College students rarely have the opportunity to use new skill sets to benefit their hometown communities. But this year, two engineering majors did just that by helping to assess the current condition of their respective hometowns’ infrastructure. Their hard work set the towns — and themselves — on a path to a brighter future.
Finding a Solution to Pollution
In response to Suffolk County’s growing concerns about water quality for residents, Henry Read ’15 of Shelter Island, N.Y., was tasked with creating an online database of the town’s septic system for the Town Geographic Information System (GIS) site during his summer internship.
“Septic tanks work by allowing water back into the water table slowly as it is filtered and cleaned by the sand and dirt below — the solution to pollution is dilution,” Read says.
Problems arise when tanks malfunction and allow too much refuse into the ground. This causes strong odors, death of surrounding vegetation and pollution of local water sources. While Superstorm Sandy accelerated the process, the main problem is the age of many of the systems.
“While there are no strict laws in place about cesspools and leaching pools, the county is looking to make changes,” Read says. “The town of Shelter Island decided it would be a good idea to make changes before the county acted.”
He spent eight hours a day analyzing the local terrain with the “Pictometry” application, a patented aerial image capture process that produces of buildings and locations on the ground. By the end of the summer, he had mapped about one-third of properties on Shelter Island. As a result, town officials along with the Suffolk County Department of Health Services have a readily available tool to spot septic tanks that may pose a greater environmental or public health risk.
He earned $4,000 through a grant given to the town by an environmental organization, Group for the East End, which protects and restores the environment of eastern Long Island through education, citizen action and professional advocacy.
“Manhattan prepared me very well for this internship,” Read says. “I had a very good understanding of water quality and causes for water pollution and was very qualified for the position. My environmental engineering, fluid dynamics and hydrodynamics classes prepared me for this internship.”
Read adds, “I really enjoyed what I did and I would like to pursue a career in environmental engineering.”
Mapping a Road Maintenance Plan
Joe Muccin ’15 of Mount Pleasant, N.Y., developed a computerized system for road maintenance planning with a goal of having “a safe, more efficient network of roads” in Mount Pleasant during his summer internship.
During a three-month period, Muccin prepared a road study by touring each town road one-by-one on some of the summer’s hottest days — a total of 199.5 miles. He looked for a variety of factors to determine which roads were higher priority for repairs, including cracking and potholes and entered this information into the Cornell Asset Management Program: Roads and Streets (CAMP-RS).
Muccin prepared for the role with the Cornell Local Road Program, which provides training, technical assistance, and information to municipal officials and employees responsible for the maintenance, construction, and management of local highways and bridges in New York State. The program included a whirlwind three-day training course at Cornell University, which covered the basics: how to build a good road, what to look for during a survey, and how to use CAMP-RS to create an overall assessment.
“I definitely learned a lot from this experience,” Muccin says, noting that this sort of niche knowledge is something you learn by doing. “Manhattan College definitely prepared me by teaching me how much work ethic is required to see projects through to their completion.”
At the end of the summer, Muccin submitted a five-year road maintenance plan. The town will use his ratings, as well as the recommendations, to allocate their capital funding in an effort to achieve the most return for their investment.
“This [project] was something new to me and it’s new to them — I wanted to make sure that they were happy, but I definitely got something out of it too,” he says.