Water Resources Cameras

Basic steps to flood prevention

Minnesota’s aging stormwater infrastructure is forcing communities across the state to re-evaluate their action plan.

As water levels continue to increase, so does the need for effective stormwater management systems. The Star Tribune pointed out some of the struggles facing Minnesota communities in their recent story, published on September 22. At WSB, we’re working closely with municipalities to help develop stormwater management planning. Here are a few ways communities can respond to the rising water levels:

  1. Plan ahead. Identify areas of highest risk in your city early. Develop action plans that include back-up generators and pumps, sandbags, and resident notification.
  2. Identify, map and maintain overland overflow routes for water bodies where feasible. These routes allow runoff to follow streets, property lines, and backyards while protecting homes from high flood levels. Inspect and enforce keeping these overflows clear – no fences or outbuildings that may block drainage.
  3. Look for opportunities to build resiliency into the system. This may mean allowing for parking lot flooding to protect structures; constructing additional ponding retention with new developments; utilizing park space, public open space, and golf course greens for flood retention.

WSB opens Denver office to expand region-wide services

Denver, Colorado – Fast-growing Minneapolis-based consulting and design firm WSB opened a new Denver office this week at 5660 Greenwood Plaza Blvd. in Greenwood Village. The new office will allow WSB to recruit and retain additional talent to serve clients in the Denver area. WSB, which provides engineering, planning, environmental, traffic analysis, landscape architecture, survey, and construction services for the public and private sectors, has been rapidly growing in the Denver area over the last year.

“We’ve been expanding our capabilities in the Colorado market over the past year and this new office marks our commitment to growing our services and team,” said WSB President and CEO Bret Weiss. “Clients throughout Colorado have access to the same full-service experience, advanced technology and industry-leading expertise offered through WSB.”

The Denver office is WSB’s second location in Colorado. The firm has had a dedicated Utility and Pipeline team in Westminster since earlier this year. WSB began expanding in Colorado through the acquisition of Legacy Engineering, Inc., a Denver-based land development engineering services firm. The new 3,400-square-foot office includes room for the current 11-person Denver team to expand up to 17 people.

“WSB is growing a new family here in Colorado,” said Jim Mill, principal and Denver office lead. “The new office reflects WSB’s culture and we are excited to share this with more people in this market.  A brick-and-mortar location adds some permanence to our Colorado operations and is attractive both for our team members and clients.”

Headquartered in Minneapolis, WSB is the fourth-largest engineering firm in the Twin Cities. When it was founded in 1995, the company had five staff, one office and three different services areas. Today, the company offers services in more than 25 areas, employs more than 450 people and has expanded its markets beyond Minnesota with 12 offices across four different states.

Understanding lift stations

What is a wastewater lift station?

A wastewater lift station is a critical piece of infrastructure included as part of your sanitary collection system. While most wastewater generated by households, businesses, and industries is collected and conveyed via gravity through large interceptor pipes, lift stations collect the wastewater at a low point in the collection network and pump it to a higher elevation to the next gravity line or to a treatment facility.

What components make up a wastewater lift station?

In most cases, a wastewater lift station includes a wet well to temporarily store wastewater, two or more submersible pumps, pump float controls, piping, a valve vault, a control panel, radio communication devices, and a backup generator. The lift station pumps the wastewater through a pressurized pipe, known as a forcemain, which conveys the wastewater to the ultimate discharge point at a higher elevation.

What regular maintenance is required for a wastewater lift station?

Most cities have a sewer department that is responsible for regular maintenance of the wastewater collection system. Lift stations require regular attention to ensure all components are functioning appropriately. These include:

  • Daily checks for obstructions or build-up of material that may clog the pumps
  • Regular wet well cleaning
  • Exercising of valves
  • Jetting (high-pressure water), cleaning, and televising all collection system pipes on a 4 to 5-year cycle

What problems can arise from a poorly maintained wastewater lift station?

  • In the event of a lift station failure, by either a forcemain break, power outage, or pump failure, wastewater will collect in the lift station wet well and backup into the collection system. This could result in sewer backups into homes or cause wastewater to overflow from the lift station to the surrounding environment.
  • Wastewater lift stations are also susceptible to clogs from fats, oils, and grease (FOG) generated by restaurants and businesses, as well as “flushable’ rags from households and multi-unit residential buildings.
  • Wastewater lift stations can be a source of bad odors that become a nuisance to neighboring properties. The smelly gas from the collected sewage is also highly corrosive and can damage the wet well structure, the piping, and pumps over time.

How much does it cost to fix a wastewater lift station?

Depending on the size, condition, and maintenance history of your wastewater collection system, the rehabilitation of an existing lift station can range from $75,000 to over $250,000.

How can you get help with concerns regarding your lift stations and collection systems?

Our Wastewater group can help your community assess the condition of your wastewater collection and conveyance system, and outline deficiencies that should be addressed in the City’s Capital Improvements Plan. We can complete a condition assessment report for all of your lift stations and provide estimated costs for any recommended rehabilitation. The report may include hydraulic analysis to address pump efficiencies, pump and forcemain capacities, allowing your city to plan and budget for any necessary infrastructure improvements.

Bringing back the bees

Andi Moffat, Vice President of Environmental Services, WSB

At first glance, reducing the number of bugs, moths, and bees may seem like a good idea to enable people to spend more quality time outdoors. In reality, it’s a major issue that affects everything from local habitat to the agriculture in the United States and around the world. These insects are pollinators and their travel from plant to plant helps to pollinate flowers. These flowers can be native prairie or woodland plants, apples, raspberries, cucumbers, and even hay crops for the livestock industry. So even if thriving wildlife habitat doesn’t peak your interest, being able to put food on the table should.

Between the loss of habitat, use of pesticides, insect disease, and crops designed to kill insects, pollinators are declining. While this may seem like a daunting national challenge to try and tackle, but steps are being taken to bring the message to communities and to take a very local approach– all the way down to individual yards.

At the local level, the State of Minnesota has provided the Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) funding to develop the “Lawns to Legumes” program that focuses on planting residential lawns with native vegetation and pollinator-friendly plants. The goal of this pilot program is to offer cost-share, technical assistance, and planting guides to eligible Minnesota residents to install pollinator-friendly native plantings in their yard.

While individual homeowners can get involved with BWSR, there will also be a call for local partners to create demonstration neighborhoods. Eligible applicants will include cities, counties, and watershed districts. The idea is that by turning the urban lawn desert into small pockets of pollinator friendly gardens, it will have an overall positive impact for these important species.

Learn more about the program or, if you are interested in responding to the RFP that is expected to be released in December, please contact Andi Moffatt at [email protected] 763-287-7196.

Andi is a Vice President with more than 23 years of experience leading people and projects that include planning, environmental, energy, highway, natural resources, construction and development. She oversees our Environmental services and approaches her work with passion and positivity.

5G and Small Cell Infrastructure

The things to know about the world’s newest technology disruptor.

Terms such as 5G and small cell infrastructure are buzz words in today’s ever-changing innovative landscape, but what does that mean for the communities we live and work in?  Federal mandates are constantly being updated and new technology is replacing ‘old’ technology quicker than many can keep track of.  What was once cutting-edge is becoming obsolete faster and faster.  As the world continues to rely on more data, the demand for access to that data continues to grow.  Our technology-reliant world is driving carriers to build more towers and access points throughout the world.  As these initiatives continue to grow, the communities we live and work in are starting to prepare. Small cell infrastructure and 5G preparation can look different depending on the type of community you live in and where you are in the United States.

Here are 10 things to know about small cell infrastructure. 
  1. What exactly is small cell infrastructure? The CTIA, an organization that advocates and represents the U.S. wireless communications industry, defines small cell as: Small radio equipment and antennas that can be placed on structures such as streetlights, the sides of buildings, or poles. They are about the size of a pizza box, and are essential for transmitting data to and from a wireless device.
  2. Today, the United State is at critical mass for data. We play more games, we use more apps and the tools that power our daily lives rely on application-driven data. 5G brings greater speed, lower latency and the ability to connect more devices at once.
  3. Federal mandates surrounding spectrum and capacity availability have been contentious throughout the years as politicians and communities gain more knowledge. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has developed a 5G FAST Plan, a comprehensive strategy to facilitate and accelerate the deployment of America’s high-speed internet access.
  4. While other countries around the globe are advancing their technology infrastructure, the United States is taking steps to lead the world in 5G. The FCC is committed to increasing spectrum availability, updating infrastructure policy to encourage the private sector to invest and modernizing outdated regulations that will promote digital opportunities for all Americans.
  5. Have we seen 5G before? Yes, several test markets have activated for large events, especially events that take place on a world-stage. States like California, New York, Colorado, Minnesota and Texas, all of which have high growth rates, have also been investing heavily in small cell infrastructure and 5G technology. Carriers are aggressively rolling this technology out in densely populated areas to more easily distribute data in high deployment areas. Additionally, large corporate headquarters are working closely with carriers to implement related projects and technologies.
  6. Big goals and big legislation are driving the 5G movement. We’re working closely with municipalities throughout the United States to help them understand the processes that will be required and affected by small cell infrastructure. 
  7. Small cell infrastructure is being implemented where the demand is highest. 5G not only increases coverage and speed but most importantly increases capacity, and that’s why carriers are focusing on densely populated areas first. 
  8. 5G will still come from large cellular towers, but small cell infrastructure will be placed to increase capacity and data availability. Tower companies are working closely with carriers to deliver alternative solutions.
  9. In 2017, the first federal mandate was implemented to say that cities around the country cannot say no to 5G infrastructure. The mandate states that cities and communities are not able to prevent 5G from happening, but they are able to set regulations that a carrier must abide by. The question is not whether communities will choose to participate, but rather if they’re prepared for it.
  10. Small cell infrastructure will affect everyone from the most urban environments to rural towns. Cities are developing ordinances to regulate how small cell infrastructure is implemented throughout their communities. Several cities are developing permits, planner reviews and regulations to ensure that small cell infrastructure is structurally sound, aesthetically-pleasing and are protecting historically significant landmarks.