Don’t Get Sunk: Everything You Need to Know About Sinkholes (Part Two)

Sinkhole in Frederick, Maryland. Credit: Randall Orndorff, U.S. Geological Survey. Public domain.

Sinkholes can be quite terrifying. We see them on the news, on television and in movies seemingly appearing out of nowhere, swallowing up cars and creating calamity in towns across the world. In this two-part blog series, our experts uncover the mystery around sinkholes and arm you with the facts you need to make them less scary.

In part one of the blog series, we discuss what a sinkhole is, three different types of sinkholes, and what causes them to form. In this second part, we explore how to detect sinkholes, what to do if you detect a sinkhole, and the steps taken to repair them.

WELCOME TO PART TWO: DON’T GET SUNK: EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT SINKHOLES
How to Detect a Sinkhole:

Cover-collapse sinkholes (outlined in red) in eastern Bullitt County Kentucky. Photo by Bart Davidson, Kentucky Geological Survey.Not all sinkholes are Hollywood-style monstrosities capable of swallowing your whole house. But even a much smaller, less noticeable sinkhole can do its fair share of harm, compromising your foundation and damaging utilities.

Although sinkholes can be scary to think about, you can take comfort in knowing there are ways to detect them, both visually and experimentally. Often, you can spot the effects of a developing sinkhole before you can spot the hole itself. If you live in an area with characteristics common to sinkhole formation (i.e. “karst terrain,” or types of rocks that can easily be dissolved by groundwater), there are some things you can do to check your property for signs of potential sinkhole formation.

According to the American Society of Home Inspectors, there are key signs you should be on the lookout for in and around your home:

Inside:

  • structural cracks in walls and floors;
  • muddy or cloudy well water;
  • interrupted plumbing or electrical service to a building or neighborhood due to damaged utility lines; and
  • doors and windows that don’t close properly, which may be the result of movement of the building’s foundation.

Outside:

  • previously buried items, such as foundations, fence posts, and trees becoming exposed as the ground sinks;
  • localized subsidence or depression anywhere on the property; in other words, an area that has dropped down relative to the surrounding land;
  • gullies and areas of bare soil, which are formed as soil is carried towards the sinkhole;
  • a circular pattern of ground cracks around the sinking area;
  • localized, gradual ground settling;
  • formation of small ponds, as rainfall accumulates in new areas;
  • slumping or falling trees or fence posts; and
  • sudden ground openings or ground settlement, keeping in mind that sudden earth cracking should be interpreted as a very serious risk of sinkhole or earth collapse.
Actions to Take if You Believe You’ve Detected a Sinkhole:

If you spot any of the signs listed above, or you suspect that you have a sinkhole on or near your property, you should contact your township, public works, or the local engineering firm that represents your municipality right away. If you have discovered a sinkhole that is threatening your house or another structure, be sure to get out immediately to avoid a potentially dangerous situation.

Also, it is highly recommended that:

  • Credit: USGSIf a sinkhole expert can’t get to the area relatively quickly, you ensure that kids and animals keep away, fence/rope-off the area while maintaining a far distance away from the actual sinkhole, keeping in mind that doing so requires extreme caution and is always best left to the experts when possible;
  • Notify your neighbors, local Water Management District, and HOA;
  • Take photos to document the site;
  • Remove trash and debris from around the suspected area in order; and
  • Keep detailed records of all the actions you took.

If you’re trying to determine whether or not you have a sinkhole on your property, there are a few physical tests that can be conducted to determine the best course of action.

In Australia, a courtyard formed a sinkhole. Credit: Earth-Chronicles.comElectro-resistivity testing: This extremely technical test can best be summed up by saying it uses electrodes to determine the conductivity of the soil. Since electricity can’t pass through air, this test shows any pockets where the current didn’t pass through. This is a fairly accurate way to determine if there is a sinkhole and where it is.

Micro-gravity testing: Another incredibly technical method, this test uses sensors that detect the measure of gravity. Since the gravitational pull in a given area should be the same, you can see if there are minute differences in the measurement. If there is a difference, then it’s likely that you have a sinkhole in that area.

If you are still unsure whether or not you live in a sinkhole risk area, you can check with your local, territorial, or national government offices; review geological surveys such as the United States Geological Survey (USGS); and contact an expert.

How a Sinkhole is Repaired?

There are three main techniques experts utilize to repair sinkholes. The type of sinkhole and landowner’s aesthetic preferences determine the methodology used to repair the sinkhole.

The three common methods are:

  1. Inject grout with a drill rig: This uses a piece of large drilling equipment that pierces the ground and goes down into the sinkhole, injecting it with grout/concrete. This method stops the filling of the carbonate crack with sediment since concrete and grout do not break down into such small particles (no piping).
  2. Inverted cone: With this method, the construction crew digs down and finds the bowl-shaped opening. They then open up the surface so that the entire sinkhole area is exposed. To stop the draining of sediment into the crack in the carbonate rock, they fill the hole with bigger rocks first, then gradually fill in the seams with smaller rocks until the sinkhole is plugged.
  3. Filling it with concrete/grout from the surface: This is a combination of the prior two methods. The construction crew opens the surface all the way up so the entire hole is exposed. Then, they bring in a big concrete pourer and fill the sinkhole with concrete.

Missouri Dept of Natural Resources, Inverted cone repair sinkhole mitigation diagram

Our engineers regularly go out in the field to oversee and inspect sinkhole repairs. If you detect a sinkhole, or what might be a sinkhole, on your property, our experts strongly advise immediate actions be taken. Ignoring a sinkhole will only cause it to get larger and more dangerous as time passes, and putting topsoil over a sinkhole will only exacerbate the symptoms.

What Can You Do to Prepare for a Sinkhole?

While there’s really no way to prevent a sinkhole, you can never be too prepared! Here are three easy steps you can take to determine if you live in or around a sinkhole-prone area and what to do in the event of a surprise sinkhole:

  1. Find out whether or not you’re living in one of the sinkhole-prone states, which includes Pennsylvania, Texas, Florida, Alabama, Tennessee, and Missouri. You can do so by visiting USGS.com and searching for Bedrock Geology maps of your area. If your town is underlain by carbonate rocks, you are likely in a sink-hole prone area.
  2. Contact an engineer who’s certified to deal with sinkholes to determine if your property is at-risk.
  3. Develop a plan for what to do in the event of a sinkhole. Do you grab your family, pets, and leave immediately? Do you have a safe zone somewhere near (but not too near) your property? Do you have the appropriate emergency contact numbers in your phone? Does your car have a safety kit? These are some of the things to consider when making your emergency plan.
  4. Speak with your insurance company to see if they have sinkhole coverage, especially if you live in an area where they’re known to occur.

Although scary, sinkholes are a manageable threat if you’re informed and prepared. After all, it is possible to do something about sinkholes – if they can be detected in time.

Special thanks to Princeton Hydro Staff Engineer Stephen Duda, Geologist Marshall Thomas, and Communications Intern Rebecca Burrell for their assistance in developing this blog series.

Revisit Part One of this blog series in which we provide a detailed look at what a sinkhole is, three different types of sinkholes, and what causes them to form:

Don’t Get Sunk: Everything You Need to Know About Sinkholes (Part One)

Don’t Get Sunk: Everything You Need to Know About Sinkholes (Part One)

Photo by Steven Reilly/New Jersey Herald

Sinkholes are a phenomenon that tend to baffle and frighten most people. How is it possible that the ground beneath our feet could just drop? How do we know if we’re nearby a sinkhole? What should we do if we see one? How are sinkholes fixed? The mystery of the unknown around sinkholes can be quite unnerving.

Have no fear, we’ve got answers to all of those questions and more! In this two-part blog series, our experts share their knowledge and provide important information about this scary occurrence. In part one, we provide a detailed look at what a sinkhole is, three different types of sinkholes, and what causes them to form. In part two, we explore how to detect sinkholes and the steps taken to repair them.

What is a Sinkhole?

Sinkholes are a common phenomenon around the world. They result from both man-made and natural causes. Marshall Thomas, a Princeton Hydro geologist, describes sinkholes as “depressions observed from the surface, caused by dissolution of carbonate rocks.” In other words, sinkholes form when the rock below the land surface gets dissolved by water that penetrates the surface and continues to move downward, further into the subsurface.

Most common in areas with “karst terrain,” or types of rocks that can easily be dissolved by groundwater, sinkholes can go undetected for years until the space underneath the surface gets too big or enough of the surface soil is washed away. Sometimes the holes are small, measuring a few feet wide and ten feet deep. Sometimes the holes are hundreds of miles wide and deep. However, all of them can be dangerous.

Sinkholes are found throughout the world. States like Pennsylvania, Texas, Florida, Alabama, Tennessee, and Missouri are at higher risk for sinkholes because they tend to have more soluble rocks like salt beds and domes, gypsum, limestone, and other carbonate rocks. People living in these states are recommended to have professionals look at any property they intend to buy to make sure it isn’t in an area above soluble rock.

Types of Sinkholes

Not all sinkholes are the scary, earth-falling-out-from-underneath-your-feet events. Some occur slowly over time and are very evident from the surface. Geologists classify sinkholes in three major types. Their formation is determined by the same geological processes, barring a few differences. Let’s dive in!

1. Dissolution Sinkholes

Illustration by USGSDissolution sinkholes start to form when limestone or dolomite is very close to the soil surface, usually covered by a thin layer of soil and permeable sand which washes away or is eroded. Rain and stormwater runoff gradually percolate through crevices in the rock, dissolving it. Consequently, a bowl-shaped depression slowly forms.

Sometimes, dissolution sinkholes become ponds when the depression gets lined with debris, which traps water inside. Dissolution sinkholes develop gradually and are normally not dangerous. However, the ones that become ponds can drain abruptly if water breaks through the protective bottom layer.

Fun fact: Most of Florida’s lakes are actually just large sinkholes that filled up with water!

2. Cover-Subsidence Sinkholes

Illustration by USGSThis type of sinkhole, which starts with the dissolution of the underlying carbonate bedrock, occurs where the covering sediment is permeable (water can pass through it) and contains sand. First, small pieces of sediment split into smaller pieces and fall into openings in the carbonate rock underneath the surface. With time, in a process called piping, the small particles settle into the open spaces. This continues, eventually forming a dip in the surface ranging from one inch to several feet in depth and diameter. Again, these aren’t the sinkholes movies are made about.

3. Cover-Collapse Sinkholes

Illustration by USGSThis type of sinkhole is the one making headlines and causing fear. In order for cover-collapse sinkholes to happen, the covering soil has to be cohesive, contain a lot of clay and the bedrock has to be carbonate. Similar to the cover-subsidence sinkholes, the cohesive soil erodes into a cavity in the bedrock. The difference with this is that the clay-filled top surface appears to remain intact from above. However, underneath, a hollowed out, upside down bowl shape forms. That hollowing gets bigger and bigger over time until eventually, the cavity reaches the ground surface, causing the sudden and dramatic collapse of the ground. Just like that, poof, we have a sinkhole that appears to be surprising and abrupt but really has been brewing for many years.

What Causes a Sinkhole?

Sinkholes can be natural or man-made. The most common causes of a sinkhole are changes in groundwater levels or a sudden increase in surface water.

Intensive rain events can increase the likelihood of a sinkhole collapse. Alternatively, drought, which  causes groundwater levels to significantly decrease, can also lead to a greater risk of collapse of the ground above. In a world with a greater variability in rainfall and drought events due to climate change, sinkholes may become a more common occurrence around the world.

Humans are also responsible for the formation of sinkholes. Activities like drilling, mining, construction, broken water or drain pipes, improperly compacted soil after excavation work, or even significantly heavy traffic (heavy weight on soft soil) can result in small to large sinkholes. Water from broken pipes can penetrate through mud and rocks and erode the ground underneath and cause sinkholes.

Most commonly, human-caused sinkholes are the result of:

  • Land-use practices like groundwater pumping, construction, and development
  • Changing of natural water-drainage patterns
  • Development of new water-diversion systems
  • Major land surface changes, causing substantial weight changes

In some cases, human-induced sinkholes occur when an already forming sinkhole is encountered during construction processes such as excavation for stormwater basins and foundations. Dissolution of bedrock generally occurs in geologic time-frames (thousands of years). In these cases, the excavation process has removed the covering soils, decreasing the distance between the top of the void and the ground surface.  

In other cases, voids in the bedrock are generated due to rock removal processes such as hammering and blasting. Hammering and blasting can generate fractures or cracks in the bedrock that soil can then erode into. A void in the bedrock may already exist, however, the process of removing the bedrock by hammering and/or blasting can speed up the meeting of the upside-down bowl and the surface that much quicker. One site where this happened has experienced over 35 sinkholes in 4 years.

Overall, it’s generally not a good idea to pump groundwater or do major excavation in areas that are prone to sinkholes. According to the USGS, over the last 15 years sinkhole damages have cost on average at least $300 million per year. Because there is no national tracking of sinkhole damage costs, this estimate is probably much lower than the actual cost. Being more mindful about the subsurface around us and our actions could help lower the average yearly cost in damages and even save lives.

Photo by Barbara Miller PennLive Patriot News

Stay tuned for Part Two of this blog series in which we explore we explore how to detect sinkholes and the steps taken to repair them! For more information about Princeton Hydro’s Geotechnical Engineering services, go here: http://bit.ly/PHGeotech

Special thanks to Princeton Hydro Staff Engineer Stephen Duda, Geologist Marshall Thomas, and Communications Intern Rebecca Burrell for their assistance in developing this blog series.

Sources:

Green Infrastructure and Stormwater Utilities: Solutions to NJ’s Environmental Issues

Flooding, runoff, and storm surges, OH MY!

With increases in each of these occurring now, the imposition of green infrastructure and a stormwater utility fee are viable solutions to reducing their impacts. Plus, with the passing of the S-1073/A2694 bill in early 2019, the introduction of a stormwater utility became legal in New Jersey, making it the 41st state to do so.

On June 19, 2019, The Watershed Institute in Pennington, NJ held the “New Jersey Green Infrastructure & Stormwater Utilities Symposium” to address the environmental problems New Jersey faces and present solutions, including the stormwater utility. The event was geared for municipal officials, engineers, nonprofit leaders, and other interested parties, with an agenda full of expert speakers sharing insights and ideas on topics like the science of stormwater, New Jersey’s proposed stormwater rule changes, why green infrastructure and a stormwater utility fee matter, and possibilities for how to move New Jersey forward.

So, What is Green Infrastructure?

Brian Friedlich, the first presenter and a project manager for Kleinfelder, relayed that according to NJDEP, green infrastructure consists of “methods of stormwater management that reduce stormwater volume, flow, or characteristics by allowing the stormwater to infiltrate, be treated by vegetation or by soils, or be stored for use.” He also explained that green infrastructure can improve the environment and communities by providing community engagement, greening communities, addressing flooding, improving water quality by reducing CSOs, harvesting rainwater, increasing habitat for wildlife, and increasing property values.

After Brian’s presentation, a founding Principal of Princeton Hydro, Dr. Stephen Souza, now CEO of Clean Waters Consulting, urged that we should “turn down the volume,” when it comes to stormwater runoff. He explained that it is not enough to just manage peak flow of stormwater; we must also work to lower the volume of off-site stormwater discharge. So, how can you and your municipality do this? He offered six principles to designing successful green infrastructure projects:

  1. Treat stormwater as a resource
  2. Don’t make stormwater management an afterthought
  3. Attack the cause not the symptoms
  4. Turn your watershed inside out
  5. Think small to achieve big results
  6. Use nature as your model

Not only is successful implementation of green infrastructure important, but communal understanding of it may be more so. That is why Princeton Hydro partnered with New Jersey Future, Clark Caton Hintz, Rutgers Cooperative Extension Water Resources Program, FZ Creative, and municipal stakeholders to launch the New Jersey Green Infrastructure Municipal Toolkit. Filled with helpful information about green infrastructure, this free resource is extremely useful for gaining communal understanding, getting started, implementing nature-based stormwater solutions, and sustaining your program.

What is Stormwater and Why Should Municipalities Require a Utility Fee for It?

Before we get into why it is imperative for New Jersey municipalities to implement a stormwater utility fee, it is important to understand just what stormwater is, what it does, and how it affects New Jersey residents.

The name is pretty intuitive: stormwater is the water that comes from precipitation, whether that be rain, snow, or ice melt. With increasing levels of water from climate change impacts (i.e. storm surge, increased rainfall, sea level rise), stormwater management has become an issue for states all across the U.S., whether it’s an over abundance or lack thereof.

So, what’s happening in New Jersey? The stormwater infrastructure that is currently in place (storm drains, sewer piping, etc.) is aging and unable to effectively handle the amount of runoff that has been flowing through the region in recent years. This is causing increased nutrient runoff and flooding all over the state. And, with increasing global temperatures, this trend is likely to continue.

To combat these issues, New Jersey passed the S-1073/A2694 bill in January 2019, authorizing counties and municipalities, either separately or in combination with other municipalities, to begin implementing a stormwater utility fee to New Jersey residents.

The law itself states:

“Every sewerage authority is hereby authorized to charge and collect rents, rates, fees, or other charges for direct or indirect use or services of its stormwater management system. The stormwater service charges may be charged to and collected from the owner or occupant, or both, of any real property. The owner of any real property shall be liable for and shall pay the stormwater service charges to the sewerage authority at the time when and place where these charges are due and payable. The rents, rates, fees, and charges shall be determined in a manner consistent with the stormwater utility guidance manual created by the Department of Environmental Protection pursuant to section 24 of P.L.

Any stormwater service charge imposed pursuant to subsection a. of this section shall be calculated in a manner consistent with the guidance provided in the stormwater utility guidance manual created by the Department of Environmental Protection pursuant to section 24 of P.L.”

Essentially, this fee charges a chosen type of property owner within a given municipality or region a certain amount of money for the impervious area (mainly artificial structures like asphalt, concrete, stone, rooftops, etc. that water can’t seep through) they have on their property. Just how much that fee is and whether or not there’s a limit on the chargeable impermeable area are dependent on the government agency.

Since the impervious area blocks water from seeping into the ground, it becomes runoff and ends up in the stormwater drain. And, since New Jersey’s systems are growing old and less efficient, it makes sense to implement a fee for their use. Historically, general taxpayer dollars or legislative appropriations have been used to fund updates to aging infrastructure. Implementing a utility fee will create a consistent funding source to update and expand the current aging infrastructure so that flooding will occur less.

Other states, like neighboring Pennsylvania, have been proactive in addressing these impacts by implementing a stormwater utility fee. And, in Maryland, the state implemented a watershed restoration program and MS4 efforts that require stormwater utility fees. These initiatives have generated a job-creating industry boom that benefits engineers, contractors, and local DPWs. At the same time, Maryland’s program is improving the water quality in the Chesapeake Bay, and stimulating the tourism and the crabbing/fishing industry.

In relation to how urban cities are affected by stormwater, John Miller, the FEMA Mitigation Liaison, shared this helpful resource, “The Growing Threat of Urban Flooding: A National Challenge” during the symposium. It addresses the extent and consequences of urban flooding in the U.S., while exploring actions that can be taken to mitigate future flooding. Amongst other recommendations made, the research group encouraged Congress and state officials to “develop appropriate mechanisms at the federal, state, and local level to fund necessary repairs, operations, and upgrades of current stormwater and urban flood-related infrastructure.”

A stormwater utility should not only be reviewed in the context of cost, since it meets all three elements of a triple-bottom line: social, environmental, and financial. Other considerations are the fact that allowing stormwater utilities in New Jersey will create jobs, help reduce flood impacts, enhance water quality, improve our fisheries, and preserve our water-based tourism economy.

When it comes to green infrastructure, Princeton Hydro has been a leader in innovative, cost-effective, and environmentally sound stormwater management systems since its inception. Long before the term “green infrastructure” was part of the design community’s lexicon, the firm’s engineers were integrating nature-based stormwater management systems to fulfill such diverse objectives as flood control, water quality protection, and pollutant load reduction. And, Princeton Hydro has developed regional nonpoint source pollutant budgets for over 100 waterways. The preparation of stormwater management plans and design of stormwater management systems for pollutant reduction is an integral part of many of the firm’s projects. So, we are major proponents of implementing stormwater utilities and green infrastructure into our everyday lives.

Do you have questions regarding green infrastructure or stormwater utilities? Contact us here.

 

Employee Spotlight: Meet Our New Team Members

Join us in welcoming ten new team members! We’ve hired four full-time staff and six part-time staff and interns spread throughout our Ringoes, Sicklerville, and Glastonbury offices.

Meet the new team members:

MARCIE ROBINSON, P.E., Senior Project Manager

With nearly two decades of experience in both the private and public sectors, Marcie has extensive knowledge of both facets of the civil engineering world. Her area of expertise includes water resource engineering and more specifically stormwater management, having designed multiple stormwater facilities utilizing best management practices. Marcie has worked on all aspects of land development projects including residential, industrial, commercial, and educational site plans and subdivisions; construction administration; and municipal engineering. She has prepared capital improvement projects for local municipalities and reviewed land development projects for conformance with local ordinances and the NJDEP stormwater regulations.

Outside of work, Marcie enjoys camping, gardening, raising money for various charities, and spending time with her husband, son, and beagle. She is eager to utilize her technical background, problem solving skills, and motivation to contribute to new challenging projects.

MATT SHAPPELL, Logistics Operations Manager

As of July 9, Matt joins our team as the Logistics Operations Manager, and is primarily responsible for project coordination, staff and equipment scheduling, managing health and safety procedures, site visits, field work, staff training, and general oversight of operational logistics. Matt has worked in the environmental/aquatics field for over 15 years, and has extensive experience in geotechnical sampling as well as geophysical and hydrographic surveys. He is also a USCG 100 ton licensed vessel captain and a certified SCUBA diver.

Outside of work, Matt enjoys traveling, kayaking and hiking with his family.

SAMARA MCAULIFFE, Executive Advisor & Employee Relations Manager

With over ten years of human resources and management experience, Samara has worked as a business partner and advisor in various sectors, from finance to retail. Her hands-on experience includes researching and resolution of complex human resources related issues, recruitment process management, HRIS implementation, representation at unemployment hearings, creation of EEOC position statements, leading and administering open enrollment initiatives, as well as management coaching and training.

Outside of work, Samara is an active member of her community, volunteering for various causes dear to her heart. She enjoys spending time with her son and daughter and makes every effort to be outside as much as possible, preferably hiking or kayaking.

Marissa Ciocco, Staff Engineer

After spending the last year interning for our Geosciences Engineering Practice Area, we’re thrilled to have Marissa join our team full-time. She is a recent graduate of Rowan University holding a B.S. in Civil and Environmental Engineering with a Bantivoglio Honors Concentration. She was a member of the Orientation Staff for two years and is a member of the Student Alumni Association. She participated in the CREATE’s Fellowship program at Rowan University, and currently helps out at a local french bakery and tea room on the weekends. Her Junior Clinic class experience includes a green roof feasibility study and testing the effects of water quality on masonry mortar. In the future, Marissa hopes to work towards creating a greener and safer environment.

Marissa enjoys playing field hockey, cooking, knitting, car rides, and spending time with family and friends. She also enjoys watching home improvement shows, listening to country music, and mumbling phrases in Italian.

Ivy Babson, Staff Scientist

Ivy, who previously interned with us last summer, recently earned her B.S. in Environmental Science with a concentration in Ecological Design, and minor in Geospatial Technologies from the University of Vermont, and has now joined our team full time. During her studies, she was a member of UVM’s Humanitarian Mapping Club and has “virtually” responded to earthquake and hurricane relief efforts in Puerto Rico, Mexico, Texas, and Afghanistan via interactive spatial imagery programs. Ivy has also been the Art Editor of UVM’s alternative newspaper, drawing attention to environmental and social issues through articles and cartoons. Ivy worked closely through her school with the Vermont Chapter of The Nature Conservancy to create a restoration plan and GIS map of an altered wetland near Lake Champlain that would hopefully help regain the ecosystem services lost from agricultural development. In the future, she hopes to implement ecological design in impacted ecosystems and in urban areas to help rehabilitate and restore damaged resources.

Ivy enjoys drawing, listening to her favorite 90s alt rock bands, road tripping, and watching re-runs of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

eric Libis, Aquatics specialist

Eric Libis is passionate of the outdoors. As a resident of Alaska, Eric has extensive hands on experience with nature in all its forms. Previously, he’s held a variety of positions including small engine mechanic, project manager, and served in the U.S. Army. New to Princeton Hydro, he hopes to expand his conservation skills and knowledge while providing his experience to the field operations team.

Fond of all things outdoors, Eric can (or cannot) be found, hiking in the back-country, mountaineering, rock mineral and fossil collecting, camping (both primitive and modern), boating, fishing, trail-building, and educating the leaders of tomorrow of the importance in preserving nature for everyone to enjoy.

Chris Johnson, Field Technician

Chris currently attends The College of New Jersey as a chemistry major with a background in small molecule synthesis. As member of Princeton Hydro’s field operations staff, he primarily utilizes his pesticide operator’s license to treat aquatic invasive weeds and algae. Chris also assists in the installation of aeration systems and fountains. Outside of work, Chris enjoys the outdoors, hiking in the Sourland mountains, camping, and video gaming.

Zach Johnson, Field Technician

Zack is pursuing a degree in mechanical engineering from Rowan University. As a field technician and licensed pesticide operator, he is responsible for treating ponds and lakes with aquatic pesticides to control invasive species. Additionally, Zach assists with aeration system and fountain installations. In his free time, he enjoys movies, bike riding, video gaming and learning new life skills.

Becca Burrell, Communications Intern

Becca is a senior at the University of Pittsburgh, working to attain a degree in Media and Professional Communications on the Corporate and Community Relations track, along with a certificate in Public and Professional Writing. Through her previous experience and classwork, Rebecca has learned how to engage with others through social media, writing, and marketing. At Pitt, Rebecca is a member of two honor societies, plays intramural field hockey, and is on the events committee for the Imagination Project, a group that dresses as famous characters in kids’ movies/TV shows and visits local children’s hospitals and other rec centers. She is also a student worker in the English Department. At Princeton Hydro, she is excited to promote and further the company’s goals through the use of thoughtful communication strategies.

During her free time, you can find Becca hanging out with her family, friends, and dog. She also enjoys reading, taking walks, and binge-watching shows on Netflix.

Will Kelleher, Environmental Science Intern

Will returns to Princeton Hydro for second summer with our Aquatics team. Will is a rising senior at the University of Vermont, studying Environmental Science with a concentration in Water Resources. His current career interests are focused around wetlands restoration and water chemistry. He recently spent two weeks studying water management and sustainable technology in the Netherlands and in the past has helped with biological and chemical stream monitoring with Raritan Headwaters Association. At school, he is involved in many environmental clubs on campus including Wildlife Society, Beekeeping Club and Green House Residential Sustainability.

Outside his love for the environment, Will is also an avid hockey fan, fisherman, and aspiring traveler of the world.

Nicole King, Water Resources Intern

Nicole is an environmental engineering student with experienced in CAD drafting, technical writing, and environmental sampling processes. Prior to Princeton Hydro, she worked for an automated assembly systems manufacturer where she developed her drafting skills and organized an archive system for their project drawings.As a freshman at the University of New Hampshire, Nicole has participated in research investigating the effect of high precipitation events using coded and built pressure-depth sensors in a dammed reservoir. She is also a part of an entrepreneurship club where she expressed innovation and collaboration with other members.

In her free time, Nicole competitively swims and enjoys reading, drawing, and watching movies.

Nina Petracca, landscape design intern

Nina is a rising senior at Rutgers University studying in the Landscape Architecture Program. In her studies Nina has focused on park design, environmental planning, stream bank restoration and planting design. Her most recent project involved designing a park in Germany to compliment an engineered wetland. When she enters the Rutgers Landscape Architecture MLA Program she plans to focus her education on wetland design and its beneficial relation to the community. Over the course of her internship with us, Nina hopes to gain a better understanding of wetland design and eco-restoration and develop stronger graphic skills.

In her free time Nina enjoys hiking, dancing, cooking, spending time with loved ones and being a bird mom.

Lucas Pick, Environmental Science Intern

Lucas is entering his final year at the College of New Jersey. He is majoring in Biology with a focus in Ecology and Evolution and is minoring in Statistics. He performs research through TCNJ to investigate the interactive effects of deer and invasive species on suburban forest plant communities. He is also working on a capstone study to develop a structural equation model that encompasses the driving factors for oak regeneration. Lucas has been exposed to a wide variety of natural resource management projects, including forest stand improvements, wetland enhancements, stream restorations, and dam removals. He is seeking a career in ecology, agriculture, and natural resource management, and has joined Princeton Hydro in hopes of developing his knowledge of aquatic ecology and environmental science.

In his free time, Lucas enjoys long distance running, playing baseball, and practicing guitar.

Learn more about our team.

**Blog Content Updated on July 11, 2019**

Employee Spotlight: Meet Our New Team Members

We’re excited to announce the expansion of our growing business with the addition of six team members who have experience and qualifications in a variety of fields related to water resource management.

Meet the new team members:

alexi sanchez de boado, DC Regional Office Manager and Senior Project Manager

As DC Regional Office Manager and Senior Project Manager, Alexi focuses on watershed management and green infrastructure. For almost two decades, he has managed watershed management projects in the DC metro area, and beyond, for federal, state, county and local governments and other government entities under the authority of the Clean Water Act, National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES), and related regulations.

Serving as an urban watershed manager and regulator for six years for the District of Columbia’s Watershed Protection Division, Nonpoint Source Management Branch, Alexi managed cross-jurisdictional, urban watershed rehabilitation projects, developed and coordinated the District’s Low Impact Development (LID) Initiatives Program, and oversaw complex stream and watershed assessment projects with a huge variety of stakeholders, from local NGOs to federal land holders. Since then, he has consulted as a scientist in both large and small consulting firms focusing on stormwater pollution, stream restoration, watershed planning, and green infrastructure.

Alexi holds a Master of Science in Environmental and Forest Biology from the State University of New York (SUNY) College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) and a Master of Public Administration from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University.

In his spare time, Alexi enjoys attending concerts, biking, and traveling, especially through Latin America.

Amanda cote, regulatory specialist

Amanda graduated from Bridgewater State University in Massachusetts with a Bachelor of Science in Geography. She has background knowledge in GIS which lead her to work in college labs making maps and running various applications.  She has also participated in water resources projects and is eager to learn.

In her free time, she enjoys being in the great outdoors. Adventuring is a huge part of her life in any form that she can experience it: hiking, fishing, snowshoeing, swimming, backpacking, etc. But of all places to explore, Amanda’s favorite place to be is on top of a mountain, reflecting on and appreciating the journey she took to climb to its peak.

Matt PapPas, staff engineer

Matt is a newcomer to the engineering field, just graduating in the summer of 2018 with a Bachelor Degree in Civil Engineering and minor in Environmental Engineering from the University of Delaware. As an undergraduate, he was an active member of the UD ASCE chapter, where he was a leader in the organization and eventual captain of the concrete canoe team.

Prior to Princeton Hydro, he worked for a large construction firm in Delaware where he became quite familiar with the practical engineering world and was able to develop his working knowledge of constructability as well as hone his technical writing skills.

In his spare time, Matt enjoys cooking, hiking and wood carving.

Johnny quispe, Environmental Scientist

Johnny is a PhD candidate at Rutgers University’s Graduate Program of Ecology and Evolution investigating the effects of sea level rise on coastal ecosystems and communities. Through his research, he is identifying migration opportunity zones for marsh migration as well as areas for restoration and flood risk management. Johnny integrates social, economic, engineering, and natural systems into his projects to make coastal communities more resilient to natural disasters and climate change.

After Johnny earned his Bachelor of Science in Environmental Policy, Institutions, and Behaviors at Rutgers University, he focused on the conservation, restoration, and remediation of sites in NJ via a variety of roles in the nonprofit, public, and academic sectors. Johnny interned at the New Jersey Department of State and the Office of the Lieutenant Governor, New Jersey Future, Jersey Water Works, and at USEPA Region 2 Headquarters, where he conducted research for the Emergency and Remedial Response Division. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling, hiking, and playing board games.

Jake Schwartz, Project Engineer

Jake is a Project Engineer with a BS in Civil Engineering from Rowan University, which he earned in 2017. After graduating college, Jake worked for a civil and environmental consulting company, where he gained experience with stormwater design, flooding, grading, site layout, construction inspection/administration, and environmental regulation. Prior to his career in civil engineering, Jake worked his way up in the pool industry, starting as a swim instructor. He quickly moved up to a life guard position, and then eventually became responsible for managing 12 commercial swimming pools. As a pool manager, Jake was responsible for system upkeep and water chemistry in the swimming pools. This position enabled Jake to acquire hands on experience with water chemistry and hydraulic principles. In this position, Jake also oversaw 40 staff members, leaving him with substantial leadership experience. Jake’s goal is to use his knowledge and experience to design sustainable site plans for Princeton Hydro’s projects.

Outside of work, Jake enjoys hiking, swimming, going to the beach, and hanging out with friends.

RYAN WASIK, EIT, water resource engineer

Ryan is a Water Resource Engineer with a B.S. in Civil Engineering and a minor in Environmental Engineering from Widener University in in Chester, PA. After graduating, he worked as a highway inspector for roadway reconstruction and rehab projects in Delaware. Then, he worked as a project engineer designing and drafting for a wide range of civil/site design projects throughout the Philadelphia region and New Jersey. He has experience in roadway design, ADA ramp design, site grading and layout, utility design, erosion and sediment control measures, and stormwater design/inspections.

In his free time, Ryan enjoys playing golf, disk golf, running, and playing bass guitar.

New Green Infrastructure Toolkit for Municipalities

Our partner, New Jersey Future, just launched a brand new, interactive website toolkit to help municipalities across the state incorporate green infrastructure projects into their communities. The New Jersey Green Infrastructure Municipal Toolkit will provide expert information on planning, implementing, and sustaining green infrastructure to manage stormwaterThis toolkit acts as a one-stop resource for community leaders who want to sustainably manage stormwater, reduce localized flooding, and improve water quality.

According to the United States EPA, a significant amount of rivers, lakes, ponds, bays, and estuaries in New Jersey fall into the “Impaired Waters” category, meaning that one or more of their uses are not being met. This reality makes green infrastructure more important than ever in the effort to protect our waterways. When it rains, stormwater creates runoff, which often carries pollution to various types of waterbodies. Green stormwater infrastructure helps to absorb and filter rainwater, reducing the pollution entering our waterways and mitigating flooding in our communities. In urban areas, green infrastructure utilizes natural vegetation to divert stormwater, creating a cost-effective and aesthetically-pleasing way to manage water during rain events.

“We designed this toolkit to bring to light the benefits and importance of investing in green infrastructure at the local level,” said Dr. Stephen Souza, co-founder of Princeton Hydro. “Since the current NJ stormwater rules do not require green infrastructure, we hope to inspire municipal engineers and planning board members to believe in the value through our toolkit. Additionally, we hope it will serve as an educational resource to local officials and decision makers in the Garden State.”

For this project, Princeton Hydro was contracted by Clarke Caton Hintz, an architecture, design, and planning firm, leading this effort on behalf of the nonprofit organization New Jersey Future. Our expert engineers and scientists provided real-world examples integrating green infrastructure into development, in hopes of showing those using the toolkit real world evidence of how green infrastructure can be a part of the daily lexicon of stormwater management. Additionally, Dr. Stephen Souza developed performance standards that municipalities can integrate into stormwater management plans, which are available in the Green Infrastructure Municipal Toolkit.

Volunteers Pitch In at New Jersey’s Thompson Park

A volunteer effort, lead by the Middlesex County, New Jersey Parks and Recreation Department and the Rutgers Cooperative Extension, recently took place at Thompson Park.

Despite the rainy weather, 78 volunteers and members of the Youth Conservation Corps removed litter from the shoreline of Manalapan Lake, repaired fencing, made improvements to the park’s walking trails, weeded and mulched the park’s rain garden and native plant garden, and installed new plants in the rain garden.

The park’s rain garden was originally designed by Princeton Hydro Senior Water Resource Engineer Dr. Clay Emerson, PE, CFM. Rain gardens are cost effective, attractive and sustainable means to minimize stormwater runoff. They also help to reduce erosion, promote groundwater recharge, minimize flooding and remove pollutants from runoff.

By definition, a rain garden is a shallow depression that is planted with deep-rooted native plants and grasses, and positioned near a runoff source to capture rainwater. Planting native plants also helps to attract pollinators and birds and naturally reduces mosquitos by removing standing water thus reducing mosquito breeding areas.

Rain gardens temporarily store rainwater and runoff, and filter the water of hydrocarbons, oil, heavy metals, phosphorous, fertilizers and other pollutants that would normally find their way to the sewer and even our rivers and waterways.

On the day of the volunteer event, Central New Jersey received 0.44 inches of rain.  “We got to see the rain garden in action, which was really exciting,” said Princeton Hydro Senior Project Manager Kelly Klein, who volunteered at the event.

Volunteers from the following organizations participated:

  • Edison Metro Lions Club
  • Hioki USA Corporation
  • Girl Scout Troop 70306
  • East Brunswick Youth Council
  • Monroe Middle School
  • South Plainfield High School
  • Rutgers University
  • Master Gardeners of Middlesex County
  • Foresters Financial
  • Princeton Hydro

The Middlesex County Parks and Recreation Department’s next public volunteer event is tomorrow (June 2) in Davidson’s Mill Pond Park.

The Princeton Hydro team has designed and constructed countless stormwater management systems, including rain gardens in locations throughout the Eastern U.S. Click here for more information about our stormwater management services.

Princeton Hydro Supports Creation of Stormwater Utilities in New Jersey

For Immediate Release: May 15, 2018

PRESS STATEMENT 

On behalf of Princeton Hydro, LLC, a leading water resources engineering and natural resource management small business firm in New Jersey, we support the passing of New Jersey’s stormwater utility creation bill, S-1073. If S-1073 is administered in a responsible manner, we believe that it will enhance water quality and reduce flooding impacts in New Jersey.

Since our inception, Princeton Hydro has been a leader in innovative, cost-effective, and environmentally sound stormwater management. Long before the term “green infrastructure” was part of the design community’s lexicon, our engineers were integrating stormwater management with natural systems to fulfill such diverse objectives as flood control, water quality protection, and pollutant reduction. Our staff has developed regional nonpoint source pollutant budgets for over 100 waterways. The preparation of stormwater management plans and design of stormwater management systems for pollutant reduction is an integral part of many of our projects.

We have seen the benefits of allowing for stormwater utilities firsthand. In Maryland, the recently implemented watershed restoration program and MS4 efforts that require stormwater utility fees have provided a job creating-industry boom that benefits engineers, contractors, and local DPWs. At the same time, Maryland’s program is improving the water quality in the Chesapeake Bay, and stimulating the tourism and the crabbing/fishing industry.

New Jersey has the very same issues with our water resources as Maryland. Just like the Chesapeake Bay, our Barnegat Bay, Raritan Bay, and Lake Hopatcong have serious issues with stormwater runoff that is degrading our water quality and quality of life.  Our stormwater infrastructure is old and falling apart, and all stormwater utilities need continual maintenance to save money in the long run.

It is important to point out that this current bill is not a mandatory requirement, and would simply provide a mechanism for various levels of government (county, municipality, etc.) to collect a stormwater utility fee in order to recover runoff management costs.

This bill (S-1073) should not be reviewed only in the context of cost, as this bill meets all three elements of the  triple-bottom line of sustainability; social, environmental, and financial. Allowing stormwater utilities in New Jersey will create jobs, help reduce flood impacts, enhance water quality, improve our fisheries, and preserve our water-based tourism economy. 40 states have already implemented stormwater utilities, and we believe that it is time for New Jersey to join the ranks.

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