Rocks Roads Ripples N'At: 

Pittsburgh's Civil Engineering News Blog

  • 01 Nov 2018 2:10 PM | ASCE Blog Editor (Administrator)

    By Nemi Vora, edited by Ben Briston

    Source The fourth annual Imagine a Day Without Water water awareness day took place on Wednesday, October 10, 2018. The Environmental and Water Resources Institute of the American Society of Civil Engineers, Pittsburgh Section, once again joined the effort to raise awareness about how water is essential, invaluable, and worthy of investment.

    The Pittsburgh region has been experiencing above average high-intensity rainfall events, so it may be difficult to imagine a day without water. Though our region may be water rich, we are using more water than we think, albeit indirectly. We consume water from all over the country and the world through the products and services we use. A standard (1.5 oz) chocolate bar requires on average 197 gallons of water to produce; a large egg requires around 52 gallons of water, and 1 lb of beef requires on average 1,847 gallons of water. [1, 2]  In fact, an average American uses 750 thousand gallons of water as part of the goods and services consumed over a year, and, of the water we consume, 20% comes from products produced outside the U.S.A., mainly China.[3]

    Imaging a day without water can be difficult in Pittsburgh due to more frequent, intense rainfall events, but it is essential to recognize our reliance on water outside of this region. We are indeed connected to the world through the products we consume and should be conscious of the fact that the places that produce these goods face water scarcity. Next time you buy a product, look at the packaging to see where it's coming from. Doing so may help to reduce over-consumption and waste of water.

    1.         Mekonnen, M.M. and A.Y. Hoekstra, The green, blue and grey water footprint of crops and derived crop products. Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, 2011. 15(5): p. 1577-1600.

    2.         Mekonnen, M. and A. Hoekstra, The green, blue and grey water footprint of farm animals and animal products. 2010.

    3.         Mekonnen, M. and A.Y. Hoekstra, National water footprint accounts: the green, blue and grey water footprint of production and consumption. 2011.

  • 23 Aug 2018 9:29 AM | ASCE Blog Editor (Administrator)

    By the 100th Celebration Committee

    Since the Pittsburgh Section was founded a hundred years ago, in 1918, our membership has grown to nearly 1,500 members and our members have accrued multiple notable achievements, experiences, and awards.  The Section has a strong commitment to the advancement of civil engineers, which is demonstrated through organization of professional development opportunities to recognizing outstanding achievements of area civil engineers.  ASCE Pittsburgh throughout the century has a longstanding history of fostering the growth of civil engineers while celebrating their successes. 

    During this centennial year, the Section is going to further focus on celebrating civil engineering accomplishments in one evening.  This event will be occurring on September 22nd at Hotel Monaco to celebrate the Section’s 100 years of history.  The occasion will start at 5:30pm and last throughout the evening till 10:00pm.  Attendees will also have the opportunity to take home a little bit of history in the form of a table book “Engineering Pittsburgh” that features memorable civil engineering projects from the region’s past.

    The 100th Celebration Committee aims to further capture these outstanding moments in time and place them into the “ASCE Pittsburgh Section Centennial Time Capsule” which will be presented at our Centennial Celebration on Saturday, September 22, 2018 at Hotel Monaco. Thus, our committee is asking all members to donate historic photos, notable articles, small instruments/devices, videos, books, letters to the future leadership of ASCE, etc. along with engineering doodads or trinkets. The donated items will be collected during the event and will be displayed throughout the evening. After the event, a blog article will be posted on the Pittsburgh Section website with a brief description of the collected items alongside photographs. The items will then be placed in the “ASCE Pittsburgh Section Centennial Time Capsule” and sealed, to be re-opened at the 200th ASCE Pittsburgh Section Celebration in 2118. The “ASCE Pittsburgh Section Centennial Time Capsule” will reside in the basement of the Engineer’s Society of Western Pennsylvania (ESWP). A group photo will be taken during the 100th Celebration at 8:00pm; this photo will also be placed in the “ASCE Pittsburgh Section Centennial Time Capsule”. Take this once in a century opportunity to leave a piece of our history and present for the future!

  • 20 Aug 2018 12:19 PM | ASCE Blog Editor (Administrator)

    By: Christina Urbanczyk and Lauren Cook

    Increasing rainfall intensity in Southwestern Pennsylvania has brought stormwater management to the forefront of the public eye. As a result, Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI) has gained more attention as a cost-effective solution to help manage the impacts from wet weather. On July 26, 2018, the local Environmental Water Resource Institute (EWRI) Pittsburgh chapter partnered with representatives from the EWRI National Technical Councils to host an afternoon workshop on Urban Green Infrastructure. The workshop provided national and local expertise on Low Impact Development in combined sewer overflow (CSO) areas, operation and maintenance of Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI), and stormwater management in the ultra-urban environment.

    National and local speakers presented a variety of topics related to GSI, including pilot studies, funding mechanisms, research, and lessons learned. Speakers included Shirley Clark, Penn State University; Tim Prevost, Allegheny County Sanitary Authority (ALCOSAN); Barton Kirk, Ethos Collaborative; Matt Zambelli, MLZDesign; Ruth Hocker, City of Lancaster; Greg Scott, Buchart Horn, Inc; Ryan Quinn, Pittsburgh Sewer and Water Authority (PWSA); Rosanna LaPlante, City of Baltimore; and Jordan Fischbach, RAND Corporation.

    Shirley Clark (Penn State University) discussed numerous case studies of GSI in CSO areas across the U.S., including in Portland, Philadelphia, Kansas City, Seattle, and St. Louis. She emphasized that a combination of green and grey infrastructure is more cost effective than a grey only solution, even when co-benefits of GSI are excluded. She also highlighted that municipalities should focus on using public right-of-ways for GSI, rather than relying on private owners to maintain the infrastructure.

    Rosanna LaPlante (City of Baltimore) discussed the importance of public outreach and using the National GI Certification Program to train individuals that inspect and maintain GSI. Also, the City of Baltimore uses an urban waters interactive map to show locations of existing BMPs and identify locations where BMPs may not be as feasible due to existing conditions such as site soils, existing utilities, etc.

    Ruth Hocker (City of Lancaster) provided lessons learned from Lancaster’s stormwater program, which includes a stormwater fee, regulations of development at any scale, and the ability for residents to “Adopt a BMP.” According to Hocker, training and participation of field staff is a vital part of a successful GSI program. She recommended designing GSI with maintenance in mind, inspecting regularly, and using appropriate plant material by considering the effect of surrounding surface areas and localized pollutants like road salts. Adopting these recommendations may contribute to the success of GSI implementation nationwide.

    Barton Kirk (Ethos Collaborative) and Matt Zambelli (MLZDesign), professionals with experience in design, monitoring, and maintenance of GSI, provided an overview of several local GSI projects in Pittsburgh, including: bioswales, porous pavement, and street planters with an underdrain. Recent monitoring of a project at Oakwood and Batavia during a 10-year storm event (2.9 inches of rainfall over 11 hours) showed an infiltration rate of 7 inch/hour. Some of these projects are summarized on the Westmoreland Conservation District’s Interactive Best Management Practice (BMP) map.

    Greg Scott (Buchart Horn, Inc) discussed the design of a GSI project that will help address extensive flooding in the Shadyside neighborhood near Maryland Avenue in Pittsburgh. The ongoing project is a neighborhood-level stormwater project that uses an integrated design approach with several elements including new inlets and conveyance, green infrastructure, and underground storage. They are also evaluating the possibility of connecting residential downspouts to the integrated GSI system.

    Jordan Fischbach (RAND Corporation) presented a research study about “Robust Stormwater Management in the Pittsburgh Region,” which evaluated combinations of green and grey infrastructure to reduce combined sewer overflows under current and future conditions. RAND worked with ALCOSAN to simulate CSOs and analyze vulnerability of their existing system to future rainfall, population and land-use changes. Results emphasize the need to evaluate a range of uncertain, future changes to inform near-term stormwater and wastewater infrastructure investments. The full report is available on RAND’s website.

    The workshop also covered the importance of funding opportunities for GSI in Southwestern PA. Tim Prevost (ALCOSAN) discussed the GROW program, which awards grants to customer municipalities to implement stormwater reduction projects. The program, currently in its third cycle, has awarded 9 million dollars in project funding. Ryan Quinn (PWSA) emphasized prioritizing partnerships to fund GSI projects, referencing PWSA’s previous and ongoing partnerships with ALCOSAN, the Saw Mill Run Watershed Association, Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, and neighborhood groups.

    This workshop provided a wide range of information about local and national GSI implementation in urban areas. Key take-aways included: (1) a combination of green and grey infrastructure is more cost-effective than grey only, (2) design of green infrastructure systems should be robust and adaptive (3) green infrastructure performance often exceeds expectations, (4) a dedicated maintenance team is vital for continued success, (5) GSI can help enhance resilience in cities that are susceptible to increases in extreme rainfall.

    The event was hosted at the Engineers Western Society of Pennsylvania in downtown Pittsburgh, PA in partnership with ALCOSAN, Allegheny County Conservation District, Allegheny Watershed Alliance, American Public Works Association, Nine Mile Run Watershed Association, PWSA, Saw Mill Run Watershed Association, Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission Water Resource Center, Stormworks, Westmoreland Conservation District, and 3 Rivers Wet Weather. Thank you to these sponsors for helping make this workshop possible.

    EWRI Congress will be held in Pittsburgh on May 19-23, 2019.  Abstracts are being accepted until September 10th.

  • 13 Jul 2018 11:16 AM | ASCE Blog Editor (Administrator)

    By Greg Scott, P.E.

    One of the PA ASCE Legislative teams before a meeting with an elected official. (L to R, Greg Scott Pittsburgh; Dion Campbell and David Wieller, Lehigh Valley; Kerry Henneberger, Central PA; and Edwina Lam, Philadelphia) On Wednesday June 13th, a group of ASCE Members in Pennsylvania gathered in Harrisburg to meet with their state legislators. After gathering for issue briefings and advocacy training, members met with their elected officials to discussed transportation, storm water, and licensure issues. Attendees were specifically seeking the passage of bills that would enable municipalities to create stormwater utilities by allowing the municipalities to collect a reasonable fee without having to create a separate municipal authority, if they so choose.  

    Also discussed during the ASCE Members’ visit was House Bill 1106  (HB1106), “an Act amending the act of May 23, 1945 (P.L.913, No.367), known as the Engineer, Land Surveyor and Geologist Registration Law, further providing for definitions, for continuing professional competency requirements and for exemption from licensure and registration”.  This measure is necessary due to a recent court case that calls into question who can perform structural inspections, environmental impact studies, and other activities that have been traditionally considered the purview of Professional Engineers. Please  add your voice to theirs on HB 1106 by contacting you State Senator and requesting passage of the bill before the end of the year.

  • 21 Jun 2018 11:30 AM | ASCE Blog Editor (Administrator)

    From Lennon, Smith, Souleret Engineering Inc.

    LSSE, a 90 person civil engineering firm, headquartered in Coraopolis PA, founded in 1985 announced ownership and management transitions completing implementation of the firm’s Strategic and Ownership Transition Plans adopted in 2008.   Effective on Friday, June 15, 2018 Lawrence J. Lennon, P.E., DWRE, Daniel S. Gilligan, and Larry W. Souleret, P.E., PLS, have sold their interest in the firm.  They have transferred 100% ownership of LSSE to Kevin A. Brett P.E., Ned Mitrovich P.E., and Jason Stanton, P.E., longtime Principals and owners in the firm.   In addition to each having 1/3 ownership of LSSE, they will assume the following management and corporate officer roles; Chief Executive Officer & President:  Ned Mitrovich; Chief Operating Officer & Treasurer:  Kevin A. Brett; and Chief Financial Officer & Secretary: Jason E. Stanton.  Kevin Brett and Ned Mitrovich have accepted Directors positions formally held by Larry Lennon and Dan Gilligan, and will join Jason Stanton on the Board.  Larry Lennon and Dan Gilligan will assume the role of “Principal Consultant”, while maintaining employment with LSSE. 

  • 23 Apr 2018 2:27 PM | ASCE Blog Editor (Administrator)

    By William Confair, P.E., Outreach Committee Chair

    From February 22nd through February 24th, 2018 the Carnegie Science Center celebrated National Engineers’ Week by hosting “Engineer the Future”.  This three-day event was comprised of 40 tables staffed by local professionals who provided presentations and hands-on activities.  ASCE-Pittsburgh hosted a booth on the second floor, next to Robo-World.  While Robo-World was a bit of a distraction, it also kept the students and participants lingering in our booth for longer periods. ASCE provided engaging hands-on activities for the school groups and families to watch, learn, and understand what civil engineers do every day.  Our group of 14 volunteers were engaging ambassadors and held their own during the busy three days.

    ASCE Pittsburgh had several props and demonstrations:

    • Draw Bridge Activity – demonstrated the concepts and basic background of a draw bridge.
    • Foundation Activity – demonstrated the concepts and basic background of selecting a deep foundation versus a shallow foundation.
    • Landslide Activity – demonstrated the concepts and basic background of how landslides occur and some measures that can prevent them.
    • Watershed Activity – demonstrated the concepts and basic background of water runoff and how to prevent pollutants from entering our drinking water.  This was by far the most popular activity – perhaps in part because there was water and food coloring involved.

    “Engineer the Future” is an emblematic event for Pittsburgh and an excellent opportunity for our ASCE Section to increase awareness of our profession and encourage young students to become civil engineers.  For more information on the 2018 “Engineer the Future” event, check out the Carnegie Science Center description.

  • 09 Apr 2018 11:39 AM | ASCE Blog Editor (Administrator)

    By Sebastian Lobo-Guerrero, Ph.D., P.E., From American Geotechnical and Environmental Services

    On Easter Sunday, March 27, 2016, a landslide initiated in an existing rock cut located uphill from a shopping plaza in Altoona, Pa. The landslide created tension cracking along the existing rock cut, and during a period of weeks the tension cracks expanded from inches to feet (mm to meters). Survey readings indicated that portions of the slide were moving at a rate of approximately 2 in/day (5 cm/day). In addition to the shopping plaza, high voltage electric lines and an underground gas line ran along the base of the rock cut, further prioritizing the need to mitigate the failure as quickly as possible. Due to the rate at which the rock mass was sliding and the associated potential danger below, a plan was rapidly implemented to secure the hillside. The plan involved constructing a temporary rock buttress, removing most of the slide mass, securing the bedrock upslope of the tension crack with shear pins, and final reconstruction and grading of the slope. The inherent danger that quickly developed from the slide failure led to intense media coverage, with some positive and negative impacts.

    Slope Failure and Preliminary Investigation

    The failure of the slope was first observed when tension cracks were discovered along the top of the rock cut, which was constructed more than a decade before the failure. Once the failure was identified, the site owner quickly began an investigation and contacted The EADS Group for engineering services (slide monitoring and project coordination) and A.G.E.S. for geotechnical design of the slide remediation. The site investigation was performed as quickly as possible, and revealed that bedrock along the cut consisted of sandstone with interbedded shale with a bedding dip of about 16 degrees. The orientation of the dip was downslope along and toward the cut.

    A drainage ditch was present upslope of the failure scarp, and was intended to divert water from wetlands upslope. It was noted that trees were growing along the drainage ditch. Water flow within the ditch seemed to “disappear” in the region closer to the scarp.  It was believed  that  surface  runoff had been flowing into the slide rather than following the path of the constructed drainage ditch. Water could be heard flowing within the tension cracks of the slope failure, and seepage was observed along the slope. In an effort to reduce future movement, the water in the ditch (region of groundwater infiltration) was temporarily diverted by pumping until the ditch and slide could be repaired.

    Read full article here.

  • 04 Apr 2018 10:02 AM | ASCE Blog Editor (Administrator)

    By Christina Urbanczyk

    On February 26, 2018, the Environmental Water Resource Institute (EWRI) Chapter of ASCE-Pittsburgh hosted a morning seminar on the Impacts of Chlorides on Urban Land and Waterways. The event was hosted at the Engineers Western Society of Pennsylvania in downtown Pittsburgh, PA in partnership with 3 Rivers Wet Weather, Three Rivers Quest, 3 Rivers Proud, Allegheny County Conservation District, American Public Works Association, Allegheny Watershed Alliance, Jacobs Creek Watershed Association, Nine Mile Run Watershed Association, Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority, Saw Mill Run Watershed Association, Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission Water Resource Center, and Westmoreland Conservation District.

    The morning seminar was a series of presentations discussing the impacts of the elevated use of roadway salts in cold weather climate watersheds on surrounding land and waterways, and included perspectives on local, regional and national levels. Presentations and follow-up discussions focused on quantifying salt loading and impacts overtime as well as how to reduce loading by improving winter BMP maintenance.

    The seminar began with a presentation by Robert Hirsh, a research hydrologist with the US Geological Survey, Washington DC Office. Hirsh’s data from the past few decades indicates that an increase in chloride concentration in streams has outpaced urban growth.  His data also demonstrates an increase in chloride concentration in groundwater and lakes. Hirsh further emphasized the need for continuous stream flow data to monitor chloride loading in conjunction with chloride concentration.

    The second presentation was delivered by Brady Porter of Duquesne University and 3 Rivers QUEST. Porter provided an overview on the seasonal chloride concentrations in the Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio Rivers. Porter’s group is involved in the periodic sampling of numerous surface water locations along these rivers, as well as continuous monitoring with YSI probes.

    The impact of chloride toxicity in urbanizing watersheds was discussed on a regional level by James Houle of the University of New Hampshire. Houle discussed data collected from his research group on the performance of various best management practices (BMPs) on reducing chloride loading from salt applications. Because parking lots are a major source of chloride loading, Houle’s research primarily focused on salting of parking lots and the resulting friction resistance of various lot surfaces. Houle’s presentation indicated that salt reduction may be possible with no loss in surface skid resistance using alternative mechanical methods of application.

    While a majority of the presentations focused on the impacts of chloride, Dan Bain from the University of Pittsburgh provided a different perspective by focusing on sodium impacts. Bain’s presentation highlighted that roadway salt applications cause legacy contamination, because both sodium and chloride alter metal mobility in soils. This discussion on the alteration of soil and water chemistry due to salt provided insight into the long-term effects of the roadway salt applications on the environment.

    The presentations at the seminar introduced a wide range of data and recommendations for further research from the local, regional and national level on the impacts of roadway salts. Erin Kepple Adams from the Southwestern PA Commission concluded the seminar with a discussion on the importance of improving winter BMP management with training and workshops, which may decrease salt use for deicing of roadways. Adams also provided seminar attendees with a useful resource guide on winter maintenance BMPs.

    Thanks again to our sponsors of this event, without which this seminar could not have been possible.

  • 26 Mar 2018 3:23 PM | ASCE Blog Editor (Administrator)

    From Alcosan Communications

    February 20, 2018 - Working diligently to bring solutions to the region's issue of overflows caused by excess groundwater and stormwater, ALCOSAN's Tim Prevost, manager of Wet Weather Programs, is a champion of making our rivers and streams cleaner and healthier through the authority's Green Revitalization of Our Waterways (GROW) program. Because of his efforts, Prevost has been named the 2017 Civil Engineer of the Year by the Pittsburgh Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE).

    Prevost, who has been with ALCOSAN for 20 years, is a registered professional engineer in Pennsylvania and a graduate of the Rochester Institute of Technology.  At ALCOSAN, Prevost oversees the  GROW program and  leads the  Authority's  compliance  with the EPA's combined  sewer  overflow  (CSO) and sanitary  sewer overflow (SSO) policies. He also received the  ASCE-Pittsburgh's 2012 Government Engineer of the Year award.

    The GROW program, which recently received the 2018 National Environmental Achievement Award by the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA), provides reimbursement grants to the authority's 83 partner municipalities and authorities for projects that reduce the amount of excess groundwater and stormwater that enters the sewer collection system and ultimately leads to the problem of overflows during  wet weather events. Annually, approximately 9 billion gallons of mixed stormwater, groundwater and sewage enter the region's rivers and streams during wet weather. ALCOSAN is under a federal consent decree to reduce these overflows throughout its  system.

    ALCOSAN's Executive Director Arletta Scott Williams applauded the awardee saying, "I have been privileged to watch Tim grow up in the ALCOSAN family. He has never wavered in his enthusiasm and determination for the program, projects and people, consistently assuming more responsibility through a unique combination of creative thinking and technical reasoning."

    "I am excited and humbled by this award," said Prevost. "But I know this honor wouldn't have happened without our GROW team. I cannot thank them enough, because everyone doing their part and working together to make the GROW program a success is the main reason for this recognition. This award is for all of us."

    Since inception in 2016, the GROW Program has undergone two funding cycles, providing $18 million in grants for 59 projects that will annually remove nearly 109 million gallons of stormwater and groundwater from the ALCOSAN system. A total of 43 municipalities and 14 city of Pittsburgh neighborhoods have taken part in the GROW program. Cycle Ill of the GROW program will begin later this year.

    ALCOSAN is the clean water agency for most of Allegheny County, treating wastewater for 83 Allegheny County communities, including the City of Pittsburgh. The authority, which is Green by Mission and Green by Choice, enhances the c:ummu11ily' environment, quality of life and safety by working to  protect drinking  water, rivers  and streams, and making the Pittsburgh region a great place to live, work and  play. ALCOSAN's 59-acre  treatment  plant  processes up to 250 million  gallons of wastewater daily and is one of the  largest such facilities  in the Ohio River Valley.

  • 22 Feb 2018 5:59 PM | ASCE Blog Editor (Administrator)

    By Angela Mayer, EIT

    ASCE Board of Direction voted unanimously in July to adopt a new cannon in the Society’s Code of Ethics.  The newly adopted Canon 8 in the Code of Ethics expresses a professional obligation to provide fair and equal treatment for all.  It states:

    • Engineers shall, in all matters related to their profession, treat all persons fairly and encourage equitable participation without regard to gender or gender identity, race, national origin, ethnicity, religion, age, sexual orientation, disability, political affiliation, or family, marital, or economic status.
    • Engineers shall conduct themselves in a manner in which all persons are treated with dignity, respect, and fairness.
    • Engineers shall not engage in discrimination or harassment in connection with their professional activities.
    • Engineers shall consider the diversity of the community, and shall endeavor in good faith to include diverse perspectives, in the planning and performance of their professional services.

    ASCE’s Committee on Diversity and Inclusion and the Committee on Ethical Practice began collaborating on the new canon in 2016, seeking to provide a basis for enforcing ASCE’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.  The new cannon has been given the nickname the “Diversity” Canon.  This addition is the first revision to the ASCE code of ethics since 2006 and is the first addition of a new Canon in over 65 years. 


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