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Posted on May 9, 2019

Waterborne’s published research is now available online.



Waterborne, Nutrients and Soil Health

Posted on May 9, 2019

Waterborne is leading the development of integrated investigations advancing grower and commodity groups’ knowledge of crop inputs and their movement through the environment following application. Now, these groups and their grower members can more effectively adapt their nutrient management practices for improved soil health, increased yield and better environmental outcomes.

Our services in nutrient management and soil health include, but are not limited to:

Access to diverse expertise/Specialized methods in sampling and application/Web-based data & modeling/Quality technical writing/Geospatial solutions/Regulatory support services/Crop protection research & solutions/Stewardship & sustainability metrics

For more conversations with our experts in nutrients and soil health, please contact Dan Perkins, PhD or Greg Goodwin


Going Mobile

Posted on January 25, 2018

Halfway around the world from me scientists use smartphones to take photos and collect specific information on crops, management practices and land use. I, on the other hand, am comfortable in my office watching their progress on a web-based map, drinking a warm cup of coffee and writing this article.

With the arrival of the smartphone, technology became increasingly more accessible and commonplace in our everyday lives. The sheer fact we can collect information remotely using smartphones is an amazing advancement in technology. The number of mobile applications has skyrocketed and now reaches upwards of 100,000 within a few years of the release of the first-generation Apple® iPhone in 2007. Waterborne utilizes mobile applications and now creates them with very little effort and custom programming on our end.

Several years ago, ESRI released a new mobile platform, Survey123. This application allows users to setup a survey, associated maps, and use mobile platforms (e.g., iOS®, Android®, Windows®) to collect information in the field. There are several advantages to this technology. Surveys can be created using a spreadsheet for data collection. The application also contains standardized menus, support for various media (e.g., photos or drone videos), and support for multiple languages. All information can then be streamed to a central location. Others can then view the information, live, on a web-map or dashboard and follow the progress in the field.

The use of smartphones and other commonly used mobile devices has the advantage of a small learning curve for software and usability. Furthermore, since smartphones are used ubiquitously, you can tap into the local users base to collect the information you need. This provides significant cost savings on any project and reduces the amount of time spent collecting information.

Gerco Hoogeweg, PhD.
Chief Operations Officer, Geospatial Scientist



How Much Degradation Occurs in Sewer Systems?

Posted on January 25, 2018

Exposure modeling plays an important role in national-scale risk assessment of chemicals that are disposed of down-the-drain (for example, home and personal care product ingredients). Exposure models commonly account for chemical removal that occurs during wastewater treatment processes at treatment facilities. However, for many chemicals, a significant amount of removal (biodegradation) can also occur in the sewer system. Combining chemical-specific biodegradation data from laboratory studies with estimates of typical “sewer residence times” provides a way for exposure modeling to represent this aspect of environmental fate and transport. However, given the thousands of municipal sewer systems across the U.S., how can we estimate the typical range for sewer residence time?

Waterborne scientists collaborated with scientists from Procter & Gamble to address this question in a recent study by developing a geographic information systems (GIS) approach to estimate the distribution of sewer residence times for the U.S. using road networks as a spatial proxy for sewer networks. While available data for sewer networks is limited, we evaluated the similar spatial distributions of case study sewer networks and road networks. Building upon that analysis, our experts analyzed the spatial distribution of population density and over 3,400 facility locations across the U.S. to estimate sewer residence times using existing national datasets and sewer system design standards.

Our analysis estimated a median sewer residence time of 3.3 hours for the U.S, which is comparable to values reported in literature. The distribution of residence time values generated from our analysis enables this parameter to be represented probabilistically (instead of just as a single point value) which adds robustness to risk assessments. Using our analysis results, we estimated in-sewer removal across a range of hypothetical, but realistic, chemical biodegradation rates to illustrate that a significant amount of removal is likely to occur in the sewer for many chemicals. We also specifically evaluated a group of readily biodegradable surfactants used in home and personal care products for which biodegradation data was available, and estimated removals of 62% to 99% during sewer transit (based on a median residence time of 3.3 hours). Significant in-sewer removal estimated for many down-the-drain chemicals has implications for estimation of influent concentrations at wastewater treatment facilities, and ultimately for predicted environmental concentrations in receiving waters.

This study is an example of how best-available data resources can be paired with advanced GIS capabilities to address important data gaps in exposure modeling and add value to the environmental risk assessment process. The work was recently published in Science of the Total Environment.

Kapo, KE, Paschka, M, Vamshi, R, Sebasky, M, McDonough, K. 2017. Estimation of U.S. sewer residence time distributions for national-scale risk assessment of down-the-drain chemicals. Science of the Total Environment 603-604:445-452. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2017.06.075

Contact Katherine Kapo, Senior Scientist, Environmental Risk Assessment, at kapok@waterborne-env.com with questions about our down-the-drain expertise.


The Growing Popularity of Subsurface Tile Drains

Posted on January 25, 2018

Agricultural subsurface tile drainage is a practice that has been around for many decades but has recently become increasingly popular among growers throughout the Midwest, given improvements in technology and increases in commodity prices. This practice allows growers to effectively change the drainage properties of their land to remove excess water and recover some of the most fertile soils that could otherwise not be farmed. Subsurface tile drainage has become so prominent in some agricultural regions that drainage districts have been formed, leading to excavated man-made drainage ditches providing landowners a place for the water to go in order to make land arable.

Paired field, subsurface tile and rainfall monitoring stations

While this practice has been extremely effective in achieving its primary goal, it has not come without a cost. Just as it allows water to circumvent natural drainage pathways and associated soil retention times, it also allows any constituents in that water to do the same thing. This has led to an undeniable effect on the water systems that receive agricultural drainage tile discharge. However, given its vast benefits to growers who are constantly challenged with feeding an ever-growing population, the associated externalities of this practice must be weighed and carefully considered.

Agricultural subsurface tile drainage, automated water monitoring station installation

As a result, Waterborne Environmental has partnered with commodity groups in three states in the Midwest to complete six different monitoring and numerical simulation projects. These projects examined the issues related to agricultural tile drainage, putting them into perspective across the broader landscape, and evaluated the effectiveness of conservation best management practices to meet constituent loss reduction goals. As a company with locations throughout the corn belt and a team with families rooted in agriculture, we are very sensitive to the delicate balance that must be struck between protecting grower interest and shielding the environment and that optimal balance is exactly what we aim to achieve through projects such as this.


Population Modeling: A Valued Instrument for Ecological Risk Assessments

Posted on January 25, 2018

In recent years, across industries, there has been a significant amount of effort invested in the application of population modeling for ecological risk assessments (ERAs). Waterborne’s increasing expertise in applied population modeling has contributed to the strategy and direction of ERAs through the development of case studies and the introduction of a systematic approach for the development of population models. Population models and other ecological modeling approaches can combine data and knowledge about species, its habitat, and exposure-effects relationships. Temporal and spatial aspects of a species’ habitat use and potential exposures can be considered explicitly.

A critical challenge to address is how to effectively implement population modeling within the ERA framework. Waterborne ecological modeler, Dr. Amelie Schmolke, and her co-authors have introduced a systematic approach for effective implementation of population modeling for pesticide risk assessments (Schmolke et al. 2017a). The proposed decision guide increases the efficiency and transparency of population model development, making population models more readily applicable in pesticide risk assessments. The decision guide is organized in four phases illustrated in Figure 1 for an example of herbaceous plants.

Graphic overview of the decision guide for minimal conceptual model development, starting with the phase defining model objectives and systematically moving to subsequent phases. Reproduced from Schmolke et al. 2017a

In Phase I, the model objectives are compiled systematically. The purpose of the model is defined in detail and aspects of the model may be determined prior to its development.

During Phase II, available data regarding the species of interest are compiled, as well as the pesticide exposure and the toxic effects relevant to the species. The resulting tables contain the information relevant for the model development along with the uncertainties in the data. Data gaps are identified systematically, and inform the details and assumptions in the conceptual model.

Phase III (decision steps) is comprised of the step-wise decisions needed to develop a minimal conceptual model. In this case, ‘minimal’ does not imply simplicity, but rather the “lowest level of complexity necessary to meet a given study objective” (Schmolke et al. 2017a). First, a life-history graph is prepared for the species of interest based on available data from Phase II. A series of seven decision steps are then followed by the model developer, addressing organism-level processes, temporal representation, spatial representation, density dependence, population status and environmental conditions, and indirect effects. The decision steps represent an iterative process with refinements to previous phases and the life-history graph throughout the minimal conceptual model development.

In Phase IV (Summary of the Minimal Conceptual Model), summaries of each decision step are compiled into the minimal conceptual model. Uncertainties in the data used for the model development and model assumptions applied are characterized during this phase. The summary also specifies which output metrics will be collected with the implemented model. The minimal conceptual model can be used to assess and adapt existing models for the current purpose, or it can be applied as a blueprint for implementation of a new model. Additionally, the minimal conceptual model may identify and prioritize gaps in the available data which may need to be filled before the implementation and application of the conceptual model.

Waterborne developed a conceptual population model of the Mead’s milkweed (Asclepias meadii), an herbaceous plant listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), as a case example for the decision guide (Schmolke et al. 2017a). The implementation of the conceptual model made use of a published population model of the species and adapted and extended it for use in pesticide risk assessment. Dr. Amelie Schmolke and her colleagues analyzed a range of scenarios representing exposure-effects relationships for two herbicides and their effects on the populations simulated with the model. Using the Mead’s milkweed population model, they were able to estimate population-level effects of herbicides over extended time periods, which exemplifies an ecologically relevant endpoint for ERAs.

With a population model for another threatened herbaceous plant species, Boltonia decurrens (Schmolke et al. 2017b), Waterborne estimated the potential population-level impacts of different herbicides on this short-lived species. In this case, conservative in-habitat exposure scenarios were combined with dose-response relationships for growth and survival of standard test species, based on standard vegetative vigor and seedling emergence tests, and applied to the species-specific model. Exposures were distributed across the simulated habitat applying the RegDISP model for spray drift, and a combination of the Pesticide Root Zone Model (PRZM) and the Vegetative Filter Strip Model (VFSMOD) for runoff. This distributed exposure modeling approach made it possible to assess potential effects of herbicides on plant populations growing in habitats that border chemical use areas and was applied to assess the effectiveness of spray buffer zones as mitigation measures.

Population models can include indirect effects by linking food reduction to individual growth and fecundity

In another population model approach, Waterborne addressed potential indirect effects of pesticides on fish populations. The listed slackwater darter (Etheostoma boschungi) was used as an example species. The darter species’ diet is comprised of aquatic insects and small crustaceans. Some pesticides could potentially affect the food availability of the species for limited time periods even if fish are not affected by the compound. With the model, such indirect effects to the simulated populations can be evaluated over extended time periods as well as assessment of different assumptions. Through a combination of species-specific life histories and direct and indirect effects, population models can play a significant role in determining the potential risks of a chemical to populations of listed and other non-target species.

Amelie Schmolke

Amelie Schmolke, Ph.D.

Waterborne’s expanding depth and expertise in population modeling is continuing to provide a higher-level approach in ecological risk assessment. Contact Amelie Schmolke at schmolkea@waterborne-env.com should you have questions or be interested in learning more about population modeling and how Waterborne is using it to support ecological risk assessment.


A Message From our CEO: Our Continued Promise

Posted on January 25, 2018

The purpose of what we do defines us and includes the “what” we do, “how” we do it and most importantly “why” we do it. We continue to focus on each of these in all of our efforts from hiring new team members to developing our relationships with our clients. I want to take this opportunity to share a few thoughts on the purpose and vision of Waterborne. For those of you who know us, this is a reaffirmation of what makes Waterborne…Waterborne. For those we have not had the privilege to work with yet, it is a chance to get to know us better.

Why we do it…
Waterborne’s motivation comes from the understanding that our expertise and work products are applied to the promotion of a balanced view in critical risk/benefit environmental decisions. We realize this balance is essential to enhance quality of life for all of us. Central to Waterborne’s vision is the application of this multi-disciplinary approach to environmental stewardship. We believe that balancing quality of life for a growing world population and the health of our environment can be best achieved through the practice of effective science. This certainly speaks to our values, our approach to solutions, and the people we hire.

What we do…
A fundamental pillar of the Waterborne organization is our multi-disciplinary approach. We have strategically built a team of scientists and engineers from a wide range of specialties and backgrounds that enables us to provide optimal consulting solutions to our clients. This approach helps to define both the unique Waterborne culture for our employees and the collaborative relationships with our clients. Ultimately, it establishes Waterborne as a bridge between various scientific disciplines, industries and stakeholders. We proudly support clients in the agricultural, home and personal care, human health (pharmaceuticals), animal health (veterinary medicines) and industrial/specialty chemical markets who share our belief of using quality science for making balanced risk management decisions.

How we do it…
Our employees are the driving force behind how we achieve our vision. Our goal is to hire and retain team members who are intelligent, committed, internally and externally collaborative, professional, humble, solution-oriented and introspective with regards to growth and opportunity. We seek like-minded, ambitious clients who are excited to make a difference in their business and in the environment. We also seek intrinsic value from our projects, clients and partners. We focus on the purpose of our work while maintaining a unified organization that is both intellectually and financially profitable.

So, I hope this message finds you well. I’d like to thank the many clients we have helped and continue to help. Further, we look forward to building productive relationships with those who need thoughtful, solution-based approaches to challenges you are facing every day.

Matt Kern
Chief Executive Officer

Matt Kern, CEO



Posted on July 13, 2017

Waterborne’s vision is to provide superior environmental consulting services while maintaining high ideals in the protection of environmental quality. We remain adaptive in business growth and diversification and evolve as opportunities arise to meet the experiences and interests of everyone at Waterborne. “In keeping with these core values, we continue to look for ways to adapt our business to meet the ever-changing needs of our staff and clients,” said CEO Matt Kern. We are pleased to announce the following leadership appointments to support these efforts.

Les Carver,
Chief Administrative Officer
Les will continue to provide leadership and expertise in developing and implementing field programs for water, soil, and air monitoring to our staff and clients. In his corporate role, Les continues to contribute to the business side of Waterborne responsible for financial planning and budgeting, evaluating corporate risk, human resource compliance, legal affairs and the GLP program.

Chris Holmes,
Chief Growth Officer
Chris will continue to be a leader in spatial approaches in landscape characterization and exposure assessments to better understand environmental risk across our crop protection, home and personal care, veterinary medicine and general chemical markets. Along with his technical role, Chris will lead efforts and initiatives focused on client services, marketing and overall company growth.
Nathan Snyder,
Chief Capabilities Officer
Nathan will continue to support clients with regulatory chemical fate and transport modeling solutions and integrated expertise in drinking water, ecological and endangered species risk assessments. His corporate leadership role will include the evaluation of expertise needs and research and development investments across Waterborne to continue our scientific advancement. Additionally, Nathan will focus on corporate culture, talent attraction and quality of work life to our staff and clients.

Dr. Gerco Hoogewegg,
Chief Operations Officer
Gerco will continue to apply his technical leadership in the areas of Geographic Information Systems (GIS), distributed modeling, data analysis and data management. In addition to being a resource to clients in these areas, he will provide leadership to enhance our company’s project and resource management capabilities and applied information technologies. He will also spearhead overall quality assurance initiatives going forward.

“I’m truly delighted to have such high caliber leadership to collaborate with. It is not lost on me that these roles are supported by the many great people at Waterborne,” commented Matt Kern. “Further, our combined energy, along with leadership from our principal, Amy Ritter, and our co-founders/board members Marty Williams and Pat Holden, will continue to inspire us to be the best firm we can be.”



Posted on July 13, 2017

The Board of Directors of Waterborne Environmental, Inc., is pleased to announce the appointment of Matt Kern as Chief Executive Officer, which became effective February 22, 2017. Matt is succeeding Marty Williams, who served as President since 2011. Marty is assuming the role of Chairman of Board of the Directors, with Pat Holden continuing to serve on the Board.

Pat and Marty founded Waterborne in 1993 with the vision to provide superior environmental consulting services while maintaining high ideals in the protection of environmental quality. The company has become a growing consulting practice providing global service in the areas of ecological risk assessment, field studies and data collection, environmental modeling, ecotoxicology and toxicology support, geospatial analysis and data analysis in a variety of business sectors.

Matt joined Waterborne in 2012 with 15 years of industry experience working for Bayer CropScience. Matt has moved quickly through the ranks, initially building Waterborne’s ecotoxicology services with Gregg Hancock while expanding his leadership expertise across other areas of technical operations. Matt brings a unique technical and business perspective with advanced degrees in both science and business management. Matt will continue to be active with clients and projects providing strategy and solutions to meet their advancing needs in the areas of ecotoxicology and risk assessment.

“Strong succession planning is needed for all companies,” relayed Marty Williams, “and this is a perfect time for Matt to take the reins as Waterborne’s CEO. Matt is a champion of the Waterborne culture and has an innate ability to inspire, energize and connect with employees, partners, and clients. Our newly refocused organizational structure allows all our leaders to focus on science and better serve our clients. As Pat and I move into other interests, we are confident in the strong leadership Matt will provide to the company. I am personally looking forward to directing more time at Waterborne to science and engineering.”

Join us in congratulating Matt Kern on his new role!



Posted on July 13, 2017

In this issue of The Current, we would like to celebrate Waterborne’s Co-Founder, Patrick (Pat) Holden, who retired May 1, 2017, the start of our 25th year.

Pat moved to a small farm in Loudoun County, Virginia, from Alexandria, Virginia, at the age of seven. Moving to a rural, predominantly agricultural county in the early 1960s had a profound impact on him. Then, at the prodding of his high school chemistry teacher, he read Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, which also left a lasting impression on him. These two pivotal events in Pat’s life sparked a passion for mitigation of environmental impacts from modern agriculture.
Immediately after undergraduate school at the University of California, Santa Cruz, Pat spent a year studying agroecology at the University of California’s Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems. He attended graduate school at the University of Arizona, studying hydrology with a focus on agriculture’s impact on water quality.

While in graduate school, Pat worked with renowned hydrologist and mentor, Gray Wilson, to prepare a primer on water well sampling for volatile organic chemicals to be used by public health agencies in the U.S. Pat also prepared a contract report for the Board on Agriculture of the National Research Council on the status of pesticide occurrence in ground water in four states in the U.S. His responsibilities included identifying, contacting and conducting field interviews with relevant researchers working for state agencies or universities in California, Wisconsin, New York and Florida, as well as federal agencies and numerous agricultural chemical companies. This report was published by the National Academy Press in March 1986.

After graduate school, Pat worked with the Water Science and Technology Board to manage the National Research Council’s (NRC) Committee on Irrigation-Induced Water Quality Problems and related subcommittees to advise the state of California and the U.S. Department of the Interior on environmental problems associated with irrigated agriculture in California’s Central Valley. His responsibilities included providing technical and administrative support to the committee and its subcommittees, preparing written materials and coordinating report production, conducting research on behalf of the committee, serving as a liaison with state and federal agencies and the U.S. Congress for budget management. He also participated in project development activities in the areas of contaminant transport models and western water markets.

Pat’s NRC report on pesticides in groundwater caught the attention of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Pesticides Programs (OPP) and he was subsequently hired to manage their groundwater section. The NRC report continues to be requested from the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (and on Amazon) and cited to this day.

While working for OPP, Pat served as one of the technical advisors to the Agency’s Ground-Water Task Force, headed by USEPA’s Deputy Administrator. Pat also served on various committees sponsored by the National Agricultural Chemicals Association (former name of CropLife America), U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and environmental groups addressing agriculture and water quality issues.

In 1987, Pat and Marty Williams, Co-Founder of Waterborne, met while both working for the USEPA. Pat and Marty founded Waterborne Environmental, Inc.in 1993, and quickly established relationships with clients that have continued to this day. Initial work led by Pat included several multi-state groundwater monitoring studies for pesticides in rural wells. His responsibilities included providing training to state personnel regarding rural well selection and proper sampling methodology under USEPA Good Laboratory Practice (GLP) Standards.
He also served as the principal investigator for ten small-scale prospective ground-water monitoring studies and one small-scale retrospective ground-water study in Florida, Indiana, Minnesota and North Dakota. He has helped author numerous protocols, site characterization reports, and progress reports related to these studies.

As Waterborne grew, Pat dedicated much of his time to running the business. He served as President from 1993 through 2007, and Chief Executive Officer until his retirement. He will continue to serve on the Board of Directors of the Company.
On Monday, May 1, Waterborne employees gathered in the Leesburg office to celebrate Pat and his retirement. Waterborne has had a profound impact in the area of environmental science and product registration around the globe. Marty said at Pat’s retirement gathering, “On behalf of everyone at Waterborne, I’d like to celebrate Pat Holden’s dedication to science, environmental stewardship and for helping to launch the careers of many scientists and engineers. Thank you, Pat!”.
While letting go is difficult, Pat is also looking forward to more free time. In retirement, Pat intends to pursue passions related to hiking, fly fishing, bee keeping and sustainable agriculture.

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