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Tioga is a Native American word that means “at the fork.” You can look at this two ways: where a river divides or where two streams converge. We prefer the latter. Because to us, Tioga is a mindset — working together with you to determine your ideal solutions.

Working with Tioga, you’ll have a complete team of environmental professionals and technicians at your disposal. So no matter what your project, you can access the specific expertise you need to take proper care of it. All through a single point of contact.

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News

by Ben Day, Senior Environmental Specialist

In March 2021, Congress passed the American Rescue Plan Act. This act provided $1.9 trillion in relief for state and local governments, hard-hit industries and communities targeted for funding a comprehensive COVID-19 response plan, delivering relief to working families, supporting struggling communities and protecting against future cyberattacks. Notable for Tioga’s clients, the ARP Act provides local governments and partnering developers and associates wide latitude to identify investments in housing, water, stormwater and sewer infrastructure that are of the highest priority for their communities, which may include projects on privately-owned infrastructure. 

Eligible water and sewer infrastructure projects include a wide range of projects that would otherwise be eligible for support through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s State Revolving Fund programs for drinking water and clean water (wastewater) infrastructure. There are 11 project categories under the Clean Water SRF and six under the Drinking Water SRF, including planning and design for capital projects and water quality planning likely to result in a capital project. Additionally, the ARP Act provides homelessness assistance and supportive service programs, such as through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s HOME program.

In Tennessee, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation is charged with administering the water, wastewater and stormwater infrastructure component of the state’s allocation of ARP Act funds. TDEC will award approximately $1 billion in the form of noncompetitive grants to communities for eligible water, wastewater and stormwater infrastructure projects as part of the Tennessee Water Infrastructure Investment Program. Similar programs are being administered by the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality and other surrounding states.

The ARP Act evaluated the issuance of these funds under the National Environmental Policy Act, with a Finding of No Significant Impact. This removes the need for local agencies receiving money to complete additional NEPA environmental reviews unless they are also funded by other federal financial assistance programs or require other federal permitting. However, environmental issues should still be addressed for each project as needed. For example, if the acquisition of a property is involved, a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment should be considered. For installation of new utility lines, a stream and wetland delineation should be performed and the associated permitting should be obtained – but the time and depth of review associated with the NEPA process will not be necessary.

If you need assistance with NEPA reviews, a Phase I ESA or wetland delineations, contact our team today.

Posted by Christina Babu at 01 July 2022

Millions of people live in regions and indoor situations where the air quality can cause serious health problems. Air quality can affect our daily lives, and like the weather, it can change every day. Ground-level ozone, carbon monoxide and other pollutants can cause negative effects on air quality, including threats to human health, despite the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulations through the Clean Air Act. Keep reading to learn how to navigate air quality and protect yourself and others from exposure to air pollutants.

Photo by Ludvig Hedenborg from Pexels: https://www.pexels.com/photo/smoking-pipes-of-factory-polluting-environment-7001364/

The Air Quality Index

The EPA developed the Air Quality Index, which reports the air quality’s value on a scale of 0 to 500. The higher the AQI value, the greater the level of air pollution and the greater the health concern. The index has six categories and colors that indicate a different level of health concern.

When the AQI is low, below 50, it means the air pollution shows little to no risk to people, and outdoor activities are encouraged. From 101 to 200, the air quality and pollution can have major impacts on those living with serious health and respiratory issues like asthma. The highest end of the spectrum indicates emergency health conditions, during which all people are at serious risk from the air and should remain indoors.

Just like checking the day’s weather conditions and temperature on the internet or on your smartphone, you can find out the Air Quality Index on your weather app and at www.airnow.gov, along with information about whether or not outdoor activities are encouraged.

What causes the AQI to increase?

There are many factors that contribute to poorer air quality. While the ozone layer is essential to protect life from the sun, there is such a thing as “bad ozone,” which is ground-level ozone. According to the EPA, this layer of ozone results from chemical reactions between oxides of nitrogen and volatile organic compounds, typically caused by pollutants emitted by cars, power plants, refineries, chemical plants and other sources that chemically react in the presence of sunlight. Ground-level ozone often reaches unhealthy levels in urban environments during hot weather. Wind can also transfer this type of ozone to rural areas, causing the AQI to increase.

Other major pollutants that contribute to a rising AQI are particulate matter, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide. Particulate matter, also known as particle pollution, is a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets found in the air like dust, dirt, soot or smoke. Sources that emit PM include construction sites, smokestacks and fire, but the major contributors are power plants, industrial facilities and automobiles. 

When the AQI is at dangerous levels and these pollutants are inhaled in great quantities, they can enter a person’s lungs and bloodstream and cause health issues such as heart and lung disease, poor heart conditions and decreased lung function. To minimize exposure to and inhalation of pollutants, keep an eye on the daily AQI and stay indoors as much as possible when levels are deemed unsafe.

What causes poor air quality indoors?

Photo by Sigrid Abalos from Pexels: https://www.pexels.com/photo/green-leaf-plant-on-pot-824572/While the EPA recommends staying indoors when the AQI is high, it’s important to consider the factors that can also affect your indoor air quality. Indoor pollution can also have serious side effects on our health. Sources include fuel-burning combustion appliances, tobacco products, toxic household cleaning products, central heating and cooling systems, and excess moisture. Some building materials may even contain asbestos or lead. 

The EPA recommends source control as the most effective way to improve indoor air quality. Determine what negatively impacts the air quality, and then eliminate those individual sources of pollution or reduce their emissions.

Though it can be costly to your energy bill, ventilation also helps remove or dilute indoor airborne pollutants. Opening a window or door and using a window fan or air conditioner unit can help bring in outside air. Bathroom or kitchen fans that exhaust outdoors can also remove contaminants directly from the room. Finally, regularly replace the air filter in your central air system and consider purchasing an air purifier, which can remove particles in a single room. 


As we approach the hot, summer months, be mindful of the daily air quality index. When levels are high, minimize your time outside and consider carpooling to limit emissions from cars.

The EPA has several regulations in place to ensure facilities limit pollutant emissions. Tioga works with industrial and construction clients to assemble permit applications and review preparedness documents to help them remain in compliance with regulations. Our team also assesses buildings with potential presence of asbestos, lead and other hazardous building materials so that indoor air quality is at a safe and healthy level. If you need guidance on compliance regulations and environmental impact, please contact us today. 

Posted by Christina Babu at 01 June 2022

By Luke Hall

Underground storage tanks, or USTs, are extremely prevalent. Prior to the late 1980s, all you needed to install a UST was a tank and a shovel. Little to no regulation or oversight existed at this time, so it was easy to walk away from a UST without closing the tank or making a determination concerning any impact leaks from the tank may have had. In general, USTs are most frequently found in situations where large amounts of fuel need to be stored, such as automotive filling stations, facilities that operate fleets of vehicles, and facilities like hospitals that need the ability to power emergency generators if the electric supply is interrupted. However, the use of USTs is not limited to these applications. Prior to the 1940s, almost every home had a small UST, usually 250 gallons, that stored heating oil. Tioga has uncovered USTs used for old gas stations with no existing record, found massive fleet fueling tanks that property owners didn’t know existed, and even located a 2,000-gallon heating oil tank in a residential yard that was still full of fuel oil. It is not an exaggeration to say that these tanks are everywhere.

Currently, USTs are regulated by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, and rules are in place that determine how these tanks are installed, operated, removed or closed. If a tank is regulated, these regulations must be followed. If a tank is not regulated, these requirements are not technically applicable. How do you tell if your tank is regulated or not? The primary indicator of your tanks being subject to TDEC regulations is this: do you or have you ever paid tank fees to the State of Tennessee? If the answer is yes, your tanks are absolutely regulated. If the answer is no, it does not necessarily mean you are the owner of an unregulated tank –certain other requirements must be met as well. If your tank was taken out of service prior to November 8, 1984, then you do not meet the definition of owner consistent with TDEC regulations. In this case, the owner is the person who last owned the tanks prior to discontinuation of its use. In addition, tanks that were used for heating oil storage for boilers are not regulated.

So you just found what you believe to be a UST on your property – what now? First and foremost, stop work immediately. Do not remove the tank and move on with your project. If this tank is regulated, unapproved removal of a tank is a serious issue that will likely result in significant assessment required by TDEC. After the tank is identified and work stops, contact an environmental professional. Tioga has experienced staff to determine if the tank is regulated or not. If it is determined your tank is regulated, you are required to close the tank in conformance with the current TDEC regulations. However, if the tank is not regulated, these regulations do not apply. Tioga always recommends that the tank is closed consistent with TDEC guidelines whether it is regulated or not. This will provide documentation that the tank was properly closed and no environmental risk to human health or safety remains as a result of leaks in the tank. Simply removing a tank from the ground without the proper documentation can lead to multiple questions as to the environmental impact of the tank in the event the property is sold. In addition, if the property is entered in a brownfields program, TDEC will require that the documentation of removal of the tank is provided, regardless of the regulated or unregulated nature of the tank.

USTs are everywhere. If you purchased a property where you find a previously unknown UST is present, it is not the end of the world. Chances are that it is not regulated. However, it is in your best interest to properly document the closure and removal of the tank. If you find yourself in this position, please do not hesitate to contact Tioga. We can help you get it out of the ground and make sure you have the documentation to prove it was removed properly.

Posted by Christina Babu at 03 May 2022

It’s April, and Earth Day is around the corner. There’s no better time than now to plan ahead and explore new ways we can live a more environmentally sustainable lifestyle and minimize our carbon footprint. Holidays typically have an even greater impact on the environment. Our usual traditions can often distract us from our everyday efforts to be eco-friendly. The good news is that we have plenty of tips to enjoy your favorite holidays while also respecting Mother Nature!

Valentine’s Day

Ditch the bouquet and flowers, and show your love is lasting with a plant. Though a dozen red roses may seem romantic, their vase life is very short. A potted plant, like a succulent or monstera, not only lasts longer, but it also elevates the aesthetic of any room, making it feel more bright and cozy. There are also several options for loved ones who don’t have a green thumb.

An inconvenient truth is that the floral industry has major negative ramifications on the environment. Just one bouquet of roses and lilies can produce up to 3 kilograms of carbon dioxide! This calculation doesn’t even include transportation from across the world to your local florist, but it’s rather due to greenhouses that require excessive amounts of energy to run. Such greenhouses also use high volumes of pesticides and herbicides that can potentially enter the land’s soil and groundwater, as well as detract pollinators like bees that we depend on for growing our food. 

Easter

Dyeing eggs is a common pastime for those who celebrate Easter or just love spring colors, but think twice before you toss that egg into the trash after the holiday! Egg shells can serve as natural fertilizer for your soil. Their high levels of calcium carbonate help strengthen plant cell walls, while other minerals like potassium, phosphorus and magnesium can help your plants grow fuller and healthier. 

After the holiday, peel the eggs and rinse the shells. After they dry, crush or grind them and mix them into the soil of your flower beds, fruits and vegetable garden, and potted plants. For an extra boost of nitrogen, mix your crushed shells with coffee grounds.

Keep in mind that egg shells also help reduce the acidity of your soil. Avoid fertilizing acid-loving plants like azaleas and violets.

Finally, be mindful of the dye you use for the eggs. There are several eco-friendly dye options that will keep your shells compostable.

Fourth of July 

Fireworks are fun but not very good for the environment because they are concentrated with pollutants and discharge harmful chemicals and smoke into our atmosphere. While pretty to look at, every color has its own set of chemical compounds, contributing to high concentrations of particulate matter and volatile organic compounds lingering in the air. 

Luckily, biodegradable fireworks are available as alternatives. Some use compressed air instead of gunpowder, while others contain a clean burning, nitrogen-based fuel. Better yet, opt for building a campfire if you want to illuminate your backyard barbecue and skip fireworks altogether.

Halloween

No Halloween is complete without pumpkins, but many people may not realize that a natural gourd can leave behind a large carbon footprint. In order to grow pumpkins big and fast enough in time for the fall season, many harvests are sprayed with heavy-duty pesticides and fertilizers. They are shipped over long distances, making their carbon footprint exorbitantly high. Before buying your next fresh collection, learn where they are grown and purchase pumpkins from local farms or farmers' markets.

Finally, if you carve your fresh pumpkins into jack-o-lanterns, don't throw away all the goodies from inside. Toast the seeds for tasty treats and use the flesh to bake a pumpkin pie or muffins. After the holiday, compost your pumpkins instead of throwing them into the trash.

Christmas and Hanukkah

rapping paper is one of the biggest perpetrators that hurts our environment. The United States alone accumulates more than four million tons of wrapping paper, and December sees the largest consumption of it.

Additionally, there are several types of paper to avoid, including glossy foil or metallic wrapping paper, which are neither recyclable nor compostable. If you can’t find recyclable wrapping paper, there are several alternatives to commercial wrapping paper, such as newspaper, old calendars, maps and paper bags. Also, while it feels gratifying and exciting to rip off wrapping paper on a gift you receive, try to open packages with care and reuse the paper when it’s your turn to give. The same goes for gift bags, ribbons and bows.

Posted by Christina Babu at 01 April 2022

By Maggie Strom

During 2021, a number of regulatory changes occurred that are likely to impact facilities that generate hazardous waste in the state of Tennessee. Most of these changes incorporated the EPA’s Generator Improvements Rule into Tennessee’s state regulations. According to the EPA, “This rule finalizes a much-needed update to the hazardous waste generator regulations to make the rules easier to understand, facilitate better compliance, provide greater flexibility in how hazardous waste is managed and close important gaps in the regulations.”

This rule clarifies the regulations and makes them easier to use and understand. Among other things, these regulations defined the category Very Small Quantity Generator and removed the category Conditionally Exempt Small Quantity Generators, revised what must be included in a facility contingency plan, and made an allowance for episodic hazardous waste generation events. The state of Tennessee also used this time to incorporate another EPA rule change and will now allow the disposal of aerosol cans as a universal waste.

Two of the changes we think will have the greatest impact are managing aerosol cans and episodic generation.

Aerosol cans are now listed in the Tennessee Universal Waste Regulations (Rule 0400-12-01-.12) along
with batteries, pesticides, mercury containing equipment and lamps. This means instead of draining and
crushing aerosol cans and disposing of the drained materials as hazardous waste or disposing of entire
cans as hazardous waste, they can now be accumulated for a year and disposed of along with your other
universal waste. To properly conform to this new rule:

  • Aerosol cans must be accumulated in a container that is structurally sound and compatible with the contents of the aerosol cans. This container should not leak and must be protected from sources of heat.
  • If aerosol cans show evidence of leakage, they must be stored in a separate closed container or overpack with absorbents. They can also be punctured and drained (and treated as hazardous waste if applicable).
  • Containers holding waste aerosol cans shall be marked with the phases: “Universal Waste--Aerosol Can(s),” “Waste Aerosol Can(s),” or “Used Aerosol Can(s).

Very Small Quantity Generators (VSQG) and Small Quantity Generators (SQG) of hazardous waste are now permitted to generate hazardous waste as an episodic event, either planned or unplanned. This is a generation that does not normally occur during generator operations – without this rule change, it would have resulted in a recategorization of the facility to a Large Quantity Generator. Planned events could include facility cleanouts or short term projects and unplanned events including hazardous wastes generated during events like upsets, accidental spills or “acts of nature.”

Posted by Christina Babu at 02 March 2022

Mold is a common worry, as excessive exposure can lead to severe health and respiratory problems. As mold is naturally occurring in the outdoor environment, there’s no building that is immune to developing mold. Tioga’s team of inspectors have sampled and found mold in office buildings, residences, industrial facilities and many other locations, and we’re here to help if or when the need arises.

We receive several questions each week from clients about investigating mold and what to do if there’s potential presence. We’ve compiled the most frequently asked questions as they are likely top of mind for you, too. For assistance in investigating a potential mold presence in your commercial or industrial facility, contact our team today for a consultation, and learn more about our work to maximize industrial hygiene and safety.

Q: What are the signs to look for in a facility if there's a potential presence of mold?

A: A musty smell is the biggest indication because the presence of moisture in a building is the main cause of mold. Other things to look for is evidence of moisture intrusion, water staining or damaged building materials.

Q: If I find mold in my house, what should I do?

A: If you see visible mold in an area like your bathroom where there is a lot of moisture, there is probably no reason to worry. However, if you experience a water leak on the roof, walls or floor and water has been inside the home over an extended period of time, that is when you need to check for mold growth in the air. As mold reproduces inside, it can be present in the air at levels that are higher than the naturally occurring outdoor concentration. This is when additional help is needed.

Q: Can't I just remove the mold myself?

A: A 1 to 10 mixture of bleach and water can be used to clean the affected surface to remove any visible mold. However, this does not remove the microscopic mold particles in the air that inhabitants can breathe in. If the problem was large enough, a remediation contractor has special equipment and methods to clean the air.

Q: What's involved in the process for mold remediation or removal?

A: Air scrubbing is used to remove any mold spores from the air. This first requires sealing off and containing the area with polyethylene sheeting to separate the remediation area from the rest of the space. If the mold is present on the walls, damaged sheetrock may need to be removed, along with any underlying paper insulation, fiberboard or other porous material inside wall cavities that exhibit any signs of mold impact or moisture accumulation.

All impacted building materials, like framing elements, behind the removed sheetrock walls should be sanded or scrubbed with an EPA-approved fungicidal agent to remove any visible surface staining and mold growth, followed by a round of vacuuming using a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) vacuum cleaner. The materials can then be wiped down with an EPA-approved disinfectant. Once they’re dry, the remediation contractor should do a final round of HEPA vacuuming.

The air inside the containment area should be cleaned with an air scrubber during and even for a while after the remediation. Also, if the area is still wet, dehumidifiers may be used to dry out the interior cavities of walls or other moisture impacted materials. 

Once the site is free of airborne mold particles, the sheetrock and other building materials can be replaced.

Q: I see mold on my bedroom wall. Can Tioga come and test it?

A: We can, but there is something you can do before setting an appointment with us. Check to see if you have a leak that could be causing this problem. Chances are, if you stop the moisture from getting inside, you will stop the mold from growing.

If you have experienced water intrusion in your building, try to determine how the water is coming in and stop the leak. Once this has been accomplished, Tioga can sample the air for mold levels and a remediation contractor can make any necessary repairs.

Posted by Christina Babu at 04 February 2022