Aspect in the DJC: Weighing Ecology’s New Cleanup Guidance for Petroleum Sites

In a guest article in the Daily Journal of Commerce, Aspect’s Steve Germiat weighs in on the vision and the reality of the Washington State Department of Ecology’s new “model remedies” guidance for cleaning up petroleum-contaminated sites. This guidance proposes a kind of “pre-approved” shortcut to site cleanup. Steve goes into both the vision and the reality of this new (to Washington State) cleanup concept and its implications for site owners and developers. 


Walking and Talking the Seawall

One way Aspect encourages cross-pollination of ideas across the company is our monthly firm-wide “Technical Exchanges”. One part deep-dive into the technical challenges that face our clients and one part team-building opportunity, these meetings give us a chance to gather and talk shop with colleagues. September’s exchange was led by Principal Geotechnical Engineer Henry Haselton, who covered the history, design, and current status of the Seattle Seawall replacement project. Prior to his position at Aspect, Henry served as the deputy Project Manager during the planning and preliminary design stages of the Seawall from 2009 to 2013. 

As the largest infrastructure project in Seattle’s history, this massive undertaking is striving to protect the “front porch” of Seattle. Henry’s presentation covered both the history of the original Seawall and the design and ongoing construction of the current one.

The original seawall was built between 1916 and 1934, mostly supported by wooden piles. This timber was all that stood between the waterfront and Puget Sound. As the years progressed, it was in increasing need of repair as sinkholes, tidal influences, waves, and marine foes like gribbles taking millions of tiny bites out of the wood took their toll. The 2001 Nisqually earthquake caused the adjacent Alaskan Way Viaduct to settle and increase pressure on the already stressed wall, thus spurring the City of Seattle to make seawall replacement a priority.

The new Seawall has a complex mix of pieces and players to coordinate: design and construction of a brand new earthquake-resistant seawall; navigating around a complicated lattice of preexisting in-water structures—including around 30,000 wood pilings—and utilities; enhancing marine habitat and environmental quality; and addressing public safety. They had to do this atop one of the busiest waterfronts in the country while managing and minimizing impact to tourism, businesses, roadways and bike/pedestrian passages—and taking into account concerns from a vocal roster of affected parties.

After Henry’s presentation, he took the Aspect crew on a walking tour to see the ongoing work. Here are a few of the project’s innovations we saw in action. 

Jet Grouting

Jet grouting is currently happening between Marion Street and Yesler Way, including the section in front of the ferry terminal. Jet grouting can effectively improve ground around obstructions like utilities, sewer outfalls, and the some 30,000 piles that are still in place from previous waterfront structures. 

Freeze Walls

Freeze walls minimize the groundwater entering the construction area by literally freezing the soil. They require a large amount of refrigeration—hence the frost that gathers around the pipes. 

Fish-Friendly Corridor

This corridor will one day be traveled by fish making their way through Elliott Bay. Young salmonids thrive in shallow waters with minimal light contrasts. The corridor will direct them into these friendlier waters separate from the deeper, darker Elliott Bay. Bumps and grooves on the inside wall are conducive to algae growth, so the fish can stop and snack during their trip. The small “speed bump” in the middle of the picture above accommodates the University Street Combined Sewer Outfall. 

Light Penetrating Surfaces

Closer to the Seattle Aquarium, the new seawall is in place and the sidewalks are already in use. These little windows in the waterfront promenade will allow sunlight to reach the young salmonids and other marine life in the fish corridor below. 

Learn more about the project's background, current status, and next steps at Waterfront Seattle. 

Dan Haller to Speak at the October 2015 Osoyoos Lake Water Science Forum

Aspect’s Dan Haller will join other water experts on a panel to talk about British Columbia versus Washington water supply and management. The Forum will focus attention on sustaining the ecological health of Osoyoos Lake, along with the related well-being of the Okanagan Basin on both sides of the border. Learn more about the Water Science Forum HERE.

Field Data Collection Goes Mobile

It’s already difficult to imagine doing it any other way.

At Aspect, we collect data. Lots and lots of data. We collect notes, measurements, GPS coordinates, photos, field observations, asset inventories, and on and on. All of the information we collect is almost always tied to some sort of spot on the earth: a well, a catch basin, a stream gage, a geotechnical boring. All the projects and people and paper and files and handwriting – it’s a lot to manage. Doing things the “old-fashioned way” means compiling and collating paper forms, JPEGs, and data files. It means entering notes from the field into a computer back in the office. It means playing a game of “telephone” with our data. It means time (and money!) for our clients.

Enter: Fulcrum.

We’ve installed Fulcrum software on mobile phones and a stable of tablets to help manage, organize, and execute our large, complex sampling and field data collection efforts. It enables us to create interactive, spatially-aware forms that help expedite projects and contribute to accurate, clean, and professional work-products. We’re ensuring that the data we collect is consistent and that photos, coordinates, and information we gather stays connected. As simple as that sounds, it means incredible gains for our projects and measurable benefits for our clients.

Here are a few of the features that we love:

  • At the click of a button, in real-time, field data can be downloaded in the office – enabling office staff to develop maps and analyze data as it is being collected.
  • Data can be downloaded in many file formats to support the specific needs of an individual project (Excel, CSV, GIS Shapefiles, Google Earth KML, etc.).
  • Data requirements and dropdown menus can be established for any or all fields on the form – ensuring consistent, site-specific information is collected.
  • Forms can be built to evolve as data is entered – improving the usability for field staff.
  • Data can be checked and validated on-the-fly – giving field teams real-time feedback and guidance on the collected data.
  • Calculations are built-in and automatic – which saves time and prevents calculation error.
  • Photos, videos, and audio can be collected as a part of each form – intrinsically linking those files with the locations which they document.
  • Locations and any known data can be pre-loaded to the forms – which means field staff can figure out where they need to go and what they need to know in one place.

With Fulcrum, since mobile field data collection is finally flexible and feature-rich, easy to deploy, and easy to use, we’re recommending it for use in many of our new and existing projects.

See how it looks in the gallery below. 

Aspect on the Radio

Geologic Issues for Developers and Homeowners

Dave McCormack, Aspect’s Senior Associate Engineering Geologist, was a recent guest on Alternative Talk 1150AM KKNW’s Condo & HOA Buzz. Hosts Duncan Kirk and Marshall Johnson quizzed Dave on the role an engineering geologist plays in building construction, development, and assessment to advise design teams on the best method for construction. They explored a number of geologic issues that can cause hassles for condo and Homeowner Association (HOA) dwellers—like eroding slopes, cracked foundations, seeping stormwater, and, of course, earthquakes—and how they can be addressed.

Listen to the full show in the Condo & HOA Buzz archives (select the August 5, 2015 show, the interview starts at the 5 minute 30 seconds mark).



Powering the New South Lake Union Substation

Laying the Groundwork – Enabling Development

Seattle City Light's Denny Substation near South Lake Union is approaching the final phase of design—and oh what a beautiful design it is. The proposed multi-use structure is a sleek, modern building that speaks to the neighborhood’s evolution from its industrial past to its tech-friendly present—with a walking loop, art installations, and interpretive features about the electrical substation housed inside. Rising above it all will be a sculpture that fuses a transmission tower with an old growth tree.

From property acquisition through preliminary design – Aspect has played a part in this exciting transformation of our City’s newest lakefront neighborhood. Our environmental scientists and geotechnical engineers supported the due diligence phase of the project to vet the former Greyhound Bus Maintenance site and successfully acquire the property. We then provided remediation, geotechnical design and dewatering design services to prep the site for construction, and are currently performing remediation and construction oversight and support of the substation design.

Take a tour of the station in Stephen Fesler's article in the "Urbanist," in which he explains, "In a world that's often become too focused on utility over design and context, Seattle City Light shows that things can be done differently."

Our Growing Yakima and Wenatchee Presence

Aspect continues to build our Yakima and Wenatchee team with the additions of new hires Meghan O’Brien, Project Scientist, and Taylor Dayton, Staff Engineer. We are excited to welcome Meghan and Taylor to Aspect and increase our engineering and water resources capabilities for our Eastern Washington clients.

Meghan O'Brien

Meghan O'Brien

Taylor Dayton

Taylor Dayton

Working from our Yakima office, Meghan will join Aspect’s statewide-recognized water rights team to help our agricultural, municipal, and business clients manage and preserve their water. Meghan brings nearly 10 years of water right permitting experience, as well as relationships with many Washington clients and stakeholders Aspect works with every day.  With prior experience working for the Washington State Department of Ecology, Meghan has valuable insight into the regulatory framework and permitting process that is key to successful water rights management. When not focused on water rights Meghan enjoys gardening, hiking and spending time with her family.

From Aspect’s Wenatchee office, Taylor will strengthen Aspect’s engineering capabilities for the planning and design of water, wastewater, and stormwater projects. Taylor supports her recently completed MS in Civil and Environmental Engineering with research experience at NASA. Taylor is an avid outdoor sports enthusiast relocating from the east coast to central Washington. Having only lived in the Mid Atlantic area she is looking to explore all the fantastic mountains and waterways that Washington has to offer.

A Geologist's Thoughts on the Pacific Northwest Mega-Quake Story

As the aftershocks of Kathryn Schulz’s article The Really Big One in The New Yorker continue to reverberate across western Washington, Aspect is fielding questions from concerned family members, friends, and clients. Will everything west of I-5 really be “toast”? Should I be worried about a landslide on the hill in my backyard? Is my house going to hold up against a 9.0 quake?

Read More

Geology Field Trip!

More than 30 members of Aspect’s technical staff participated in a regional geology workshop. The workshop was led by Puget Lowland geology guru Kathy Troost of the University of Washington and Troost Geosciences.  Friday morning was devoted to lectures and discussion of the geology of the area, and in the afternoon participants got their hands dirty practicing identifying and classifying samples of local soils. Saturday, Ms. Troost led the group to the classic field locations for regional geology: Alki Point, Mee-Kwa-Mooks Park,  Herrings’s House Park on the Duwamish, Discovery Park, and ended with an overview at Kerry Park on Queen Anne. 

The Threatened Bull Trout: Potential Impact of High Flow Events and Temperature on Spawning Habitat

Jared Bean – a Senior Staff Hydrogeologist with Aspect – along with co-authors from the University of Montana and the USGS, recently published a study, “Multi-scale hydrogeomorphic influences on bull trout (Salvelinus conluentus) spawning habitat,” in the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences. Read more about Jared’s study and the importance of protecting and enhancing existing high quality bull trout habitat HERE.

Port of Bellingham Site Approaching Major Milestone

This month one of Aspect’s environmental projects moves one step closer to realizing its redevelopment vision.

The Port of Bellingham Commission is preparing to sign a master development agreement (MDA) with Dublin-based Harcourt Developments at the end of March. The agreement will allow Harcourt to start work on the first 18.8-acre piece of a contaminated Bellingham waterfront site that was formerly home to a Georgia-Pacific pulp and tissue mill.

In close collaboration with the Port of Bellingham and Ecology, Aspect’s technical and regulatory strategies have contributed to speeding the cleanup in conjunction with redevelopment of the Brownfield site. Over the next year, we will be designing and overseeing the cleanup action planned for this portion of the site.

Pending Commission approval, the MDA represents a major milestone for the Port, the City of Bellingham, and the Bellingham community where Aspect has set roots with a new office.

 Click on this link to a Bellingham Herald article about the MDA.

Inspiring the Next Generation of Environmental Consultants

For an interdisciplinary WWU course focused on the Science and Management of Contaminated sites (SMoCS), Aspect’s Steve Germiat gave budding environmental consultants a “real life” experience in the MTCA cleanup process.

Steve first joined the class and Ecology staff on a rainy Saturday morning at an industrial waterfront site, viewing and discussing Aspect’s K-C Everett Mill RI/FS project that the class is using as a case study.  The following month, dry in a warm classroom, Steve walked the students through the MTCA cleanup process in general, while introducing soil and groundwater sampling methods, data analysis/presentation, and remedial technology options.

In addition to the exciting scientific and technological challenges of environmental remediation, Steve addressed the more mundane nuts and bolts of a consultant’s role and the skills and attributes that enable a consultant to excel. 

About SMoCS

In collaboration with Washington State Department of Ecology Toxics Cleanup Program, WWU’s Huxley College of the Environment (Huxley) offers undergraduate students a course series in the Science and Management of Contaminated sites (SMoCS). The SMoCS series includes three courses that build knowledge of the contaminated site cleanup process in Washington State with an emphasis on how scientific investigations are conducted, use of the technical documents associated with cleanups, the roles of different parties in cleanup decisions, and enhanced professional skills.  For more information on the program visit

Tim Flynn Advises Proposed ASR Legislation

As hydrogeologists, we understand the variable and sometimes finite nature of groundwater sources and importance to promote water storage opportunities in the State. We study storage alternatives – including Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) – to help our clients meet municipal and industrial water supply needs. In assessing the feasibility of ASR with Washington clients, we have experienced firsthand the challenges and uncertainties in designing, permitting, and funding projects.

Casual conversation after an OCR advisory group meeting led Senator Jim Honeyford, (R-Sunnyside), to turn to Aspect’s Tim Flynn for technical insight in drafting a senate bill designed to help streamline the ASR permitting process.  Tim testified to Committee on behalf of SB5018 in late January. He has since been collaborating with the Department of Ecology to clarify the technical and regulatory issues and streamline the ASR permitting process.

Read a Yakima Herald article about Sen Honeyford’s bill and Tim’s support of the legislation.


Dan Haller to Speak on Water Rights

Aspect’s Dan Haller will join state Ecology and Fish and Wildlife folks in a panel discussion on mitigation strategies at an upcoming Water Rights Transfers Seminar. Designed to provide practical information of vital interest to most water right holders, the annual seminar is being held November 13 and 14 in Seattle.  For the complete agenda and registration information see

Aspect Summer BBQ!

Once again, Aspect celebrated summer by combining our three loves - steak, lobster, and yard games. Those of us in our Seattle office battled ferry lines and Seahawks football traffic to meet at beautiful Bainbridge Island’s Fay Bainbridge Park.

In addition to the 150lbs of lobster and the endless tri-tip steak, our crew brought four homemade cornhole sets and Kubb, a classic Scandinavian yard game. Beanbags were flying through the air until sundown. Last, and certainly not least, there was a pony!

Meet Aspect's Newest! Project Scientist Jason McCormick

Aspect welcomes project scientist Jason McCormick to our Yakima Office team!

Bringing a wealth of water rights and project management experience from his most recent position with Washington Water Trust (WWT), Jason’s water rights knowledge will further deepen our growing water practice.

Prior to WWT, Jason worked with Dan Haller at Ecology in the Office of Columbia River where he was involved in the Kennewick Irrigation District pump exchange, City of Roslyn, Quad Cities, permit writing, and GIS mapping of approximately 1,200 Columbia River surface and ground water rights.

Jason is a native of eastern Washington with roots in the towns of Brewster, Tonasket, Yakima, and Zillah. He graduated cum laude from CWU with a BA in Geography and Land Studies and a focus on water resources and physical geography.

A true Northwesterner, Jason spends his off hours pursuing steelhead and salmon with a fishing rod in hand, hunting, hiking, and backpacking with his family.

Aspect Team Joins the Friendly Crowd

For the fifth year, Aspect hosted a group at the Seattle Sounders annual 'friendly' match with Europe's top teams. This year it was the Tottenham Hotspur FC. The Aspect fun started with an extra friendly spread of snacks in our Pioneer Square office located in the shadows of the soccer pitch. We then enjoyed the game where the Sounders made it an exciting match by twice taking the lead. The Hotspurs, using two penalty kicks, salvaged a 3-3 tie.