Monday, October 29, 2018

TKDA names Andy Wagstrom vice president of its Rail Division

TKDA, an employee-owned provider of engineering, architecture, and planning services, has named Andy Wagstrom, PE, as vice president of the firm’s Rail Division. A TKDA employee for several years, he has extensive experience serving the rail industry across the United States and Canada.

Wagstrom has worked on a wide variety of projects, including mainline, bridge, automotive, yard and industrial track. He has experience with the design and construction of fueling facilities, bulk storage containment, yard air, industrial waste systems, and other railroad support facilities. He also has been involved with intermodal and automotive facility expansion projects, helping railroads increase capacity to meet growing business needs.

“Andy has a strong background of rail projects that have spanned the country, and that experience will serve him well as he heads up our growing and diverse Rail Division,” says Tom Stoneburner, TKDA president and CEO. “He is a natural leader, and he knows the rail industry and our clients well.”

Wagstrom has a civil and environmental engineering degree from South Dakota State University at Brookings. He is a member of American Railway Engineering and Maintenance-of-Way Association and is registered in several states and Canadian provinces.

TKDA serves the rail industry from offices in St. Paul and Duluth, MN and Chicago, Los Angeles, and Seattle. “TKDA has been serving rail clients for our entire 108-year history. I am honored to have this opportunity,” Wagstrom says.

Headquartered in St. Paul, TKDA serves a broad range of public and private markets. For more information, visit

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Matt Cole starts new electrical engineering firm in Chattanooga, TN

Matt Cole, an electrical engineer with nearly 23 years of engineering experience, has turned entrepreneur by launching 3 Phase Associates, a new electrical engineering consulting firm in Chattanooga, TN. Cole finally said “life was too short” in leaving a high-salary gig and starting his own consulting business.
Cole has a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Tennessee Technological University and an M.S. degree in engineering management from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. He is a licensed engineer in eight states in the Southeast. Cole’s background in the utility industry includes design, engineering, construction, and implementation of electric power and telecommunications systems.

Cole’s new electrical engineering consulting business serves utilities in substation modifications or architecture-engineering firms for electric facility modifications. The company offers substation design, construction, testing, commissioning, and project management. They focus on turnkey projects for power utilities serving the world of transmission and distribution.

3 Phase’s areas of expertise include power substation modifications for protection and controls, relaying, SCADA, telecommunications, cybersecurity, and more. The firm is licensed to perform services in multiple states across the Southeast. 3 Phase also performs professional engineering services for commercial and industrial electrical facilities.

Cole says, “It’s more than just another engineering and design company. 3 Phase focuses on performing the design and engineering drawing packages required for construction and then helps with the install, implementation and commissioning.” It has always been a dream of Cole’s to own his own firm. 

“I am very proud and excited to be using my engineering background along with my 22-plus years of experience to grow 3 Phase Associates into a solid, reputable, and sustainable company while striving to keep engineering consultant rates low and competitive," Cole says.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

GAI Consultants tells how green infrastructure meets Pittsburgh stormwater challenges

Green infrastructure solutions are both functional and attractive and are coming into use more and more in Pittsburgh, PA and beyond. The water staff at GAI Consultants describe how these innovative strategies work to manage stormwater—naturally. GAI Consultants is an engineering firm headquarterd in Pittsburgh with offices throughout the mid-Atlantic, midwestern, and southern regions of the United States.

Green Infrastructure solutions are providing an effective first line of defense for meeting the substantial stormwater management challenges of the Pittsburgh, PA area. Surrounded and crisscrossed by rivers and streams, peppered with former industrial sites, and currently experiencing some of the heaviest rainfall on record, much of Pittsburgh and the surrounding region is serviced by aging stormwater-management infrastructure.

Slowing the flow
“The Pittsburgh area has a very old combined sewer system that has to convey stormwater in addition to wastewater from homes and businesses,” says GAI’s Patrick Gallagher, MBA, vice president, NE Community Development. “The system is not truly adequate for today’s demands, and as little as a tenth of an inch of rain can overload some systems with stormwater.”

North Shore Riverfront Park incorporates bioswales, reductions in impervious pavements, and vegetative water quality improvements.
Much of the quick overload of Pittsburgh’s combined sewer is due to the city’s high prevalence of impervious surfaces like concrete, which swiftly channel stormwater into the over-taxed sewers. This is where Green Infrastructure comes in.

Green Infrastructure solutions help slow the flow of stormwater by offering permeable surfaces that allow water to move below ground level, and they often provide temporary on-site storage for stormwater rather than allowing water to flow freely to the sewers. Working as a complement to traditional “gray” infrastructure—sewer pipes, tunnels, etc.—Green Infrastructure acts to ease the burden on the combined sewer, help mitigate overflow, and provide initial stormwater infiltration and filtration of sediments and contaminants.

Beauty above, business below
Green Infrastructure mimics natural processes that capture and slow stormwater. Many are marked by vegetation and other landscaping features that make them attractive to look at while they perform a valuable water-management function. A bioswale is a natural-looking Green Infrastructure solution that one might walk right by without even noticing.

 UPMC East incorporates bioswales, rain gardens, and stormwater detention ponds.
“Bioswales are engineered trenches filled with layers of soil and rock and topped by grasses or native plants—they’re often used in parking lots, public spaces, or positioned to catch roof and sidewalk runoff in housing developments,” said GAI Engineering Director David Troianos, PE. Bioswales have sloped sides that channel water downward—while the bioswale slows water flow, the plant roots and soil help filter out pollutants. “The gravel, sand, or stones at the bottom of the bioswale provide more filtration and temporary storage for the water, which can then slowly drain into the aquifer or be conveyed to local waterways through an installed drainage system,” Troianos explains.

Other Green Infrastructure solutions like rain gardens, permeable concrete and pavers, bioretention facilities, and more help reduce, slow, and filter stormwater, while solutions like green roofs—which top buildings with vegetation and other natural elements—have the added benefit of helping reduce power consumption by keeping rooftops cool.

Maintenance challenges
While effective and pleasing to eye, Green Infrastructure’s relative newness may present challenges to owners who are not staffed or skilled to perform the maintenance necessary to ensure that the solutions function properly.

“Green Infrastructure is quite different from installing a pipe in the ground, which may need only minimal attention for the next several years,” says GAI Assistant Engineering Manager Shannon Killion, PE, ENV SP. “There are landscaping considerations in many cases, and even small trash like candy wrappers can affect the functionality of Green Infrastructure. So site owners may need to assess and retool their maintenance programs to properly provide the service and attention that Green Infrastructure requires.”

Combined expertise creates effective Green Infrastructure
Effective Green Infrastructure solutions represent the collaboration of a range of disciplines. “We have hydrogeologists, civil engineers, landscape architects, GIS mapping technicians, biologists, and others working together for the various projects large and small that we work on at GAI,” says Gallagher. “We draw on more than 500 local specialists, and each Green Infrastructure collaboration is focused on creating solutions that meet PA DEP requirements, yet are also cost effective and minimize maintenance for our clients while working to provide clean water and sustainable stormwater management well into the future.”

Patrick Gallagher, MBA, specializes in residential, commercial, healthcare, institutional, industrial, and brownfield infrastructure projects including designing roadways, earthworks, sanitary and storm sewers, waterlines, and utilities, public presentations, and local, state, and federal permits.

David Troianos, PE has extensive experience in all phases of project management, construction management, and design engineering-related responsibilities for a wide range of civil engineering projects. His primary experience is in managing water, wastewater, and sewer system investigations, studies, designs, and capital improvement projects.

Shannon Killion, PE, ENV SP has wide experience in wastewater collection systems, wastewater treatment plant design, and combined sewer overflow (CSO) mitigation. She focuses on how each project fits into the client’s long-term goals, and takes projects from design conception and alternative analysis to permitting and through construction.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Chemical engineer documents drop in plastics recycling

According to a post in WasteAdvantage magazine, the Plastic Pollution Coalition has published a new engineering estimate showing plummeting recycling rates for plastic in United States. Author Jan Dell, a consulting chemical engineer, used U.S. Environmental Protection Agency data and industry data to estimate the U.S. plastic recycling rate will sink from 9.1% in 2015 to 4.4% in 2018. Dell estimated the recycling rate could drop as low as 2.9% in 2019 if plastic waste import bans are adopted by more countries in Asia.
The engineering estimate shows four factors contributing to the drop in recycling rates: 1. Plastic waste generation is increasing in the U.S. 2. Exports counted as recycled have cratered due to China’s ban. 3. Costs of recycling are increasing since many trucks are needed to collect the widely dispersed waste. 4. Plastic production expansion is keeping the prices of new plastics comparatively low. These factors work against the key premise that waste plastic will someday have sufficient value to drive reclaiming it rather than disposing of it.
“Einstein famously said that a definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome,” says Dell. “We’ve seen promises, goals, ambitions, and aims from companies for nearly 30 years to increase recycled content and reduce the number of plastic bags they hand out. During that time, plastic use and pollution has increased as well-documented by Jenna Jambeck, Roland Geyer, and other researchers. The projected less-than-5% U.S. plastic recycling rate in 2018 should be a wake-up call to the false promise that the existing voluntary, economic-driven U.S. recycling system is a credible solution to plastic pollution.”
The United States ranks 20th on the list of countries contributing to plastic pollution in the ocean with an estimated 88 to 242 million pounds/year of plastic marine debris. The annual International Coastal Cleanup confirmed the evidence of plastic pollution on U.S. coasts in 2017 when more than 3.7 million pounds of trash, the majority of it plastic, was collected by 209,643 people on a single day. The global movement Break Free From Plastic provides aBrand Audit Toolkit for people participating in cleanups to audit and identify the brands and corporations responsible for plastic pollution.
“Recycling as the solution to plastic pollution is a myth,” said Dianna Cohen, co-founder and CEO of Plastic Pollution Coalition. “Recycling is the end point of the production chain, and it does not work without infrastructure and operational systems, which many places in the U.S. and world, simply do not have. In the U.S., industry looks to recycling as a catch-all, when really we must stop using plastic as a material for single-use. Corporations must step up to change their packaging because they are responsible for 100 percent of the damage it does. It’s time for all of us to work together and demand a systems shift away from ‘disposable’ toward nontoxic reusables.”
For more information, visit
Jan Dell, PE,  is a registered chemical engineer and author of The Last Beach Cleanup (to be published in 2019). She has worked with companies in diverse industries to implement sustainable business and climate resiliency practices in their operations, communities, and supply chains in more than 40 countries. Appointed by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, she was a member of the U.S. Federal Committee that led the 3rd National Climate Assessment from 2010 to 2014 and the Vice Chair of the U.S. Federal Advisory Committee on the Sustained National Climate Assessment in 2016-2017.