Phase II MS4 Pilot Weekly Blog

Week  Seven Reflection: “Reflections of Our IQP Experience”

During the course of our IQP, we have bonded as a coherent group. Along the way, we developed many contacts with various people, all with the same goal of improving the regulation of stormwater runoff. Stormwater runoff is a large issue contributes to polluting our fresh water by carrying harmful pollutants. Therefore with a revised MS4 permit coming with the next year or so, municipalities are gearing themselves for harsher regulations the EPA will implement. We were astounded to learn that 13 municipalities have joined together with a goal towards addressing stormwater regulation as part of a coalition funded by the Community Innovation Challenge grant. This grant provided the municipalities funding to purchase resources that will improve their compliance to the MS4 permit which we were lucky to be a part of. We were able to utilize the Leica GPS tablet unit that was purchased with this grant and develop pros and cons that provided invaluable insight on how to effectively use the device.

The GPS mapping with the Leica unit allowed us to conduct informal conversation with municipality officials from the various municipalities. This led to meetings with town engineers with extensive knowledge of their town’s stormwater management practices and a conservation agent who held ample understanding of the catch basin and outfall systems. We learned that in smaller communities, the lack of available resources made it difficult to implement any stormwater management practices. The reason was due to the fact that the communities are wary of the fact that the MS4 permit is still in draft form and will be iterated a few more times. In larger communities with a dedicated town engineer or stormwater personnel, were able to push implementation of stormwater management practices and better prepare themselves to the regulations of the upcoming MS4 permit.

We also conversed with EPA and MassDEP officials on their take on the upcoming MS4 permit draft. MassDEP has taken a prominent role trying to help the municipalities comply with the MS4 permit. They are acting as a liaison between the EPA and the municipalities in order to facilitate conversation. This will provide the municipalities a contact that they can refer to when questions arise in compliance to the MS4 permit. Using these experiences, we were able to formulate a lot of data that allowed us to generate recommendations that could be given to MassDEP and EPA on the opinions of the municipalities and how they could help improve compliance for the municipality.

When we weren’t conversing with the municipalities and government officials, we spent the remainder of our time writing our report. We were quite excited to see how all of the things we have done this term came together in a report and really gave us something to be proud of accomplishing. We are approaching the end of our IQP and while we are diligently editing our report; we took some time and reflect on how we all enjoyed doing this project together and hope everyone associated with it enjoyed it as much as we did. We all became friends, enjoyed each other’s company, and have learned a tremendous amount during this IQP that we would never have gotten if we stayed in a classroom setting.

Last Leg of Report Writing!


Week Six Reflection: “Home Stretch – Putting together the puzzle of the project”

Week six for team DEP has been heavy in report writing and data collection.  We completed our municipality interviews with Shrewsbury, Holden and Charlton.  All three went extremely well providing us with a plethora of information regarding municipality comments on the overall rigidity and strictness of the MS4 permit, how they are complying and their initial feelings on the feasibility and effectiveness of the Zoho Database.  This provided us with the majority of the data necessary to complete our report.  With a rough draft due this Sunday it is crunch time.  We are well on our way in our report and are in pretty good shape as far as time goes.  Only two more weeks to go, work to be done, let’s get after it.

Last Meeting at DEP


Week Four Reflection: “Is IQP What We Expected?”

Welcome to this week’s installment of, the trials and tribulations of team DEP!  I’m Alex, and I’ll be your guide through the happenings of our group through the fourth week of our IQP.  On Monday, we sent the town of Shrewsbury the second round of GPS points that we recorded last Friday.  These points are an essential part of Shrewsbury’s total MS4 map, and town engineer Brad Stone was happy to have received them.  To download the points onto our computers from the Garmin Oregon GPS units, we first had to download Garmin’s BaseCamp software, which allowed us to place these points on a computer generated map.  Tuesday, we shifted gears slightly, and had a meeting with a few of our sponsors at the MassDEP, Stella and Cheryl.  This was a successful meeting, in that we discussed our upcoming trip to Dudley, as well as the water main break and how the DEP was doing water quality tests all throughout the day.  After this meeting, we trekked back to the project center to do some bookkeeping for our report.  During this time, we also drafted a survey that we will send out to the thirteen municipalities as an alternative to us going out to each town and speaking with DPW employees.  We have word from four towns and possibly a fifth that they will gladly participate in our survey, and sit down with us and walk us through their information.  A great victory for the data collection of our report!!

On a cold Wednesday morning, we dragged ourselves out to the Dudley Highway Department to begin GPS outfall mapping for them.  The highway employee who annually cleans their catch basins, Al, showed us around the town, mapping at least 75 outfalls!  This man knew is stuff, because he officially didn’t know where many of the outfalls were, but he knew how to track the catch basins and where they flowed.  This day was much less difficult than we had originally anticipated.  Thursday, we met with Professor Dehner at the project center, discussing many things including the rough draft of our final report and possible travel compensation for all of our driving (a considerable amount of driving!).  Finally, we wrapped up the week by going out to Tata and Howard’s office in Marlborough for a training session on the new Leica GPS unit!  This unit will pinpoint outfalls down to the centimeter, rather than the range of 2-5 meters of the Garmin unit.  Overall team DEP had a successful week, and we look forward to mapping in Charlton and possibly Spencer next week; not to mention the mounds of home cooked food we’re looking to on Thanksgiving!!

So far, our IQP has been quite the interesting experience.  We’ve met a variety of people, and have been trained on various permits, GPS units, and stormwater management systems.  In terms of our expectations, we have done much more fieldwork and real life tasks than we originally anticipated.  Four weeks in, we couldn’t be happier and more satisfied with our IQP experience…well, maybe if more towns respond to our survey, then it’ll be truly outstanding!

Week Three Reflection

This week was an eventful one for Team DEP, as we started to get into the real meat of our project.  On Monday, we drove down to Woonsocket, Rhode Island to meet with Carissa Lord, the bi-state stormwater coordinator, whom we had previously met the Friday before in Uxbridge.  Even before getting in the car to head down, we knew the overall importance of her position as bi-state stormwater coordinator.  This symbolizes the initiated cooperation between the states of Massachusetts and Rhode Island.  Previously, it was very difficult to have any individual attempt to organize any sort of stormwater management across state lines.  Rivers, watersheds, and stormwater runoffs do not abide by state lines, so Carissa deals with the Blackstone and Ten Mile River watersheds in both states.

After discussing our project with Carissa on Monday, we drove into Boston on Tuesday to pick up a Garmin GPS unit from Deb Cohen at the EPA in Post Office Square.  While we were there we got to see the rain garden green roof on the top of the EPA office.  It was pretty cool to see a stormwater best management practice being used in the middle of one of the northeast’s largest cities.

Wednesday we finally began our GPS mapping of outfalls with Brad Stone in Shrewsbury.  Thursday proved impossible to go out into the field with Brad and map, as the snowfall covered the outfalls we hoped to map, so we had the opportunity to present to Professor Dehner and the rest of the Worcester Community Project Center.  We had another successful day of outfall mapping here in Shrewsbury today, while we also gave the admissions staff some awesome film for their new video!  We look forward to next week when we’ll go out to Dudley and map their outfalls!

Week Two Reflection

One Step Closer

Week two was an extremely productive week for Team DEP.  After recovering from an exhausting long weekend of weathering Hurricane Sandy with movies and snacks, we hit the ground running on Tuesday at the Department of Environmental Protection.  We met with Stella to go over scheduling for the next couple weeks.  We found that next Wednesday through Friday we will be mapping outfalls for Shrewsbury.  The week after we will be mapping outfalls for the town of Dudley.  We then proceeded to create a comparison chart of the annual report compliance of the 13 municipalities to the 2003 and 2010 draft permit.  This served as an extremely useful tool for our group as we are now able to see which municipalities are really struggling in their current MS4 compliance and if things don’t change, will continue to struggle with the implementation of the new permit.   Thursday two representatives from the EPA came to the Worcester DEP office and trained us on how to use two different GPS units.  The first was the Trimble unit which is accurate up to 1 meter.  They also trained us on the Garmin Oregon GPS unit which is accurate up to 2 meters.  We will be using the Garmin unit for the time being.  We collected data points on catch basins in the DEP parking lot and realized that these GPS units are user friendly and effective.  Today (Friday) we went down to Uxbridge Massachusetts to a Low Impact Development (LID) training session.  Here we learned how storm water can be controlled with simple changes to developments.  This will help us not only understand more about storm water, but will give us the knowledge to introduce some LID techniques to the municipality DPW workers to aid in their compliance with the MS4 permit.   We are extremely excited for next week’s field work, mapping the outfalls in Shrewsbury.  Next week we will have mapping photos to share!













Reflections on The first Week

Polo and Khakis:

After countless hours spent in the WPI Library, our proposal is complete and IQP is finally here.

The first week of our IQP has gone well.  We started off by getting re-acquainted our contacts at the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (Mass DEP); Fred Civian, Stella Tamul, and Cheryl Poirier.  Juliet Swigor, the Mass DEP’s GIS (Global Information System) expert took us through an introductory training session of the GIS mapping system also known as ArcMap 10.  Here we learned how to use the software, superimpose land use graphs on a selected watershed, as well as calculating the amount  impervious area of that watershed.  This will be useful to our group once we start mapping outfalls using a GPS unit.  Wednesday we had an extensive meeting with Fred Civian, the MassDEP’s storm water coordinator.  He took us through the 2010 draft MS4 permit line by line and answered any questions that we had about the language and the meaning behind some of the requirements.  We then did some permit analysis on our own as an IQP group, comparing some of the requirements of the 2003 permit to the 2010 draft.  Thursday we spent the day at the Project Center, practicing and presenting our week one presentation to the rest of the Worcester IQP groups.  Today (Friday) is an eventful day for team DEP.  In the morning we worked on pulling annual reports and comparing them to the 2010 draft permit to see if they were sufficient for the new draft.  Come to find out, some municipalities have a lot of work to do in preparation for the release of the new permit!  Then came everyone’s favorite part of the day, lunch time!  But where to go?  How about one of Worcester’s most famous restaurants , Coney Island.  With a combined total of 14 delicious chili dogs consumed, as a group, we decided that lunch was a success.  This lunch trip may very well turn into a weekly occurrence!  Later this afternoon we will continue MS4 permit analysis as well as some paper revisions.  We are pleased with this week and excited for the upcoming weeks!

Coney Island