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Letters to the editor

Letters to the editor

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In response to “Politically expedient job description” letter to the editor (October 2010, page 16):

While I agree there is the need for professional licensing for technical positions, I don't agree that the department head or administrator needs to be a technician. If anything, the department head needs much broader experience than a technician to ensure projects proceed.

These projects should be a team approach with each individual responsible for their portion but also responsible for the total outcome. While the ultimate authority is on the team leader, the department head, or political appointee, the selection process for that individual should be on qualifications as a whole — not on whether they passed a test and got a license.

The administrator deals with staff, other consultants, community leaders, politicians, other regulatory agencies, etc. It should not be the administrator's responsibility to approve a technical design prepared and approved by a registered engineer. Nor should the technical engineer have to shepherd his or her design through the approval process. This should be done by the team. I am not saying that administrators cannot be engineers, but I am saying they don't have to be.

— Donald K. Cannon, director of public works, Lower Merion Township, Pa.; past president and current board member, American Public Works Association Southeastern Pennsylvania Chapter


In response to “How's your kung fu” Ideas & Opinions column (November 2010, page 23):

I enjoyed and appreciated Shawn Lindsey's article on battling tough times with strong philosophy and decision-making. Along with some great quotes and thoughts from kung fu and aikido masters, you touch on some excellent tips that did get me thinking … mission accomplished!

— Jim Patterson, city manager, City of Sherwood, Ore.





In response to “Get ready to work with the railroad” editorial (November 2010, page 7):

Thank you for mentioning me in your editorial! I have spent almost 40 years working around and for railroads, and have more than a working understanding about what makes them tick. Over the last five years, I have served as the project manager for Olathe, Kan., (a suburb of Kansas City) to construct almost $100 million in four separate projects involving railroads in our town.

Public works agencies need to approach these projects recognizing that the railroads have already met all federal requirements to operate in those locations, and any additional costs must be at the expense of the public agency. It will be difficult, expensive, and lengthy, but if you are willing to accept those ground rules you can accomplish a lot.

— Phil Estes, PE, president, Estes Consulting Inc., Olathe, Kan.


In response to “10 reasons you should be receiving fan mail” editorial (December 2010, page 7):

I got a kick out of your article! I wish that just once someone would say: “Kudos to you. Thanks for looking out for us.” But you're right — we're looked at only when things go wrong.

In my small city, we take pride in providing great service with the county's smallest tax base. I'm lucky that we can rely on the Southwest Florida Water Management District for cooperative funding to do projects; therefore we have no utility tax and we haven't raised taxes in 11 years.

After finishing an $800,000 complete road reconstruction project, a resident let us know that she was unhappy with the placement of her irrigation heads, because it got the post of her mailbox wet. She was also unhappy that we had increased the value of her home, which will cause her taxes to increase. Sometimes it seems we just can't win.

I would just like to say to all those in similar positions, thanks. I've been doing this for 25 years and I know what you're up against. Keep up the good work.

— Robert David, director of public works, City of Belleair Bluffs, Fla.


In response to “Clearing reuse hurdles” (December 2010, page 40):

I'm concerned about the notion that striving to provide all the water that customers want, by whatever means and indefinitely, is somehow a sustainable proposition. It is not.

The water industry needs to change its thinking, first to conserve source water quantity and quality, and second to manage — i.e., reduce — customer demand. The first part entails improving production efficiency and reducing distribution system losses. The second part involves implementing ascending or so-called conservation rate structures, testing and replacing meters, installing AMR/AMI, and committing to a program to inform, persuade, and incentivize customers.

We must recognize that unrestrained and unrestricted demand could out-strip even those supplies augmented by reuse capacity. Once this fact is realized, it becomes plain that sustainability will be achieved not by persuading rate payers to support capital-intensive infrastructure projects, but by reforming the industry business model to obtain sufficient operating revenues through provision of the lesser volumes of water customers actually ally need. To be sure, reuse has its applications. However, expanded reuse merely kicks further down the road the issues of water-wasting practices and quality degradation by micropollutants.

— Dennis Wanless, owner, D.R. Wanless & Associates LLC


In response to “Round 2 in Illinois' battle over semantics” e-newsletter editorial (December 15, 2010):

Folks in Virginia use regional screening levels (used to be Region III risk-based concentrations) to, get this, determine if the soil is clean enough to put in a landfill! The dirtier the soil, the less likely one can get rid of it.

Although some landfills can accept contaminated soil, state regulations prohibit disposal of contaminated soil in a sanitary landfill. At least Illinois allows the disposal of contaminated soil.

Not sure how the engineer (or geologist) can be held responsible for certifying the soil or the life of the soil in the landfill. Do we make lawyers responsible for freed criminals that commit another crime, or doctors responsible if the cancer returns?

— Jim Bernard, senior geologist/marketing magager — Virginia operations, Environmental Alliance Inc.

This is scary. For ever sanitary sewer spot repair where the original sewer pipe is replaced we may generate 1 to 2 cubic yards of excess soil. That soil may have some sewage in it. I'm not positive, but I think sewage itself is considered a hazardous waste. Disposing of backfill as hazardous waste would make spot repairs extremely expensive. We do these repairs so folks don't get sewage in their basements or to prevent sewage from going into streams. Furthermore, I don't see how excess sanitary backfill is any more of a hazard than, say, an on-lot septic system.

We need to watch this carefully.

— Mike Smith, PE, environmental engineer, Municipality of Bethel Park, Pa.

Your writing seems to be based more on your political persuasion than on fact and analytical reasoning.

Although engineers, like us land surveyors, suffer possible lawsuit, loss of license, and/or fines for our professional mistakes or omissions, and have unfair extended liability, we do not risk a jail sentence — unless we commit fraud.

Also, to discount the scientific views of others as mere semantics, without in-depth research and investigation, is unprofessional and the kind of politics masked as science and fact that occurs on "so-called" Fox News.

— Ken Holmbeck, P.L.S., Sherburne County surveyor, Government Center, Elk River, Minn.