Heating Oil Tanks. Out of Sight + Out of Mind = Danger

DEP installed booms and wide pads in a storm drain catch home heating oil before it flows downstream. PHOTO BY ED BAILEY The start of winter means that heating oil season is in full swing.  Whether the oil is stored in an Aboveground Storage Tank (AST) or an Underground Storage Tank (UST), a spill can mean big headaches and high clean-up costs.  Imagine the surprise of the adjuster who just found out that the property owner, who couldn’t even live in their house due to fire damage, was now being cited by the Department of Environmental Protection for violations of the federal Clean Stream Law.  A release of heating oil from the damaged and unoccupied property had created a slick on a nearby stream. 

The contractor renovating the fire damage to the house had a piece of timber/lumber fall through the missing first floor into the basement.  The timber then struck the valve to the heating oil tank, sheering it clean off.  This permitted the heating oil AST in the basement to drain onto the concrete floor.  Unbeknownst to the contractor the basement had a floor drain that day-lighted to an open swale between the house and the street.  The swale also drained spring water from further up the street and always had flowing water.  The oil exited the drain pipe, flowed into this swale and several other swales and eventually ended up in the local creek.  When a resident spotted the sheen on the creek, the County Emergency Management was contacted, who in turn informed the DEP. 

The county emergency officials followed the sheen upstream to the house in question.  As soon as BIA received the call we headed for the site, and while reroute contacted an emergency response firm, who met us at there.  The tank was already emptied by the time that we arrived; however, oil absorbent socks were used to stop any further discharge from the drain pipe.  A series of booms and absorbent pads were used to line the impacted swales and to prevent the oil from moving further downstream.  These quick actions were well lauded by the County and DEP and were attributed with limiting the impact of the release.

Because the swales contained flowing water there were limited oil impacts to the soils along its path.  Most of the impacts were limited to the edge of the swale and BIA demonstrated that these impacts were limited to the upper few inches.  The soil removed remediating this site was measured in 55-gallon drums as opposed to cubic yards or tons.  The entire project was completed in less than three months and the DEP closed the case with no encumbrance, after BIA demonstrated that the soils met the Statewide Health Standards. 

Waterfront Takes Shape in Allentown, PA

Waterfront Allentown - Cope Linder ArchitectsA dynamic new development will be taking shape along the Lehigh River in Allentown, and Barry Isett & Associates (BIA) is proud to be part of the design team.  Developed by Waterfront Redevelopment Partners LP,  a partnership between Dunn Twiggar Company LLC, Michael Dunn Co. Ltd. and Jaindl Properties LLC,  the project will transform 26 industrial acres into a mixed-use community.  According to the Master Plan presented to the Allentown City Planning Commission in December, the Waterfront is expected to feature 12 buildings encompassing 610,000 SF of office space, 172 residential apartments, and 130,000 SF of retail space.  Working in association with Cope Linder Architects, BIA is providing surveys, site/civil design and permitting, landscape architecture and traffic engineering.

The project will include walking trails along a half-mile of river frontage, a dynamic streetscape, two main plazas, encompassing more than seven acres.  New boating facilities will be created along the Lehigh River.  Several multi-level garages will provide parking for 2,800 cars.

Full engineering and architectural plans are in development to move through the approval process in 2013.  Project owners anticipate construction to start in 2014 with initial occupancy beginning in 2016.  The project is located in Allentown’s Neighborhood Improvement Zone.



The many fine institutions of higher education located throughout Pennsylvania and beyond enhance the quality of life for residents of the community at large, as well as educating the students enrolled. Barry Isett & Associates is privileged to put our engineering skills to the service of a wide variety of institutions, working with them directly or as engineering consultant of a design team.  Here’s a snapshot of some current projects.

Lafayette College, Easton, PA  

Members of the Easton community played an instrumental role in the visioning of the latest Master Plan which identified as a goal the enhancement “of campus portals and edges to identify Lafayette College as a memorable place.” As a result, a design/build gateway project is now in construction at four key campus sites.  The BIA design team of landscape architects, surveyors, structural  engineers, traffic engineers, construction services, and civil engineers worked together on this project with Whiting-Turner

Elsewhere on the campus, Gund Partnership of Cambridge, MA is working with BIA’s survey, landscape architecture, structural engineering and site/civil team in the design of a new 14,000 SF two-story Visitors’ Center and new Oxley Center for Global Education. Both projects are expected to break ground in 2013.

DeSales University, Center Valley, PA 

The Gambet Center for Business & Healthcare Education will be equipped with smart classrooms and specialized laboratory space when it is dedicated in spring 2014.  The 70,000 SF building is expected to achieve LEED certification. BIA provided full site engineering, environmental services, surveys, and landscape architecture services as well as structural engineering in coordination with the project architectural team, Breslin Ridyard Fadero, of Allentown, PA. BIA has been providing engineering, surveying  and related services to DeSales University since 1977.  Another recent project is the design of electrical upgrades to the Labuda Center for Performing Arts.

Muhlenberg College, Allentown, PA 

East Hall, a dorm which dates to the early 20th Century, is undergoing an extensive renovation designed by Spillman Farmer Architects, Bethlehem, PA.  A three-story addition will provide 12 new dorm rooms served by an elevator and stairwell. BIA is the structural engineer.

Elon University, Elon, NC

BIA has assisted Spillman Farmer Architects in the structural engineering design on more than a dozen projects on the 620 acre campus of North Carolina’s Elon University.  Now under construction is the expansive Global Village, a community overlooking Lake Mary Nell comprised of five dormitories and a 40,000 SF Commons Building that will feature the Isabella Cannon International Centre, classrooms, faculty offices, study rooms, a theater, café  and gathering spaces.

Lehigh University, Bethlehem, PA 

Beyer Blinder Belle Architects & Planners LLC of NYC has engaged BIA for civil engineering and topographic surveys in renovations of Williams Hall. Constructed in 1903, the four-story hall formerly housed science classrooms and research labs. Expected to achieve LEED certification, the building update will include classrooms, office suites, and gathering spaces. The offices of the Dean of Student Life and Student Services and departments of Modern Languages and Literature, Sociology and Anthropology, Religion Studies and the Office of Interdisciplinary Programs will relocate here.


Fun at the Elmwood Park Zoo

Elmwood Park Zoo is 16 acres of family-friendly fun, featuring  everything froDignitaries at the groundbreaking sported BIA hardhatsm jaguars, cougars, wolves,  flamingos, alpacas, bison, bald eagles, and ponies.  This popular Norristown destination was in great need of additional on-site  parking and was successful in obtaining grants from both the Redevelopment Authority of Montgomery County and State Community Revitalization program.  The  Zoo retained Barry Isett and Associates to prepare the construction plans and provide construction oversight for a parking lot expansion that  broke ground over the summer. The project included new ramps to the entrance building and parking, and seeded bio-swales with underdrains for improved stormwater management.  The new space accommodates 158 cars and eight buses, bringing the total vehicle count to 318. Bryan Smith, RLA, ASLA lead the design team while Rich Fain, CSI CCA provided construction services. 

Guiding the Next Generation of Engineers

Brandon Trate, P.G. and Chris Kotch, P.G. met with a geology class at Brandon’s alma mater, Kutztown University. In addition to discussing the environmental projects they encounter, they talked about the need for undergraduates to complement their technical studies with courses in business and marketing. The pair received a resounding THANK YOU from the professor and students.

Josh Lutton, PE, LEED AP and Mike Dean, EIT, MEP Department joined forces with Tim Sisock, CSI, CDT from Construction Services to give a class of 18 Lafayette College engineering students an overview of project design and management, drawing examples from their work at BIA. Topics included a discussion about Building Information Modeling (BIM) software and an introduction to basic mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems.


MEP Department Welcomes New Associates

BIA’s MEP Department recently welcomed Christopher Campbell.  A graduate of Pennsylvania College of Technology with a B.S. in Heating, Ventilation and Air-Conditioning Technology, Chris has held project management or mechanical design positions with Vinokur-Pace Engineering Services, Inc., Jenkintown, Cubellis Associates, Philadelphia and Associated Engineering Consultants, Wayne, PA.

Paul Bonnes, recently joined BIA’s MEP Department   Paul brings over 30 years of electrical design and project management experience to the team. Holding four International Construction Code electrical certifications, Paul has served as an adjunct instructor at Delaware County Community College, teaching Industrial Electrical Construction. Before joining BIA Paul was the manager of the Electrical Department of IVD, Inc. in Pottstown. Earlier in his career he headed his own electrical design firm.


The Parable of the Blind Men and the Elephant

Nata Metlukh is a San Francisco-based artist specializing in editorial and children’s illustration. In an ancient story, a wise man leads five blind men  to an elephant and asks each man to describe the animal.  The first man explores the massive sides of the beast and declares the elephant is like a wall. The second grabs the tail and exclaims “It is a rope!”  The third runs his hands over the ears and announces the creature is as flexible as a boat sail; the fourth strokes the trunk and decides it is just like a snake; the fifth grabs a leg and announces it is a pillar.

“You are all correct,” says the wise man. “You have described what you have experienced. But the totality is something much larger and different.”

Just like the elephant in the fable, Barry Isett & Associates, as a multi-discipline engineering firm with nine departments, is sometimes perceived as just a portion of the sum of all our parts.  A number of clients consider BIA their “go to”  for a specific discipline, such as civil engineering or environmental consulting. Others regard us as their pre-qualified surveyor, or the structural engineer of choice, the forensic engineer to call in an emergency, or their selected MEP engineer.   To still others, we are their municipal engineer, engineer of record, or code consultant.  BIA is all of those things, but we are even more.

Under the guidance of an overall engineering project manager, BIA departments provide synergistic service – a single engineering source appreciated by many clients.  A current multi-discipline project is Hazleton Area School District’s Maple Manor Elementary/Middle School designed by Crabtree Rohrbach & Associates Architects of Mechanicsburg, PA.  Members of BIA’s survey, environmental, landscape architecture and civil, structural, mechanical, electrical and plumbing engineering teams are all engaged in the project, which involves the renovation of the former Bishop Haffey High School, and the design and construction of a two-story 30,000 SF addition to transform the building into a school with 40 classrooms that will serve K-8th grade students.

At the Coatesville Veterans Administration Medical Center, another multi-discipline BIA team is developing solutions to repair underground corridors that interconnect buildings. Used by staff and patient transport, the corridors have been damaged by water infiltration over the years. Our team is providing forensic investigation to determine the extent of the damage, testing for the potential presence of asbestos, developing improvements to drainage and stormwater systems, conducting topographic surveys and preparing landscape plans required due to the improvements.  BIA will prepare construction documents, assist with the bidding and provide services through project close out.

While we are happy to provide solo services, we offer streamlined project communication and coordination in multi-discipline projects. 

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