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Sandwich, Mass., Firm Wins EPA Drinking Water Contract

June 20, 2008

By Sarah Shemkus, Cape Cod Times, Hyannis, Mass.

Jun. 19–The Sandwich-based Horsley Witten Group announced this week that it has been awarded a seven-year, $17 million contract by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to safeguard drinking water.

The contract is the largest the environmental science and engineering company has received in its 20-year history.

“What this really does is catapult a local firm into national player status,” said Sheena Steiner, spokeswoman for the company.

The award will fund a variety of activities across the country that will support the EPA’s efforts to protect drinking water sources from dangers posed by development, natural disasters, vandalism and terrorism.

These initiatives will include training exercises designed to help local and regional emergency response personnel develop and implement plans to protect water supplies in case of a natural disaster or terrorist attack.

“We basically road-test an emergency response plan before something happens,” said Mark Nelson, the program manager for the contract and a principal of the company.

The first such crisis exercise was run in Barnstable 2 1/2 years ago and included more than 60 water utility workers, local officials and emergency response personnel, Nelson said.

The activity, he said, helped all involved realize the critical importance of water during an emergency.

“Fire departments can’t fight a fire without water,” he said. “Health officials need water to keep hospitals running.”

The company also provides guidance to the EPA on land use and source water protection planning.

In identifying the land areas from which drinking water comes, the company uses many strategies that were originally developed in the region, Nelson said.

“A lot of the techniques to manage land use to protect drinking water supplies originated here on the Cape and in Massachusetts,” he said.

In the 20 years since it was founded, the Horsley Witten Group has grown from a three-person operation to a $4.5 million a year business that employs 35 people.

About one quarter of its business comes from the federal government, Nelson said; another quarter comes from state governments. Private customers and local governments provide the remaining business.

The company is headquartered in Sandwich and has locations in Newburyport and in Providence, R.I.

Beginning in 1999, the firm has been awarded several EPA contracts, though most of these were for sums in the $4 million to $6 million range.

“We’re hoping that this is a springboard for us to grow our company here on Cape Cod and expand what we’re doing here,” he said.

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Copyright (c) 2008, Cape Cod Times, Hyannis, Mass.

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