisions, furniture, carpets, etc.

It is possible that PBDEs have entered other Wolfeboro water bodies such as Lake Wentworth, Crescent Lake and Lake Winnipesaukee. These Town officials either knew or should have known of the studies concerning PBDEs.

It would be both reasonable and prudent for the Town, in partnership with NHDES, to obtain water and sediment samples from Upper Beach Pond and the other area waterways. This sampling and analysis would establish whether or not PBDEs are present. This would also establish a baseline for future comparison. The Town should also obtain sediment samples from Back Bay /fka/ Front Bay. This would establish if PBDEs are present in that waterway and it would also help to determine the extent of toxic substance leaching from the Foss Field Dump, /fka/ Back Bay, into Front Bay.