Staff Meeting at 6200 ft.

An impromptu Aspect staff meeting took place atop Mount Townsend (ele. 6,260 ft.) on the Olympic Peninsula last weekend. Staffers Henry Haselton and Dave McCormack were hiking along one of the trails when they ran into their colleague Na Hyung Choi, who had started up from the Upper Trailhead earlier in the day.

Items on the agenda included the gorgeous array of wildflowers and various streams created from the melting snowpack. But the main topic of discussion was the breathtaking view, which included Mount Baker, Glacier Peak, Mount Rainier, Mount Adams, the faintest hint of Mount St. Helens, and Puget Sound stretched out like a cat at their feet.

Aspect’s Nickerson and Berkompas Develop New Rain Garden Performance Tool

Aspect’s Curtis Nickerson and Bryan Berkompas recently developed a promising new, low-cost, telemetered rain garden performance tool – the Water Detector -- that can help cities and counties improve rain garden performance.

As more people move to western Washington and settle in its urban areas, stormwater runoff from streets, driveways, lawns, and rooftops is recognized as a major source of pollution impacting our waterways. To counter this continuing and growing threat, municipalities are encouraging broader public awareness and tools that public and business can use to clean polluted runoff as close to the source as possible. In this effort, rain gardens have become a major component of municipal stormwater management programs in western Washington.

Figure credit:

Rain gardens are a relatively low-cost natural filter and sponge, where runoff can infiltrate into the soil on-site rather than flowing directly into storm drains, streams or lakes.  Rain gardens are affordable to install, are an attractive landscaping feature, and are relatively easy for home owners to maintain. In Seattle, rain gardens and associated “Green Stormwater Infrastructure” (GSI) manage nearly 100 million gallons of polluted runoff annually.

While raingardens are seeing more and more adoption across Western Washington, measuring performance has been an area that has seen improvement. Typical methods – such as measuring flow rates--are costly and out-of-reach for typical municipal programs to widely adopt. To help resolve this data quality issue, Berkompas and Nickerson designed the Water Detector to give users a low-cost tool to see how well their rain gardens are performing.

The Water Detector is a low-cost, telemetered tool that measures a rain garden’s hydraulic performance.  

The target users for the Water Detector are municipal National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permittees (cities and counties) in Western Washington and Non-Governmental Organization (NGO)s promoting the wide-scale use of Low Impact Development (LID) practices, including rain gardens.  Recently, all NPDES permittees in Western Washington revised their local development regulations to make LID methods, including rain gardens, “the preferred and commonly-used approach to site development.” Large investments by local governments for rain garden installations have already occurred and will continue to occur under the assumption that these facilities are working as intended. The Water Detector units could be deployed for a relatively low cost at hundreds of rain gardens across the region, providing real-world data to help assess the benefits of using rain gardens for decentralized stormwater flow-control on a broad-scale.

The initial target application for the Water Detector would be to assess a rain garden’s hydraulic performance. The single most important measure of rain garden performance, or lack of performance, is overflow or bypass, when excess runoff flows around or out of the rain garden instead of soaking into the soil. The Water Detector would be used to detect and record when and for how long the water level in a rain garden is at or above this bypass level. Data would then be uploaded automatically to cloud-based data storage via cellular or blue tooth technology. An additional potential application of this technology is monitoring bypass events at engineered stormwater treatment or detention systems to assess/alert when system maintenance is needed.  These data will help to assess and improve site evaluation and design methods, document long-term performance, and develop effective maintenance methods for rain gardens.

Prototypes have been developed, and Curtis and Bryan are currently identifying locations to test and deploy their Water Detectors. For more information, reach out to Curtis Nickerson ( or Bryan Berkompas (

Meet Chris Augustine and Kaitlin Schrup

Chris Augustine and Kaitlin Schrup recently joined Aspect -- Chris in our Portland office and Kaitlin in our Seattle office.  Here are five questions we asked to get to know them better.

Chris Augustine, Senior Hydrogeologist


1.  Where are you from? If you’re not from the Pacific Northwest, what brought you here? I grew up in the Blue Ridge Mountains near Asheville, North Carolina. After grad school, I decided that I wanted to live someplace where I could enjoy the same outdoor adventures as North Carolina and set my sights on the Cascades and moved across country to Ashland, Oregon. I eventually moved to the other end of I-5 to Portland, Oregon and have lived here over 16 years now.

2.  What inspired you to pursue hydrogeology? What made you curious about it? I started off as a chemical engineering major but switched focus after my first geology class. It was a science that played to my strengths and interests and seemed to require a lot of time outdoors doing “field work” – code for hiking around mountains and banging on rocks, which was more exciting than Chemistry Lab. Once I entered grad school I got “red rock” fever and began studying volcanic processes of the volcanic front in southwestern Guatemala for my thesis. I spent most of my class time studying environmental-focused courses like hydrogeology, geochemistry, and shallow subsurface and borehole geophysics.

3.  What do you like best about your area of expertise? What excites you and keeps you motivated? My favorite types of projects are ones that require looking at problems in a unique way or require integrating many different solutions. Coming up with value-added or innovative solutions to these sometimes complex technical or regulatory challenges for my clients keeps my interests piqued.

4.  What do you like to do when you aren’t working? At the moment, my focus is on keeping up with my 4-year-old son and his fixation on everything Legos. I look forward to getting back in the routine of camping, cycling, mountain biking, snowboarding and whitewater kayaking as he grows and can explore the Cascades and the Pacific Northwest outdoors with his Dad, the weekend warrior.

5.  Where in the world would you like to travel next? I am hoping to visit South America again. I really want to see parts of the Andes in Chile and Argentina. There are also a lot of classic whitewater destinations in Chile like the Futaleufu and phenomenal national parks that draw me to there. Closer to home I would like to get out to the Steens Mountains -  even though it seems a world away! 

Kaitlin Schrup, GIS Analyst

1.  Where are you from? In my formative years, I grew up in Central Eastern Washington on the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation. My family has a long tradition in serving Native American tribes. This tradition engraved the importance of preserving natural resources, tribal culture, and sovereignty at an early age. In middle school, I moved to Western Washington on the Enumclaw plateau. In college, I lived near the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina, and studied abroad in the Middle East, which profoundly changed my life. I can still speak a little broken Arabic and Swahili. After college, I moved back home to the beautiful Pacific Northwest to work in the non-profit sector.

2.  What inspired you to pursue Geographical Information Systems (GIS)? My first love was computerized drafting and design. However, I felt at the time policy was more of an effective method to make a difference in the world, so I graduated with my undergrad in political science with a focus on environmental politics. I wanted a method to combine my love of design and policy, and I found that with GIS and cartography. The study and practice of GIS focuses on holistic thinking to tell a story through visualizations. Maps are amazing at telling stories and influencing policy.

3.  What do you like best about your area of expertise? What excites you and keeps you motivated? My passion and commitment are to serve my community through developing meaningful GIS solutions and geospatial technology to assist people to solve their problems and discover insightful information to accomplish their goals. I strive and love to continuously learn in general. The GIS and geospatial technology sector are continuously being innovated with new ideas and technological application. My Master’s program was focused on the development of geospatial technology, so I am always trying to learn more about online map application programming. One of my favorite topics to ponder is “Big Data” and the implications that technology place upon our society.

4.  What do you like to do when you aren’t working? When I am not working, I constantly seek out my next adventure or working on my passion project. I love to travel and learn about new cultures and customs.  I am a retired competitive swimmer and enjoy snorkeling/scuba diving in warm waters. I enjoy exploring the Pacific Northwest with loved ones. During the warmer months, I enjoy camping and hiking. During the colder months, I head up to the mountains for snowboarding or snowshoeing. I also love to run and hanging out with my two little beautiful nieces. I am also a huge animal lover, so I am always seeking out someone to talk with about his or her pets.

 5.  Where in the world would you like to travel next?  This is a hard question. I would like to travel to either the Serengeti or Chile.  One of my dreams would be to see the great migration along the Serengeti. Hiking within the Torres del Paine National Park in Chile’s Patagonia region has been on my bucket list. Also, I have been fascinated with Easter Island since I was a little girl. Plus Chile has great food and beverages.

Groundwater Models: A Powerful Tool in the Hydrogeology Toolbelt

Meteorologists have them. Economists have them. And so do hydrogeologists. Complex computer models, backed by powerful processing power, help us understand and predict weather, wall street, and water. Indeed, groundwater models as predictive tools to forecast water movement and availability are a critical part of a hydrogeologist’s toolbelt.

Recently, Aspect hydrogeologists Seann McClure and Aaron Pruitt attended and presented posters at groundwater modeling’s premiere conference: MODFLOW and More, hosted in Golden, Colorado.

Seann (left) and Aaron (right) in front of their posters at MODFLOW and More

MODFLOW, the three-dimensional groundwater model developed by the USGS, is the industry standard for simulating and predicting groundwater conditions, and has been used to simulate everything from the impacts of climate change on groundwater/surface water interactions to the fate and transport of groundwater contamination to the intrusion of seawater into deep aquifers due to water supply developments. The conference is held every two years by the Colorado School of Mine’s Integrated Groundwater Modeling Center, and draws an international list of attendees from the consulting, academic, and government spheres to discuss all things MODFLOW and groundwater modeling.

Seann and Aaron each presented a poster describing Aspect groundwater modeling work. 

Applying Modelling Techniques to Evaluate Wetland Restoration Options Next to One of the Nation’s Busiest Airports

Seann’s poster presented on Aspect’s years-long work at Lora Lake wetland restoration, located adjacent to SeaTac Airport. The presentation, Groundwater Modeling to Support Wetland Restoration of a Former Peat Mine, discusses groundwater modeling completed to evaluate alternative cleanup scenarios at a former peat mine-turned-suburban lake located next to the SeaTac Airport’s new Third Runway. The lake has historically received stormwater discharge impacted by dioxin/furans and is being restored to a scrub-shrub wetland to remediate contaminated lake sediments through capping and filling in the lake. The groundwater modeling, sediment cap, and wetland restoration is part of a larger environmental remediation and construction effort led by Floyd|Snider on behalf of the Port of Seattle that also includes excavation of impacted sediments in the neighboring parcel.

Groundwater Modeling to Help Bolster Water Supply Resiliency for the City of Seattle

Aaron’s poster presented Aspect’s work on assisting a large Puget Sound public agency with predicting water supply availability in an urban area. The poster, Solving the Water Supply Puzzle: MODFLOW and Uncertainty in the Context of Mitigated Water Rights, focuses on the complexity of quantitative analysis necessary to satisfy permitting standards under Washington’s water rights regulations. Recent State Supreme Court decisions constrain mitigation options to those that meet a high bar of being “in-kind, in-place, and in-time”. This means any change to water levels or flows in a closed basin, no matter how small, is considered an impairment, and therefore grounds for rejection of a new water right. This stringent benchmark is even more difficult to deal with when it comes to using numerical groundwater flow models. Groundwater modeling requires simplifying assumptions about the system, which adds a layer of quantitative uncertainty on top of this already rigorous standard. In support of Seattle Public Utility’s effort to permit a future groundwater supply source as a component of resiliency planning, Aspect used MODFLOW to explore various water rights permitting strategies to determine the most defensible approach to in-time, in-place, and in-kind mitigation that balances water rights protections with the agency’s need for new water supply options. 

A Call to "Engineer with Soul"

Aspect’s Principal Geologist Dave Cook recently wrote a compelling opinion piece in The Seattle Times about the need for engineers and scientists to do more, be more, and say more. Dave is encouraged about the country’s scientific and engineering future because more and more scientists and engineers are multiculturalists, sensitive, and empathetic.

Read it here.

Controlled Atmosphere Storage: Keeping Northwest Fruit in Season Year-Round

In the Wenatchee Valley, it’s a common source of pride that Washington is the top producer of apples and pears in the nation. But with so much fruit coming off the trees at roughly the same time each year, have you ever wondered how crisp, crunchy apples and pears are available in the grocery store year-round? Or what enables people across the country—and around the globe—to recognize Washington as the source of the world’s best tree fruit varieties? Enter the technology of controlled atmosphere (CA) storage.

The Wenatchee Valley – the nation’s top apple and pear producer – keeps grocery aisles around the world stocked year-round by using massive, specially constructed warehouses designed to slow the ripening process.

A quick background on tree fruit: as apples and pears ripen, they take in oxygen and release carbon dioxide. Years ago, researchers determined that by limiting oxygen, introducing a little nitrogen, and lowering the temperature, the ripening process can be slowed. To apply this concept at a scale large enough to support Washington’s apple and pear industries, packers build enormous warehouses capable of holding multiple-orchards-worth of fruit within special airtight, refrigerated rooms. This gives shippers the flexibility to releasing fruit incrementally throughout the year, and allows you and I to enjoy a crunchy Honeycrisp apple in the middle of February, months after it was picked.

Building a CA-storage warehouse involves three special considerations: they must be massive, they must be stable, and they must be built quickly. Once fruit is off the trees, it gets hauled in bins that can weigh upwards of 900 pounds when full. Moving these bins requires big equipment (like forklifts and semi-trucks) and efficient storage requires stacking them up to 12 high—that’s a lot of weight! To maintain precise control of the atmosphere within these buildings, the rooms must remain airtight. This means that the foundation and walls must not shift, settle, or crack. Finally, market demands for additional storage capacity often drives the need for new CA warehouses to be built on short notice, with expedited timelines.

One full fruit bin can weigh 900 pounds. Stack those bins 12 feet high, and the need to engineer stable foundations for the warehouses that hold these bins becomes critical.

To meet these rigorous requirements, CA-storage warehouses are typically constructed out of giant precast concrete walls supported by cast-in-place concrete foundations capable of supporting substantial floor loads—up to 1,000 pounds per square foot. Designing for this type of stability requires the expertise of a geotechnical engineer for understanding how soils beneath the building will behave when loaded. By studying the local geology, excavating test pits, and drilling cores, geotechnical engineers can specify how wide and stout the footings and floor slabs should be at a given site.

Aspect geotechnical engineers Nick Szot and Erik Andersen have guided the design of several CA-storage warehouse projects for industry leaders like Blue Bird, Gebbers Farms, McDougall and Sons, and Peshastin Hi-Up. Aspect is proud to be the tree-fruit industry’s local, responsive firm for geotechnical services in the Wenatchee Valley and central Washington, and for our role in bringing Northwest pride to homes across America and around the world. 

When Science Meets Bike to Work Month

With May just wrapped up, Aspect's annual participation in Bike to Work Month is in the books! This year, 40 Aspect employees participated in the Washington Bikes Bike Everywhere Challenge. All month long, we logged our bike rides and commuting mileage to and from our offices in Bainbridge Island, Bellingham, Portland, Seattle, Wenatchee, and Yakima to compete with other Washington Architecture and Engineering firms for the coveted 2017 A&E Bike to Work Month trophy. 

The highly coveted (depending on who’s asking) Golden Helmet that Aspect won in the A&E section of the 2016 Bike-to-Work challenge.

The highly coveted (depending on who’s asking) Golden Helmet that Aspect won in the A&E section of the 2016 Bike-to-Work challenge.

For some Aspect-ians, it isn’t enough to just ride bikes around to compete for a prize. Bike to Work Month presents the perfect opportunity to strap some expensive field gear to our bikes and mix a little science into our weekend rides. On a recent weekend, an Aspect team set out to do just this by testing two different GPS mapping devices along trails in the beautiful Chelan-Douglas Land Trust in the Wenatchee Valley.

Watch the video for a firsthand look at the trail ride.

Accuracy is at the heart of our Data and Mapping studio group. Some mapping devices are more accurate than others. A little extra effort selecting the right piece of gear before rolling out to a site visit can lead to the creation of a better dataset to help get the job done. The difference in GPS device accuracy can be hard to appreciate by reading raw numbers from a manufacturer’s specifications, but a visual presentation can drive the message home and show how your data can be improved by selecting the right device.

To demonstrate the importance of using the right tool for the job, a senior GIS analyst and her loyal canine sidekick chose to ride a loop of the Sage Hills trail system to put two common tools of the trade to the test – the Apple iPad Mini (tablet GPS) and the Trimble R1 submeter (submeter GPS).

Apple iPad Mini (left) and the Trimble R1 Submeter (right)

Apple iPad Mini (left) and the Trimble R1 Submeter (right)

After their ride, the team dropped by Aspect’s Wenatchee office and crunched the data, mapping out the trails tracked by both the tablet GPS and the submeter GPS. While the calculated overall ride length varied by only a few percentage points between the two devices, a close inspection of the data revealed dramatic variation in the projection of the trail lines over an aerial image. As shown in the photos below, the path tracked by the tablet GPS typically deviated +/- 16 feet away from the trail mapped by the submeter GPS and contradicted the trail lines visible in the overlaid aerial photos.

 This disparity is a case study in why the tablet GPS can be a good tool for recording a general site location, while the submeter GPS excels at capturing the integrity of the details at a site. The Aspect team’s efforts demonstrated the importance of high quality tools for quality data—and high quality bike rides!

Meet Fasih Khan and Lindsay Pearsall

Fasih Khan and Lindsay Pearsall are two recent additions to Aspect's Seattle office. Here are five questions we asked to get to know them better.

Fasih Khan, Project Environmental Engineer

Fasih Khan

Fasih Khan

1.    Where are you from? If you’re not from the Pacific Northwest, what brought you here? Born and raised in Hyderabad, India. Came to the US (Texas) to do my graduate degree (M.S) in 2003. I completed my studies and then worked for some time in Houston and then found a job with GeoEngineers in 2008 that made me move to the Pacific Northwest and I could not have been happier with my decision. I absolutely love the region.

2.       What inspired you to pursue environmental engineering? What made you curious about it? I did my undergraduate degree in Electrical Engineering but after coming to the US and during discussions with my Dean, I realized that no other field touched every aspect of human life as much as environmental field and it also gave me the opportunity to work outdoors which I love.

3.       What do you like best about your area of expertise? What excites you and keeps you motivated? It gives me immense satisfaction to know that I am contributing in my own way towards helping nature and doing something good for humanity. The projects are always unique and pose a different challenge depending on the end objective and stakeholders. It requires lots of communication and organization to accomplish projects and these skills are part of my expertise.

4.       What do you like to do when you aren’t working? I watch movies, listen to music, and I am very good player of a video game called Need for Speed Hot Pursuit on Sony Playstation. I have friends all over the world that come together on weekends and we have gaming fun online on the weekends. I like sports and play tennis.

5.       Where in the world would you like to travel next?  China – I want to see the Great Wall and learn about their culture and customs.

Lindsay Pearsall, Director of Human Resources

Lindsay Pearsall

Lindsay Pearsall

1.       Where are you from? If you’re not from the Pacific Northwest, what brought you here? I grew up in Montana splitting my time between the capital and the eastern farmland. I spent endless hours camping, attending rodeos, fishing, hunting, and farming. I moved to Seattle to experience true city life, experience professional sports, and get away from the miserably cold, brutal winters. I love Seattle, but I would be happy just about anywhere if the ocean is nearby.

2.       What inspired/led you to pursue work in human resources? What made you curious about it? It happened organically, but ultimately started when I found myself in a training role and could help people quickly grow in their careers and ultimately gain promotions. It was incredibly full-filling and my career path just evolved from there into recruiting and now here at Aspect.

3.       What do you like best about your area of expertise? What excites you and keeps you motivated? I believe I offer a unique perspective coming from managing a recruiting agency. That role provided me the perspective of what it takes to run a successful business while leading and developing teams within a highly competitive market, both internally and with a client base. Hiring will always be exciting for me, but also working on programming that maximizes an individual’s potential to grow professionally is a lot of fun and rewarding. Simply stated, I’m motivated by connecting people, and seeing them succeed together.  

4.       What do you like to do when you aren’t working? When we are not planning our lives around my teenager’s soccer schedule, we spend any free minute possible in Long Beach, Washington. We love the area, the people, and the history. This year will be our 17th consecutive year visiting the Washington State Kite Festival there. I also have an affinity for colored vintage Pyrex and can’t pass up a thrift store or garage sale just in case there may be a treasure awaiting.

5.       Where in the world would you like to travel next? I think it will be Italy, but maybe Germany or Ireland. We traveled last year to London, Amsterdam, Brussels, and Paris and it’s very tempting to go back to any of those areas. Really, I’m just happy to explore any place new, nationally or internationally, it’s a full bucket list; seeing at least one new place a year is the goal. 

300 Spokane Residents Turn Out to Hear About Hirst Water Rights Decision

Aspect’s Dan Haller and Carl Einberger helped Spokane County (County) officials present on the relevance of the "Hirst" Decision to a packed public meeting on May 19th. Over 300 local residents showed up to hear the County and Aspect go over:

  • The context that led up to the Hirst decision, including some understanding of the evolving interpretations of Washington State water rights law;
  • The role of watershed planning and hydrogeology studies in the Little Spokane basin;
  • Why the County has been proactively planning to implement a water bank; and
  • How a water bank works.

As counties across the state continue to grapple with the implications of Hirst and what it means for property owners and developers in rural areas, Aspect expects public outreach efforts to continue to help guide the conversation over this evolving topic and legislation.

Aspect Stormwater Team Presents at MuniCon 2017

Aspect is proudly sponsoring and presenting at this year’s Washington State Municipal Stormwater Conference (MuniCon), May 16 & 17 in Yakima, WA.

On Day 1, Senior Associate Engineer, Tom Atkins and Senior Project Hydrogeologist, Andrew Austreng will be leading a discussion on infiltration testing requirements from the Stormwater Management Manual for Western Washington.

During Day 2, Senior Hydrologist, James Packman and Greg Vigoren, City of Lakewood, will be presenting an evaluation of Western Washington Illicit Discharge Detection and Elimination (IDDE) data. Later in the day, Principal Engineer, John Knutson and Project Engineer, Erik Pruneda, along with Rob Buchert, City of Pullman, will be presenting on designing and constructing Low Impact Development (LID) retrofits in low permeability soils.

Aspect’s Tom Atkins and Senior Hydrologist, Bryan Berkompas will also be displaying poster presentations. Tom will be providing a poster on assessing the feasibility of stormwater infiltration at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. While Bryan’s poster demonstrates a hydrologic performance evaluation of ten bioretention facilities across the Puget Sound region through a project funded by Stormwater Action Monitoring.

The conference is presented by the Washington Stormwater Center, in partnership with Yakima County and the Department of Ecology. This unique conference focuses specifically on addressing high-priority issues and challenges faced by municipal NPDES permittees statewide. Learn more about the conference at:  

Meet Bryan Berkompas and Rebecca Powell

Bryan Berkompas and Rebecca Powell are two recent additions to Aspect's stormwater team in our Seattle office. Here are five questions we asked to get to know them better.    

Bryan Berkompas, Senior Hydrologist

Bryan Berkompas

Bryan Berkompas

  1. Where are you from? If you’re not from the Pacific Northwest, what brought you here?
    I was born in New Mexico and I still love the 4-Corners area, but I was raised in the Yakima Valley surrounded by orchards and vineyards. I moved to the Seattle area for graduate school. I thought the rain might drive me crazy but I have found I enjoy it.
  2. What inspired you to pursue hyrdology? What made you curious about it?
    I grew up hiking and fishing the rivers and creeks around Mt. Rainier and White Pass, but I didn’t really consider hydrology until college. In the fall of my junior year I did a suspended sediment study in a small urban creek in Michigan as part of fluvial geomorphology course I was taking. One frosty morning I was standing in the creek about an inch from topping my waders holding my arms at a crazy angle to collect my sample but not get my coat wet and it occurred to me that I was truly enjoying myself and maybe hydrology would be a good fit for me.
  3. What do you like best about your area of expertise? What excites you and keeps you motivated?
    I still love the sound of water splashing and falling over itself as it flows down a channel. Still brings me peace. I enjoy the challenge of working at a site with unique or challenging hydraulic conditions and designing and implementing a monitoring approach that succeeds in meeting the project needs.
  4. What do you like to do when you aren’t working?
    I enjoy exploring the outdoors under my own power: backpacking with my kids, cycling, etc. I lead a kids’ program at my church and love hanging out with elementary school age kids for a few hours each week. I also enjoy the process of pulling and drinking a good shot of espresso.
  5. Where in the world would you like to travel next?
    I would love to visit Italy, see the Giro de Italia, relax in the Cinque Terre, eat lots of food, burn it off riding my bike in the Dolomites, and drink espresso. 

Rebecca Powell, Staff Water Resources Specialist

Rebecca Powell

Rebecca Powell

  1. Where are you from? If you’re not from the Pacific Northwest, what brought you here?
    I am from Salt Lake City, Utah; my husband is from the Pacific Northwest. One day he said “I want to go home.” I have been in the Pacific Northwest since then (1997).
  2. What inspired you to pursue water resources? What made you curious about it?
    My great grandfather was a Forest Ranger and always took us (my grandparents, parents, me, and my siblings) to the fire lookouts. My grandparents managed a farm and were always worrying about water resources and how to manage natural resources. My mother is a retired biologist and science teacher (she hates picking peaches, I loved that). 
  3. What do you like best about your area of expertise? What excites you and keeps you motivated?
    I am walking (slightly aside) in the footsteps of my mother, grandfather, and great grandfather.
  4. What do you like to do when you aren’t working?
    I like to work in my garden, work on my truck, sewing, cooking.
  5. Anything else we should know?
    Just became a grandma!


Aspect at the 2017 WA Hydrogeology Symposium

Aspect's Tyson Carlson and Andrew Austreng will both be presenting at the 11th Washington Hydrogeology Symposium in Tacoma this week (May 9-11). Senior Project Hydrogeologist Andrew Austren will discuss his Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) work on the Columbia Plateau. Andrew will present on his work for the City of Othello and how the City aims to stabilize aquifer levels and support well yields under current and future water demand.

Associate Hydrogeologist Tyson Carlson will present at a Thursday workshop on Training for Water Rights Analysis – Certified Water Rights Examiners (CWREs).  This workshop offers a refresher for CWREs on Washington water law. Tyson’s presentation will focus on how to write a proof of examination.

Taking place in Tacoma, the Hydrogeology Symposium is one of the Northwest's foremost meeting place for hydrogeologists and groundwater professionals in the academic, regulatory, and business worlds.

Aspect Honored to Be Part of Several APWA Projects of the Year

Aspect was honored to be involved with several projects that won top honors at the 2017 APWA-WA Conference in Tacoma, Washington.

In the Structures category, Kitsap County Public Works’ Bucklin Hill Bridge and Estuary Enhancement won Project of the Year in Washington State as well as a National award from the APWA. The City of Wenatchee’s 2016 Pedestrian Safety Improvements project also won Project of the Year in the Environment category.

See Kitsap County's time-lapse construction footage below.

The Bucklin Hill Bridge/Estuary Project rehabilitated the Clear Creek estuary to allow for smoother fish passage and also widened the road to reduce traffic congestion. Working with the OTAK-led project team from 2010-2016, Aspect performed the geotechnical work to replace the 72-inch-diameter culverts with a four-lane bridge.

For the Wenatchee Pedestrian Safety Improvements project, Aspect worked with the City of Wenatchee and WSDOT to collect and review the logs of subsurface explorations previously completed near the project area for other studies.  Using this data allowed the City to save money by forgoing additional explorations and Aspect to develop geotechnical recommendations to support design and construction of a large cantilevered signal pole for pedestrian crossings.

Chris Augustine Presents on Key Concepts in Thermal ASR Systems at AWWA

Aspect’s Senior Hydrogeologist Chris Augustine will be presenting on his work on developing a thermal Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) system at this year’s annual Pacific Northwest Section American Water Works Association (AWWA) conference in Kennewick, WA.

While at another firm, and collaborating with Boise White Paper, LLC (Boise) and the Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology), Chris worked on a Wallula, Washington project that would store cold Columbia River water in the winter and spring months and then recover the stored water during the summer months when the temperature of the Columbia River becomes warmer. 

His presentation will focus on the goal of the project to reduce operational costs for cooling of process water and reduce surface water diversion during the summer to meet the target yield of 4,000 gallons per minute.

Learn more here: American Water Works Association

Meet Heidi Wachter and Brian Hite

Heidi Wachter and Brian Hite are two recent additions to Aspect's stormwater team in our Seattle office. Here are five questions we asked to get to know them better.

Heidi Wachter
Associate Water Resources Scientist

Heidi and Family

Heidi and Family

1.    Where are you from? If you’re not from the Pacific Northwest, what brought you here?
I was born in Seattle and lived here through fifth grade, until my German parents’ desire for mountains and country-living took us to the foothills east of Enumclaw, Washington. There, with my five brothers and one sister (yes, seven kids!), we spent non-school hours playing sports, riding horses, exploring Newaukum Creek’s headwaters, skiing Crystal Mountain, and hiking the central Cascades. Post high school, I packed my bags for LA (USC) and after one year of study (with some beach time), I realized the PNW is where I belong. Thus, I packed my books and came back to complete my academic career as a UW Husky. 

2.    What inspired you to pursue water resources?
I started college as a Biomedical Engineering major with the desire to design prosthetic limbs for athletes. After taking time off from college to ski, live, and work in Ketchum, Idaho, it became very clear I needed an active job allowing for human collaboration and plenty of outside work hours. After moving back from the Sawtooth Mountains, I started working in the nonprofit sector on resource conservation. This led to a Conservation Biology course with Estella Leopold, and Ms. Leopold sealed the deal. She encouraged me to keep an engineering focus, but also increase my understanding of biological conservation within engineering solutions. Thus, I made the shift to Water Resources/Environmental Sciences within Civil Engineering. 

3.    What do you like best about your area of expertise? What excites you and keeps you motivated?
Quite simply, I enjoy working with people and through working with people, solving problems. What really keeps me motivated is when those solutions lead to environmental stewardship and resource conservation. 

4.    What do you like to do when you aren’t working?
Usually playing or hanging out with my husband Brent, son Griffin (11), friends, or traveling across the PNW and beyond to visit family—I think Griffin now has 20+ cousins across the US, Netherlands, and Germany. We can often be found on local soccer fields and baseball parks when we are not doing the usual PNW stuff—skiing, sailing, hiking, or taking road trips in Ruby-J, our Westy camper van (inspired by Aunt Ruby and Grandma Jeanette).

5. What five people would be your dream dinner party guests? 
My maternal grandmother, Maria Neller and my mother, Franziska (Neller) Wachter. My grandmother died during WWII when my mother was nine years old. My dream is a dinner conversation with both as adults; to have them converse, laugh, and tell stories of their life in Bayern, Germany prior to WWII. I would also include:

  • Estella Leopold—Because the Leopold family’s teachings and dedication to conservation have had an impact on many, including me.
  • Rosi Mittermaier—The first strong female skier I remember watching in the Olympics (Innsbruck 1976; 2 golds, 1 silver). 
  • Nina Simone—Her voice, her passion, and her work as a civil rights activist inspire me. Plus, my husband Brent (who would cook the amazing meal), would like to meet her. 

Brian Hite
Staff Water Resources Engineer

Brian Hite

Brian Hite

1.    Where are you from? If you’re not from the Pacific Northwest, what brought you here? 
I was born, raised and still live in the small town of Puyallup, Washington, an hour south of Seattle. I love this area. It is near my family and friends, and I plan to retire here one day. I have decided to stay here because of the small-town feel and its proximity to the big cities.

2.    What inspired you to pursue water resources? What made you curious about it?
I decided to pursue a career in water resources later in my life. I was injured in my previous construction career and was free to pursue any job out there. I was drawn to water resources and the stormwater field because I could see the effects of massive non-point pollution and I didn’t see a good solution on the horizon. I joined the fight against water pollution to ensure my kids and future generations will be able to enjoy clean surface water.

3.    What do you like best about your area of expertise? What excites you and keeps you motivated? 
I love this field of work because it gives me the opportunity to help our neighborhood in a meaningful way. This work is also a lot of fun, allowing me to both work outside and in a nice office with great people.

4.    What do you like to do when you aren’t working? 
When I’m not at work, I am a family man who enjoys spending time at home. I am dangerous at video games like Madden, but I also like many outdoor activities. I love to bike, swim, and go camping with my family. Next year, my 10-year-old and I plan on attempting a Seattle-to-Portland bike ride. 

5.    Where in the world would you like to travel next? 
For me, I would love to travel to New Orleans. I love the food and I am intrigued by the culture. The music from the area is one of a kind. The idea of spending my morning exploring the mouth of the Mississippi, jambalaya for lunch, and dinner spent on a ghost tour would be great.

You can get there from here: Ending post-closure activities at old landfills

After landfills stop accepting waste, they transition into a post-closure period of typically 30 years or more. Towards the end of the post-closure period, landfill managers try to terminate or modify monitoring requirements in compliance with criteria and regulations.  Data collected on settlement, leachate generation, groundwater quality and landfill gas production are evaluated to demonstrate if monitoring activities can be terminated or reduced.

In one example of successful post-closure transition, see Seattle’s South Park Landfill before (2007) and after (2016) closure. The landfill was capped and redeveloped as a parking and storage facility.

On April 26 at the 2017 NW Regional SWANA (Solid Waste Association of North America) Conference in Tulalip, Aspect’s Peter Bannister will discuss his experience at closed landfills in eastern and western Washington and lessons learned that have set these sites up for terminating or reducing post-closure activities with regulatory certainty.

Learn more and register here.

Competition and Opportunity: Panel on Affordable Housing and Contaminated Sites in Puget Sound

Just like everyone else in today's real estate market, Puget Sound housing authorities, non-profits, and entities are looking for property in a region that has become very expensive. That has resulted in stiff competition from all purchasers – private and non-profit --for developing even contaminated sites, which only adds to the already high cost of development. Into this mix, money for affordable housing is tighter and lending requirements more conservative. Conversely, outside the Puget Sound region, contamination commonly puts property values under water, leaving key land underutilized.
However, affordable housing success stories are happening and showing that buying and redeveloping a brownfield property can lead to homes; more productive use; a cleaner environment; jobs; and retail.  On April 20 in SeaTac, Aspect’s Dave Cook and Jessica Smith join Ken Lederman and Jacquie Quarré of Foster Pepper PLLC for a panel discussion hosted by the Association of Washington Housing Authorities (AWHA). The group will cover the potential of brownfields sites for Housing Authority entities from the regulatory, legal, and environmental perspectives and present several recent affordable housing development stories, including Rainer Court and the Mt. Baker Housing Association.  
Learn more about AWHA here.

It’s a Wrap on the Cap: Port of Bellingham completes major cleanup milestone to redevelop Bellingham’s Waterfront District

A video history of the past, present, and future of the transformative Bellingham waterfront redevelopment.

Along the east side of the Whatcom Waterway in Bellingham, a layer of gray gravel stretches over the landscape. This “cap” of crushed rock and surrounding paved surfaces is a culmination of years of efforts to clean up soil and groundwater on the grounds of a former pulp and paper mill. Completion of the capping clears one major hurdle for the Port and City of Bellingham to create a new, vibrant waterfront.

Video Credit: Port of Bellingham

A historically industrial site with strong post-cleanup potential

The waterfront has always been central to Bellingham’s industrial past. Where the cap sits now was originally tideflats that were filled to create new upland for industrial use: salmon canning operations in the early 1900s, giving way to a pulp mill in the 1920s. In 2005, Georgia-Pacific (GP) sold 137 acres of land, including the 64-acre mill property, to the Port of Bellingham, and GP’s last mill operations closed in 2007. Despite the contamination that resulted from the industrial activities, the Port and the City did not give up on this property and saw the cornerstone of a new Bellingham waterfront—it only needed remediation to set the stage for productive and safe reuse.

How to Clean It Up

Heavy industrial use left some contamination in soil and groundwater across the majority of the mill property, which, for purposes of the environmental cleanup, is termed the GP West site. In 2009, the Port and the Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology) executed an Agreed Order to investigate and determine the appropriate “cleanup action” for the site. First, Aspect completed a Remedial Investigation to document the soil and groundwater across the entire site. While the investigation was underway, the Port and Ecology agreed to proactively undertake interim cleanup actions to permanently remove areas of high-risk soil contamination (Bunker C fuel oil and liquid mercury) while working to create the cleanup plan for the larger site.

In 2013, the Agreed Order was amended to divide the GP West site into a pair of Remedial Action Units (RAUs): the Chlor-Alkali RAU that encompasses mercury contamination from a former mercury-cell Chlorine Plant on the south end of the site; and the Pulp and Tissue Mill RAU that encompasses the former pulp mill and tissue mill areas to the north. Ecology agreed to do this to expedite cleanup and facilitate redevelopment, recognizing that cleanup of the Pulp and Tissue Mill RAU was less complicated and could be accomplished more quickly than could the Chlor-Alkali RAU. In 2014, a Cleanup Action Plan (CAP) specified the final cleanup action for the Pulp and Tissue Mill RAU. The final cleanup for that RAU involves additional removal of contaminated soil, and, in a few areas, monitoring the natural restoration of groundwater.

What it takes to put a Cap on 31 Acres

A major challenge for the capping project was achieving a protective barrier across 31 acres of highly variable surface conditions remaining after demolition of the former mill, while also maintaining accessibility and stormwater drainage until redevelopment reconstructs the area. The surface that required capping was a mish-mash of material types and grades: pavements of variable type and condition, intact concrete slabs of all dimensions and heights, crushed concrete and brick, and a hill of soil that historically served as a street onramp. Further complicating the effort was a widespread surficial layer of dirt and rocks presumed to have contamination from historical activities, termed “veneer.”

Aspect was involved throughout the capping project, from conceptual design to the construction plans and specs and bid process, and then overseeing work to ensure it was done to the CAP specifications. The capping itself took about 90 days, as outlined in these photographs:

Before – Pre-existing site surfaces requiring capping

Random intact slab with "veneer" around it.

Crushed concrete from mill demolition.  Also note that the Port saved some buildings and structures, like the “acid ball” and the “pulp digester” towers shown here, to contribute to the aesthetics of the planned redevelopment.

The hill of soil that historically served as a street onramp.

During – Regrading and consolidating contaminated material 

The initial steps of the capping project included grading off the tops of the soil knolls to match surrounding grades, as well as removing the “veneer.” The latter was done with excavators, street sweepers, and even a good old-fashioned broom in some areas. All of the excavated and swept-up contaminated materials were consolidated as fill to raise grade in a low area just south of the knolls.

During – Smoothing it out

Next, the site needed to be evened out. The contaminated soil fill was graded and compacted to a flat surface. Because it was to be capped with clean imported soil, a bright orange geotextile was placed across the contaminated soil subgrade to provide visual notification for potential future excavation through the cap during redevelopment. Adjacent stockpiles of crushed concrete and brick from prior building demolition were likewise leveled and compacted – creating a firm, flat subgrade across the entire fill area.

During – Capping it off

Once the fill was consolidated and evened out, the entire 31 acres needed to be capped. The cleanup plan called for a minimum of either 3 inches of competent hard surface (asphalt or concrete pavements or foundations), or 2 feet of clean import soil/rock, overlying the contaminated soil. Ultimately, contaminated soil was capped with 2 feet of import material (6 inches of crushed rock over 18 inches of sand and gravel) on top of the orange geotextile, while the cap across the rest of the area was a combination of pre-existing competent hard surfaces and new asphalt pavements. The capping also cleaned out and secured more than 170 vaults and other subsurface structures to eliminate physical hazards to foot and vehicle traffic and to control stormwater drainage.

Done – The finished product

The finished cap will keep people from coming into direct contact with potentially contaminated soil. The project also improved stormwater drainage, and provided an overall upgrade to the site’s aesthetic. Aspect will also continue to monitor the groundwater on the site as the Port and City plan their next steps.

What’s Next: Reconnecting the Community to the Waterfront

Just as the waterfront has been central to Bellingham’s past, it is now the key to its future. With the cap in place, the potential of this prime waterfront area is just now being unlocked. The old Granary building at the corner of the cleanup site is undergoing renovations to house shops and restaurants. The City is planning for construction later this year of the first arterials and utilities, as well as a park that will allow the community to directly access the waterfront. And rather than forget the past use of the area, the City has embraced it with a public competition to reimagine the site’s “acid ball” as an art installation within the new park.

How Dirty is the Dirt: Ripple Effects of Proposed Solid Waste Handling Regulations

The difference between “clean” and “dirty” dirt may become a lot more complex if new solid waste handling regulations take effect in Washington state. The state’s Department of Ecology (Ecology) has proposed significant revisions to Washington Administrative Code (WAC) Chapter 173-350, which governs how solid waste is managed. The proposed changes, which will be formally proposed later this year, will affect a number of solid waste practices, but the key revisions with the most significant implications concern creation of a new section establishing and standardizing criteria for managing the movement, reuse and disposal of soil and sediment  that is considered “clean” under the state’s Model Toxics Control Act (MTCA) but may have trace levels of contaminants (draft WAC 173-350-995).

Excavated soil from Seattle City Light’s new Denny Substation in South Lake Union. Under proposed new solid waste regulations, managing, hauling, and receiving this soil will likely be much more complicated for engineers, redevelopment teams, and landfill operators.

With the Puget Sound region by some counts leading the nation in development projects – which all generate dirt during construction excavation that must be reused or hauled away – establishing soil management protocols will likely have significant ripple effects in the business and regulated community. Consider just one urban skyrise, as this article on construction dirt does. A typical downtown Seattle building project could potentially generate 250,000 cubic yards of soil (equal to 25,000 dump truck loads) that must be removed from the site. The new soil and sediment criteria would potentially mean higher sampling costs, more complex soil management plans, additional reuse constraints, and greater soil volumes filling up limited landfill space.

How managing “Dirty” Dirt would change

Contaminated sites are regulated under MTCA, which provides screening criteria for defining impacted soil. Soil with contaminants below MTCA screening levels is considered “clean”. Currently, the end use of “clean” excavated soil is largely determined by criteria set by individual receiving facilities—gravel mine, landfill, reuse site, etc. These facilities may all have different standards for what level of impacted soil they will accept. The new proposed regulation would change that, formulating the screening process for “clean” soil and creating formal soil reuse and disposal acceptance criteria. This means that “clean” soil (albeit with low levels of contaminants at concentrations protective of human health and the environment) would now need to go through rigorous sampling, laboratory analysis, evaluation, and jurisdictional health department permitting just to be hauled away. This would be a big change from the current process, where this same “clean” soil can be reused as fill because it is deemed “protective” of human health and the environment, per MTCA.

Implications of new regulations

At the heart of the update is the intent to formally regulate soils that are not perfectly clean. Ecology hopes the rule update will streamline management, decrease delays in soil movement, reduce the potential for creating new cleanup sites, and reduce environmental damage. Practitioners see the implications of these proposed rule updates as increasing the cost of development projects, slowing development schedules, creating a regulatory quagmire, and causing landfills to fill with soil that could be put to use elsewhere.  

Helping Bring Clean Water To Guatemala

In 1985 a US doctor and his wife traveled to the Northwest highland area of Guatemala, where they observed areas of extreme poverty and little infrastructure. Dr. Leeon Aller, MD and his wife Virginia soon decided to dedicate themselves to helping this region and in 1991 established Hands for Peacemaking Foundation (HFPF), based in Everett, Washington. Going strong in 2017, the Foundation provides infrastructure and other support services to over 250 villages in this mountainous area, where running water and electricity are the exception and having clean drinking water can be a daily struggle for villagers. 

For many years, Aspect has been supporting HFPF efforts to help some of the area villages solve water supply challenges and also provide geological assistance with the landslide-prone environment these mountain villages exist in.

 The Water Story of San Francisco JolomtaJ

Located 10 miles from the nearest town of Barillas, San Francisco Jolomtaj is home to 160 families and does not have electricity or running water.  For drinking water, the villagers have a choice -- they can build wooden boxes like that pictured below or walk to a spring to get and carry back water (this can mean a 4-5 hour round trip trek).

Existing wooden box water supply for the village

Villagers trekking back up the mountain with water from the spring

To help this situation, Aspect and others are funding construction of rooftop rainwater collection system for the community school and individual families—primarily widows and the elderly who struggle to get water for themselves. 

San Francisco villagers loading supplies to build the tank system

Family and finished water tank

HFPF partners with the villagers to build the water systems. These systems don’t replace the spring sources, but they do provide critical water emergency supply and are filtered to block contaminants. The work in San Francisco is currently ongoing, with additional collector and tank systems constructed as funding allows.  You can learn more about this project and other humanitarian projects by visiting the  Hands for Peacemaking Foundations website.