New England Trail: Hike 50 Challenge

As an avid hiker and lover of the outdoors, I often head to the breathtaking White Mountains of New Hampshire, Vermont’s Green Mountains, and the Adirondacks of New York for weekend trips.  My goal for 2018, was to find and explore local trails that I could visit on weeknights after work. I know of popular hiking areas around the Holyoke Range but those tend to be crowded, and I am craving something new. Then I learned about the New England Trail, or NET.

The NET is one of eleven National Scenic Trails in America.  It  extends 215 miles from Long Island Sound in Connecticut north through Massachusetts to the New Hampshire border. Prior to the NET being granted federal designation as a National Scenic Trail in 2009, a 114-mile portion was known as the historic Metacomet Modnadnock (M&M Trail), and another 50-mile section was known as the Mattabesett Trail.  At that time, these trails were over a half-century old and needed maintenance and care. With continued expansions of residential subdivisions and other development pressures, the trails were constantly being relocated and options for these relocations were decreasing.

New England Trail
Map of the New England Trail from the NET website.

The National Trails System Act was developed following a speech given by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965 on the “Conservation and Preservation of Natural Beauty.” This act allowed for the creation and protection of American trails that celebrate outdoor adventure. The federal establishment of the NET in 2009 accomplished the National Trails System Act’s primary goal of protection for long-term trail viability.

In the past few years at OTO, I’ve participated in multiple conservation land acquisitions in western Massachusetts. For these projects, I review natural resource and endangered species files, assess environmental contaminants along proposed hiking and biking trails, and engage in discussions with MassDEP about planned recreational and conservation land use. I love what I do, and these projects hold a special place in my heart because I always enjoy my time on trails whether it be skiing, snowshoeing, backpacking, or just walking with my dog.

This year is the 50th anniversary of the National Trails System Act. In celebration of this anniversary, I decided to participate in Appalachian Mountain Club’s NET Hike 50 Challenge, in which participants hike 50 miles of the NET throughout the next year. I’m already 24 miles into this challenge, and it has taken me to beautiful forests, riverside trails, waterfalls, caves, and quiet mountain tops. To my surprise, some of the prettiest trails I have discovered so far are located just out of earshot of main roads that I frequently travel. This motivates me to keep going.  I can’t help but wonder what other hidden gems I will find along my way.


If you are interested in the Hike 50 Challenge but you aren’t sure if hiking all 50 miles is for you, that’s okay. There are many options that count towards your 50.  Point-earning activities are listed at the NET website. These include joining guided hikes or scheduled events, volunteering, monetary donations, staying overnight in a shelter or cabin, bringing a friend to the trail, and so many more!   (Although I do plan to hike all 50, I am gaining extra credit by sharing this blog on social media).

Adventure awaits!

Tom Speight, CHMM, and Paul Tanner, PG, LEP

Hazmat storage - BEST

For a one-page document, EPA’s humble Form 8700-22, commonly known as the Uniform Hazardous Waste Manifest, carries a lot of very important information, is used for a number of different purposes, and is generally one of the most important routine pieces of paper in the environmental industry. Launched in the grim days of Love Canal and the Valley of the Drums, in 2018 the manifest is going electronic in a big way.

EPA created the manifest program in 1980, as part of the modern Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) system of registered hazardous generators, transporters, and treatment, storage and disposal facilities (TSDFs). The process has had several major upsides: it has improved the environment by improving the accountability for waste, cutting down on inappropriate disposal of waste, and has spurred development of waste minimization and “greener” manufacturing processes.

The intent of the manifest is to have a single document that provides a diary of what a waste material is, where it came from, who transported it, where it went, and what was done with it—RCRA’s proverbial “cradle to grave” tracking. Once the material has reached its ultimate end or has been processed so as to lose its identity (such as being mixed with other wastes and batched into hazardous waste fuel for use at permitted cement kilns), copies of the completed manifest are sent back to the generator and the generator’s state environmental regulators to close the loop. The manifest has gone through several versions and the current form, a six-part preprinted paper form, has been in use since 2005—here’s one example (click image for larger view).

manifest example

While the waste is in transit, the manifest also serves as shipping papers under Department of Transportation regulations. Because of the hazardous nature of the waste, the manifest also includes references to emergency procedures in US DOT’s Emergency Response Guide, so that first responders can easily know what hazards may exist, what precautions to take in the event of fire, explosion, or spill, and what first aid may be necessary for affected persons.


The manifest has additional uses once the waste has gone to its ‘grave,’ (or in the case of incinerators and cement kilns, a Viking funeral).


  • Generators keep archives of manifests as documentation not only of appropriate management of the waste (in the event of a regulatory or ISO audit), but that the generator was acting within the limits of its generator category (large quantity, small quantity, or very small quantity).
  • Large quantity generators and TSDFs also rely on manifests for tracking their waste throughput for RCRA Biennial Hazardous Waste Reporting.
  • Companies that maintain ISO certifications use manifests to track waste minimization efforts, for example as part of the “Environmental Aspects” under ISO-14001:2015.
  • Facilities that have to report chemical usage under the federal Toxics Release Inventory program or the Massachusetts Toxics Use Reduction Act typically look to manifests to track how much of a chemical was managed as a hazardous waste (and what then happened to it), as opposed to being incorporated into a finished product, recovered or destroyed by an air or water pollution control system, etc.
  • In the least-optimal scenario, manifest records can be used to assess how much waste a generator shipped to a TSDF if the receiving facility falls into RCRA Corrective Action or Superfund status and generators start getting dunned for contributions to remediation costs.

Some states have also created separate regulatory programs that rely on manifests (such as the Connecticut Transfer Act), under which archived manifests are used as a primary means of evaluating whether a facility generated more than 100 kilograms of hazardous waste in a month. The “manifest trigger” can add significant cost and complexity to a real estate transaction —this is where the descriptions, waste codes and management methods under Sections 9, 13 and 19 of the manifest can really become important in determining whether a waste was really hazardous (since it is not unusual to ship materials that aren’t, strictly speaking, “hazardous waste” on a manifest) was just shipped on a manifest), and whether it was shipped for recycling or for disposal.

Unfortunately, manifests have also always meant paperwork, in some cases rooms full of boxes of archived manifests dating back to the early 1980s, and in this has to some degree been a burden shared by industry and regulators alike.

In order to keep pace with technology and to reduce the paperwork burden, prompted by Obama- era legislation, EPA is rolling out a new eManifest system for June 30, 2018, which will convert most of the existing paper system into an electronic one.

The rule requires the following eManifest be implemented on June 20, 2018. Some of the significant aspects of the roll-out include:

  • Everyone who will be signing or using manifests, including generator staff, truck drivers, transporter compliance managers, and TSDF staff, will need to create an individual user account.
  • Manifests will be prepared, signed, and transmitted digitally, although for the foreseeable future paper copies will be retained for use as shipping papers—the driver still needs a copy in his truck cab.
  • The RCRA Biennial Reporting process will be integrated with eManifest, although the logistics of this are still being worked out.
  • The system will be funded by fees charged on receiving facilities (mostly TSDFs), ranging from $4 for fully electronic documents to $20 for paper copies, with the ultimate goal of paper elimination in 5 years.
  • Manifests may become more accessible to enforcement personnel.

With June 30 fast approaching, EPA has been hitting the road, providing talks to state agencies and industry trade groups.  At one such meeting, hosted by the Connecticut Environmental Forum on April 4th, Beth Deabay and Lynn Hanifan of EPA provided a peek into the front-end of the system (generator and vendor registrations and protocols to start an eManifest) but admitted that the back end of the system (summary reports) is still under development in Washington.

As with pretty much any regulatory change or new digital technology, there will be a learning curve and some bumpy starts. Smaller waste vendors may be playing catch-up and could find the changeover difficult, but the larger national-level generators, transporters and waste facilities are already using the system on a small scale and working out some of the kinks, so hopefully the transmission to a digital eManifest will be fairly smooth.

Looking back on the transition from paper to digital here at OTO, the shift was awkward, and took some time, but we can’t imagine bookshelves of reports anymore….  the high point of the process was recycling over two and a half tons of paper in one day alone, and turning our old document storage into part of a nice new conference room. In the coming years, we will look back on the rollout of digital manifests and are likely to appreciate simpler data processing, saving shelf space and trees!


This part of our ongoing series about building settlement and geotechnical engineering strategies to mitigate settlement. Mike Talbot is OTO’s geotechnical engineering practice lead.

I recently had the pleasure of presenting a talk on this topic at the Connecticut Society of Civil Engineers Spring 2017 Geotechnical Conference. This post provides some highlights of my talk. The entire presentation is available on OTO’s web site.

Connecticut River Valley Varved Clay (or CVVC) is a type of fined grained soil deposit that was laid down within ancestral Lake Hitchcock, which filled the Connecticut River Valley after the melting of the continental glaciers  approximately 14,000 years ago.  CVVC is characterized by alternating layers of silt and clay, and is similar in composition to other varved deposits that formed in meltwater lakes across the northern part of North America following the retreat of the continental glaciers.

CVVC deposits are soft and compressible, and significant building or embankment settlement may result from building dead or live loads or from the placement of new fill loads. Having practiced extensively in the Connecticut River Valley for approximately 25 years, OTO has wide-ranging experience in investigating CVVC sites and providing geotechnical engineering solutions to address settlement concerns.

In my talk, I presented two case studies where a soil preload was constructed to mitigate post-construction settlement.  One case study involved the new Easthampton (Massachusetts) High School and the second involved a new book depository in Hatfield, Massachusetts. Both project sites were similar in that they were underlain by greater than 50 feet of soft CVVC, and in that the new construction (a combination of fill placed to form the building pad, and building dead and live loads) resulted in an increase of greater than 1,000 psf (pounds per square foot) in the vertical effective stress within the soil profile– books can  be heavy! Without ground improvement, this load increase could have caused the maximum past pressure to be exceeded within portions of the soil profile, causing virgin consolidation to occur. Consolidation is the process where the water content of the soil decreases, without being replaced by air, so that an overall volume of the soil layer changes. During design, we estimated that up to 6 inches of total settlement and as much as 3 inches of differential settlement could occur at both sites, enough to cause  damage and loss of functionality to the planned buildings.

From Langer, William H. Map Showing Distribution and Thickness of the Principal Fine-Grained Deposits, Connecticut Valley Urban Area, Central new England. Department of the Interior, United States Geological Survey, 1979
Easthampton Site


CVVC Deposits Map From Langer, William H. Map Showing Distribution and Thickness of the Principal Fine-Grained Deposits, Connecticut Valley Urban Area, Central new England. Department of the Interior, United States Geological Survey, 1979
Hatfield Site

Both structures were sensitive to post-construction settlement, so it was determined that soil improvement was required to mitigate the amount of settlement. The application of a soil preload was selected as the appropriate soil improvement technique. In essence, preloading is intended to simulate the design loads of a building, in this case by stockpiling large quantities of soil on the site, so that the consolidation occurs before the building is constructed. In addition, the construction schedule was tight for both projects, so the design solution included features (wick drains, which provided additional pathways for water to be eliminated) to expedite the consolidation process. Our design solution was similar for both projects and involved the following:

  • The installation of wick drains to help remove water from the soil matrix, and speed the rate of settlement (in this case, time was reduced to about three months),
  • The placement of a preload fill, which varied from two to 11 feet high, and
  • The monitoring of settlement during construction.
Easthampton Soil Profile
A typical soil profile at the Easthampton site.

Preload settlement monitoring and the post-construction performance of both structures indicate that the preload application was successful in reducing the amount of post-construction settlement. The use of wick drains allowed the preload settlement to occur without significantly impacting the construction schedule. However, despite the similarities of the site geology and the selection of a similar design solution the amount of preload settlement varied significantly between the two sites. At the Easthampton site, the preload settlement was approximately half of what occurred at the Hatfield site. The variation is likely attributable to a high silt and sand content in the CVVC at the Easthampton site.  We have found that simple moisture content data from bulk samples (combination of both silt and clay varves) provide a good indication of this variation.

More detail is provided in the complete presentation, downloadable from the link above. If you have any questions please feel free to contact us.