Central-Washington Geology: Field Trip!

Rocks have histories and their histories tell us stories. 

This was the underlying theme of Aspect’s recent seminar on central Washington geology, led by esteemed experts Dr. Kathy Troost, LG, of Troost Geosciences and the University of Washington and Dr. Eric Cheney, Geology Professor Emeritus at UW. While topography alone makes clear the relevance of geology to the eastern Washington landscape, less sure is how the regional setting impacts the realm of projects—those distinct points on and below the ground where Aspect’s earth science and engineering work enters in. 

Over two days in June, staff from across Aspect’s offices came together to learn about big-picture geology and earth processes related to 66 million years of local history, and then travel to the outcrops to see the deposits firsthand. Woven throughout were the contributions of each person’s unique experiences with geology and relevant insights from nearby project sites. Together, the balance provided each of us the tools to make sense of an otherwise complex landscape; a way to break it down into manageable pieces, put it back together, and learn what it has to tell.

Learn about Washington Water Law

Aspect’s water law expert, Dan Haller, will be presenting on Water Banking for Agricultural Water Supplies at the 27th Annual Water Law in Washington conference (June 14-15). This year’s conference focuses on major legislative changes, new case law, and important practical information for water rights and resource management in the State of Washington.

Washington State’s First Affordable Housing Fund for Contaminated Sites: Applications Due June 30th

The Washington State Departments of Ecology and Commerce have created an innovative new program that will provide grants to affordable housing developers seeking to redevelop contaminated properties and increase the state’s housing stock.

The Healthy Housing Remediation Program will provide grant funds to nonprofit and private housing organizations to evaluate, investigate, and clean up contaminated properties to support the development of affordable housing. It was created by the Washington State Legislature during the 2018 session and will be funded in the 2019 session.

The program builds upon the successful partnership between Ecology and the Mt. Baker Housing Association on the Gateway Project in Seattle. Mt. Baker Housing’s Gateway Project will redevelop several contaminated properties for affordable housing near transit hubs in Seattle’s Rainier Valley. Aspect and law firm Perkins Coie — with lead counsel Mike Dunning — serve as Mt. Baker Housing’s environmental team on the Gateway Project. Perkins Coie and Aspect have worked directly with Ecology and Mt. Baker Housing to build this unique concept.

Ecology and Commerce started soliciting applications for the program on June 1 and the application period closes June 30. Perkins Coie and Aspect can help interested organizations complete and send in their applications. This needs to happen as soon as possible to meet the June 30 deadline.

If you have any questions about the Healthy Housing Remediation Program or about redeveloping contaminated properties for housing, please contact Dave Cook at 206.838.5837 and at dcook@aspectconsulting.com or Mike Dunning at 206.359.3464 and at mdunning@perkinscoie.com.

Before and after conceptual image of Mt. Baker Gateway Project  in South Seattle – one of the affordable housing cleanup sites that the Healthy Housing program is inspired from.

Meet Jon Turk and James Bush!

Associate Hydrogeologist Jon Turk, LHG and Project Hydrogeologist James Bush, LHG recently joined Aspect's Water Resources practice supporting our Seattle office. Here are five questions we asked to get to know them better.

Jon Turk - Associate Hydrogeologist

 Jon and family kayaking near Elephant Island at the Bai Tu Long Bay World Heritage Site in Vietnam.

Jon and family kayaking near Elephant Island at the Bai Tu Long Bay World Heritage Site in Vietnam.

  1. Where are you from? If you’re not from the Pacific Northwest, what brought you here?
    I was born, raised, and educated in Ohio. I worked in Ohio for a few years, then transferred down to Florida for a previous firm. A few years in Florida was enough for the cravings of mountains and snow to take over. I’ve been in Olympia for about 9 years and consider it home. 
  2. What inspired you to pursue hydrogeology? What made you curious about it?
    My early childhood was spent on the Chagrin River, near Cleveland, with a short walk to shale and cliffs and fossils to collect. It was in the same valley that my grandparents homesteaded, and where my mother grew up…so maybe you could say I was born into it. Some of my earliest childhood memories are rock collecting along the river and sliding down the waterfalls. I started rock climbing as a teenager, and yet somehow started college as a pre-law student. After my first year, I switched majors and haven’t given anything else a second thought.
  3. What do you like best about your area of expertise? What excites you and keeps you motivated?
    It is not so much my area of expertise (quantitative hydrogeology), but consulting in general, that gets me excited. The creative and technical problem solving, rewards of a successful project and happy client, providing value to the communities I work in, are really the most rewarding parts of it for me.
  4.  What do you like to do when you aren’t working?
    Any sort of family adventure is at the top of the list. We try to raise our kids in a way that keeps them engaged with us, and consequently have dragged them through some incredible places way off the beaten path. We enjoy the outdoors as much as possible, climbing, cycling, kayaking, fishing, and traveling the world experiencing new cultures. I do some volunteer work with the WaYa Outdoor Institute, a non-profit summer day camp founded by my wife and friends, that combines STEM curriculum with outdoor adventure. I’m also an avid DIYer and roughly half way through a 5-year plan of complete home renovations.
  5. Where in the world would you like to travel next?
    The next “big” trip we are planning will be in summer of 2019 to Nepal, Tibet, and Sri Lanka. However, my dream trip would be to spend some time down in Patagonia, then hop on a cruise to Antarctica. I hope to see a narwhal at some point in my life—they really are the closest living thing to a unicorn you know.

James Bush - Project Hydrogeologist

  1. Where are you from? If you’re not from the Pacific Northwest, what brought you here?
    I grew up in the Boise, Idaho area. It’s a place I really love, and one where I felt like I had a lot of opportunities. I moved to Washington seven years ago for the opportunity to practice hydrogeology with some talented folks, and it’s worked out really well.
  2. What inspired you to pursue hydrogeology? What made you curious about it?
    My hometown (Eagle, Idaho) is fairly arid and very dependent on groundwater, so folks started to worry about water when the area began to undergo a population boom. I knew that I wanted to be a scientist who did work that had a direct impact on the community around me. Water is a resource for which there are no substitutes, so hydrogeology was a great fit for me.
  3. What do you like best about your area of expertise? What excites you and keeps you motivated?
    The wide range in scale on which my work has an impact. Water is so connected across space and time, and it touches everyone’s lives in so many places. It’s invigorating and daunting when I think about how my work today will affect folks potentially many miles downstream and many years into the future.

    Day-to-day, I love the investigative nature of hydrogeology. Working out how to evaluate a resource that is mostly hidden in an efficient manner makes me feel like Sherlock Holmes on a case. Bringing together sparse information to make deductions and piece together an accurate picture gets me out of bed in the morning.
  4.  What do you like to do when you aren’t working?
    My nights are usually taken up by rec league softball or volleyball. I’ve played baseball and softball since I was small, and being out on the diamond with friends on a summer night can’t be beat. I just got into volleyball last year, and learning an entirely new sport has been the best sort of challenge. I’ve also rediscovered my love of skiing the past few winters, and can’t wait until next season!
  5. Where in the world would you like to travel next?
    In all seriousness I’m hoping that commercial spaceflight takes off in my lifetime. Seeing the Earth from space, experiencing microgravity, and seeing the stars without the atmosphere are things I couldn’t pass up if the opportunity every comes!

Next Step in Icicle Creek Basin Solution – June 27 Public Hearing in Leavenworth

Taking the next step in a process that began in 2012, Chelan County and the Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology)  have released the Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) for the Icicle Creek Water Resource Management Strategy (Icicle Strategy). The Draft PEIS will be summarized and discussed at a public hearing on Wednesday, June 27 from 4pm to 8pm at Leavenworth Festhalle, 1001 Front Street, Leavenworth, WA. The PEIS evaluates five alternatives to help the Icicle Work Group (IWG) map out a solution for instream flow, tribal, agricultural, domestic, and recreational water needs for the Icicle Creek Subbasin in central Washington.

See Chelan County’s Icicle Strategy website for more information. Aspect has helped coordinate the development of the PEIS, along with multiple teaming partners and co-leads Chelan County and Ecology.

Water Banking in the West

Water banking is increasingly being looked at as an innovative approach to storing and releasing water in water-challenged areas of the West. In May’s issue of The Water Report, Aspect’s Dan Haller wrote an in-depth look at water banking in Washington state, how it compares to the rest of the West, and what recent legislative changes mean for the successful adoption of this water supply tool. Click below to read the article. 

Strengthening our Water Resources Services with Jon Turk and James Bush

Aspect strengthens its water resources practice with the addition of Associate Hydrogeologist Jon Turk, LHG and Project Hydrogeologist James Bush, LHG. Jon is a hydrogeologist with over 16 years of experience focused on quantitative hydrogeology for water, wastewater, and industrial markets for public agencies and private industry. He will work out of Olympia, supporting Aspect’s Seattle office as well as expanding Aspect’s capabilities for clients in the south Puget Sound area. James brings over seven years of hydrogeologic and numerical modeling experience for groundwater projects.

 Jon Turk

Jon Turk

 James Bush

James Bush

“Jon’s background and expertise are a seamless match with Aspect’s water resources client base,” says Tim Flynn, Aspect’s President. “We’re also excited to continue to introduce Aspect to all the south Puget Sound and western Washington clients that Jon has built strong relationships with.”

While at his previous firm, Brown and Caldwell, Jon led an integrated water resources management team providing regional leadership and national consulting for complex and integrated surface water and groundwater systems. He brings recognized skill in groundwater recharge, water supply management, wastewater reuse, and numerical modeling for clean water projects as well as site remediation support for Brownfields and Superfund projects. James also comes from Brown and Caldwell, where he was a primary technical contributor to groundwater projects, environmental site characterization, and numerical modeling projects throughout Washington, Oregon, and the western United States.

“I’m excited to join the Aspect team and proud to join such a talented group of consultants,” says Jon.  “I’ve always considered Aspect as one of the premier hydrogeologic consultancies in the region, with a strong brand that truly values both innovative and practical approaches to solving complex water resource challenges.”

Reigning in the Looming Landslide in Kitsap County

As the Washington Boulevard landslide continues to move, it threatens to cut numerous Kingston residents off from the town and emergency responders.

Since a significant slide in 2006, Aspect has provided geotechnical services at Washington Boulevard, including gathering data and monitoring and studying movement along the slope. Recently, Kitsap County Public Works decided to implement a slope dewatering system to remove groundwater from the landslide mass and increase the stability of the hillside and roadway.

Aspect’s Andy Holmson provides some insight to the solution in this Kitsap Daily News article.

Testing Innovative Methods for Landfill Gas Monitoring in King County

Scientists from the CSE Corporation (a company developing cutting-edge gas detection devices used in air-quality monitoring) and Aspect remediation engineers are working in partnership to develop new methods for continuous methane-gas monitoring at landfills. CSE’s methane-gas monitoring products use solar-powered instruments outfitted with telemetry. Solar power eliminates the need for frequent battery replacement while telemetry allows remote monitoring of the data. With cooperation from King County Solid Waste Division, CSE has provided Aspect with test units to install at several of the County’s closed landfills to gauge the effectiveness of this technology for the landfill industry.

CSE has roots in the mining industry and a history of innovations, including the first self-contained rescue-breathing apparatus for use by mine personnel. KCSWD, Aspect, and CSE are testing the devices ability to monitor methane, a primary source of greenhouse gas emissions from landfills.

 Got methane? CSE remote methane monitoring setup with telemetry and solar panel  on a passive landfill gas collection system in King County, Washington.

Got methane? CSE remote methane monitoring setup with telemetry and solar panel  on a passive landfill gas collection system in King County, Washington.

Setting the Stage for Alaska Airlines’ 128,000-Square-Foot Groundbreaking

Alaska Airlines recently deepened its local roots with a groundbreaking for a new 128,000-square-foot corporate facility in SeaTac.

Aspect is helping set the stage for this by providing environmental and geotechnical services to prep the property for development.  Our team evaluated property-wide environmental conditions and is serving as the geotechnical engineer of record, which includes designing foundations and shoring walls.  Aspect pilot tested and designed a deep stormwater infiltration system to sustainably manage stormwater and get it back into the ground in a more native/natural way. This helped achieve the sustainability goals of the project. We will be on hand to perform construction observation as that kicks off. 

 The “Hub” will be a 6-story office building scheduled for construction and then move-in for first quarter 2020.

The “Hub” will be a 6-story office building scheduled for construction and then move-in for first quarter 2020.

 The May 3rd groundbreaking ceremony was attended by various city, county and state dignitaries, including governor Jay Inslee, Congressman Adam Smith, King County Executive Dow Constantine and Alaska Airlines CEO Brad Tilden, as well as Alaska employees and members from the surrounding community.

The May 3rd groundbreaking ceremony was attended by various city, county and state dignitaries, including governor Jay Inslee, Congressman Adam Smith, King County Executive Dow Constantine and Alaska Airlines CEO Brad Tilden, as well as Alaska employees and members from the surrounding community.

Meet Mike Mills

Mike Mills recently joined Aspect's Portland, Oregon office.  Here are five questions we asked to get to know him better.

Mike Mills, Project Software Developer


1.    Where are you from? If you’re not from the Pacific Northwest, what brought you here? 

I was born in Portland Oregon, but grew up in Sisters, Oregon (just north of Bend).  

2.    What inspired you to pursue software development? What made you curious about it?

I learned how to code my freshman year of high school and from then on knew exactly what I wanted to do with my professional life. 

3.    What do you like best about your area of expertise? What excites you and keeps you motivated? 

I really enjoy solving complex problems, which coding allows me to do with ease. The thing that excites me the most is to finish a project and have a client be completely satisfied with the work that’s been done. 

4.    What do you like to do when you aren’t working? 

When I‘m not working, I enjoy running around the Portland waterfront and reading with my wife. I also enjoy salmon fishing every season with my Dad and Mom in Newport, Oregon. 

5.    Where in the world would you like to travel next? 

After visiting Italy this last October, I would love to go back to Europe and visit either France or Spain. My wife speaks French, so that would be a bonus having a translator. 

Meet Chris Bellusci and Blair Deaver

Chris Bellusci and Blair Deaver recently joined Aspect's Bend, Oregon office.  Here are five questions we asked to get to know them better.

Chris Bellusci, Associate Business Systems Architect

 Chris hiking near the Maroon Bells -- two peaks in the Elk Mountains in Colorado.

Chris hiking near the Maroon Bells -- two peaks in the Elk Mountains in Colorado.

1.    Where are you from? If you’re not from the Pacific Northwest, what brought you here? 

I was born and raised in Missoula, Montana on a small ranch, where I developed my love for the outdoors and our natural resources. From Missoula, I moved to Seattle where I spent 10 years going to school, working, and exploring all the great outdoor activity it had to offer. But I felt I needed to get back to something a bit smaller in city size (and more sunshine) so I moved to Bend, Oregon, a place I really call home and have loved it ever since. 

2.    What inspired you to pursue data infrastructure? What made you curious about it?

My degree is in Electrical Engineering, but my first job right out of school was for Boeing Aerospace where I supported the hardware and software that developed the first design-by-wire aircraft, the 777. I saw the power of how technology can revolutionize an industry or a way of doing business. This set my path into the world of software. 

3.    What do you like best about your area of expertise? What excites you and keeps you motivated?

My focus is helping industries solve their complex business problems by applying technology solutions. My real belief is business process should drive the technology approach, which is why I enjoy learning so much about our client’s business and helping them to find the best solution to meet their business needs. I believe that applying technology to better manage our natural resources is the next great frontier.

4.    What do you like to do when you aren’t working? 

Being outside!!! I love Bend because of the four seasons it has to offer and I love being outside in each one of them, whether if it’s 90 degrees in July or 10 degrees in January. Hiking, biking, camping, skiing--I enjoy all of it!  

5.    Where in the world would you like to travel next? 

It has been over 15 years since I have visited Europe and I would like to get back there again this time with our two children. I would like them to see and experience other cultures, plus I have an older brother that lives in London, UK, so a good excuse to go.

Blair Deaver, Senior Geospatial Data Scientist

 Blair riding the Jem biking trail in Utah.

Blair riding the Jem biking trail in Utah.

1.    Where are you from? If you’re not from the Pacific Northwest, what brought you here? 

I grew up in Washington, D.C. I fled west for college in search of real mountain ranges I could explore on my mountain bike.

2.    What inspired you to pursue GIS and IT? What made you curious about it?

When I was going to school at the University of Oregon I worked part-time for the US Forest Service as a Hydro-technician in Oakridge, OR. I was a seasonal employee with aspirations for a full-time field job.  I quickly determined that a full-time job would be difficult. A peer at the time mentioned to me that if he were me, he would learn everything there is to know about this thing called “GIS”.  I quickly transitioned much of my school focus to Geography and GIS.  I was fascinated by GIS and quickly learned all I could.  When I graduated college, I was fortunate to get a job at Esri in Redlands, CA. I went from working in the woods for 10 hours a day to helping Esri customers solve technical problems behind a desk. The transition was a bit rough at first, but I have loved every minute of it. 

3.    What do you like best about your area of expertise? What excites you and keeps you motivated? 

I love the pairing of earth science + technology to solve real problems. I enjoy working with others to focus on the mastery of understanding a problem rather than quickly jumping to an engineering solution. I have worked over 20 years in the geospatial and IT industry. I have seen lots of change in the industry. What motivates me daily is to always keep learning. Being able to design and deliver technology solutions for earth science customers requires technical agility, creativity, and a solid understanding of the problem you are trying to solve.

4.    What do you like to do when you aren’t working? 

I love being a father and husband. You may also find me riding and racing my bicycle on trails throughout the PNW. I also love trail running and winter sport activities.

5.    Where in the world would you like to travel next? 

I would love to travel to Africa. All parts of Africa. I better save up my vacation.

Meet Aaron Fitts and Jasmin Jamal!

Aaron Fitts recently joined Aspect's Bellingham office and Jasmin Jamal recently joined Aspect's Portland office.  Here are five questions we asked to get to know them better.

Aaron Fitts, LG, Staff Geologist

 Aaron and 2 1/2-year-old son Arthur.

Aaron and 2 1/2-year-old son Arthur.

  1.  Where are you from? If you’re not from the Pacific Northwest, what brought you here? 
    I grew up in central Maine. The landscape in Maine and New England is a lot like the Pacific Northwest (PNW), except the mountains are smaller and the winters are colder. I spent all my time growing up in the woods or on the coast; I spent the summers racing bikes, surfing, and whitewater guiding, and in the winter I’d be climbing mountains, snowboarding, and cross-country skiing. It turned out that you could do all these things in the PNW too, but it’s also way more fun here!
  2. What inspired you to pursue geology? 
    At the end of my Junior year of college, I had completed most of the requirements for a degree in physics and found myself with just electives left for my senior year. I was a bit sick of being stuck in physics laboratories all the time and saw geology as an opportunity to spend some time outside. I took eight geology courses in one year and was able to get a dual-degree. Ironically, I ended up spending most of my time in a basement geochemistry laboratory, though, I got out enough to make it worth it. I decided that I wanted to go to grad school where I could be in landscapes a bit more exciting than the Northeast. My undergraduate advisor recommended that I contact his colleague at Western Washington University in Bellingham, telling me that it was near the coast but surrounded by mountains. That was literally all I knew about the area when I drove across the country to get here. It ended up being a good decision.
  3. What excites you and keeps you motivated? 
    Troubleshooting and problem-solving while working with clients, contractors, and co-workers is my favorite thing about working in this field. There’s something very satisfying about getting something complicated to work out in the end. Getting to do the type of science that I enjoy and seeing cool places at the same time is just a great bonus on top of it all.
  4. What do you like to do when you aren’t working? 
    Lately, my favorite activity has been reexperiencing childhood activities with my two boys (11-months and 2.5-years old). My toddler is obsessed with riding his bike and running on the trails and my infant is obsessed with anything his big brother is doing. My wife and I do our best to keep up with them, but they’re a handful. When we do find time for ourselves, we usually end up riding our bikes anyway.
  5. Where in the world would you like to travel next? 
    There are a lot of places around the world I’d like to visit; generally, any place with mountains, probably Chile or Argentina. Honestly though, even given the choice, I’d probably most like to just go to the Methow Valley. I really like it there.

Jasmin Jamal, EIT, Staff Engineer

 Jasmin at the Trillium Falls near the Redwood National and State Parks in Humboldt County

Jasmin at the Trillium Falls near the Redwood National and State Parks in Humboldt County

  1. Where are you from? If you’re not from the Pacific Northwest, what brought you here?
    I am from a city called Orange, in a county called Orange, in a state called California. My life-partner Jonathon and I visited Portland a few years back and immediately agreed that this was where we needed to be. Last summer, I finished grad school, he requested a job transfer, and before we knew it, we landed in Portland!
  2. What inspired you to pursue environmental engineering? What made you curious about it?
    Growing up, my mom frequently took my sisters and me on camping, hiking, and biking adventures. I loved the outdoors as a kid but never imagined pursuing an environmental job as a career--I always wanted to be a teacher. During college, I stumbled upon the earth science program and fell in love. Around the time that I finished my undergrad, environmental engineering was introduced as a master’s program at my university. The variety of topics covered in the program were intriguing, so I went for it and fell in love for the second time! My interest in teaching hasn’t ceased but I envision myself now as more of a grey-haired professor.
  3. What excites you and keeps you motivated?
    I like the diversity behind environmental engineering and am motivated by the fact that the environment is ever changing. I hope to work in multiple areas of interest including wastewater and surface water treatment, solid waste management and design, fate and transport of chemicals, and soil and groundwater remediation.
  4. What do you like to do when you aren’t working?
    I enjoy hiking, biking, and camping, but I probably like all of that as much as I like being horizontal with my cat Carrie.
  5. What five people would be your dream party guests?
    I’m going to pick a mixture of living and dead:
    1. My Uncle Tom (deceased)
    2. Barack Obama (living)
    3. Carrie Brownstein (living)
    4. 011 from “Stranger Things” (fictional)
    5. John Muir (deceased)

Aspect Talks Water at AWWA Conference

Tim Flynn and Dan Haller will both be presenting Friday April 27th at the AWWA ‘Just Add Water’ 2018 Section Conference in Tacoma. Friday morning, Tim’s presentation will focus on the City of Othello’s unique approach to source development by securing new supplies using irrigation canals, reclaimed water and ASR.

Aspect’s Andrew Austreng will be moderating the afternoon Water Resources technical session during which Dan Haller will be presenting an overview of water rights and water banking in WA.

Dave Cook Presents on Affordable Housing to Upper Kittitas County

On April 25, Aspect’s Dave Cook will be giving a lunch presentation on affordable housing development from the environmental consulting perspective to the Rotary Club of Upper Kittitas County at Suncadia Lodge.

Dave’s presentation will discuss how blighted, contaminated property doesn’t have to be a deal-breaker for redevelopment.  In fact, some brownfields property is actually being sought as a way to turn blighted property into affordable/work force housing.  Aspect’s first-of-its-kind work on the Mt Baker Housing Association’s Gateway project in the Mt Baker/Rainier Valley neighborhood in Seattle has become an example of what is possible.  Mt Baker Housing non-profit took on a significantly contaminated site to redevelop as affordable housing where the cost of the cleanup is more than the value of the five properties combined. 

How are we doing this?  Through environmental risk management via a Prospective Purchaser Consent Decree, cleanup evaluation through site characterization and Rough Order of Magnitude cost estimating, and unique funding via a Redevelopment Opportunity Zone (allowing funding from the State Dept of Ecology and Commerce), while also seeking other funds through a traditional path of accessing potentially liable parties (like big oil companies and old insurance policies).  This project is becoming recognized throughout Washington state and is a model for possible allocation of State cleanup funds to pilot this concept in other areas. 

New LiDAR Maps Reveal Skagit County's Geologic Landscape

LiDAR mapping – the process of methodically using pulsed lasers from a plane/helicopter to map aerial-view landscape features – helps communities plan for landslide hazards, understand potential floodplains, and learn about geologic features previously unknown. Because LiDAR penetrates through tree canopies, it produces much greater detail and precision than typical aerial maps. So, when new LiDAR maps are released (particularly in areas with heavy tree cover, thus meaning much longer lead times to create new maps) – it is a cause for excitement in the earth science and geographic information system (GIS) communities.

Skagit County just finished a year-long LiDAR mapping project of the county and produced a great new story map that reveals features--including a prehistoric landslide near Cultus Mountain – that were not apparent on the previous aerial maps.

The region’s first generation of LiDAR maps was a tremendous advancement over the aerial photo-based survey maps that had been used for generations. While very useful, the limitations in quality of the older LiDAR was most apparent in steep and heavily vegetated areas – frustrating because those are exactly the areas where you most want the best data. The greater detail and accuracy of this new generation of LiDAR maps presents a leap forward in resolution and ability to survey these important areas. 

 Compare the quality of the 2006 LiDAR map of Guemes Island (left) to the new version (right)

Compare the quality of the 2006 LiDAR map of Guemes Island (left) to the new version (right)

The new generation also frequently includes “green light LiDAR”, a method with the ability to penetrate water and reveal the bathymetry of shorelines, streams, rivers, and other shallow water bodies.  Both of these improvements greatly improve our ability to rely on the new LiDAR maps for interpretation of geomorphic features and active processes, and detect natural and human-caused changes in the environment. 

Take a look: Skagit Lidar Map Journal

Aspect’s Growing Data Science and Mapping Services

Science and engineering insights fueled, managed, and clearly communicated through technology. 

This sums up Aspect's successful client-focused approach since our inception in 2001. This year, we’ve enhanced the technology piece of this formula by adding three new staff, with over 10 years working together, focused on software development, technology integration, and geospatial data science. Chris Bellusci, Associate Business Systems Architect, and Blair Deaver, Senior Geospatial Data Scientist join Aspect’s recently opened Bend, Oregon office; and Mike Mills, Senior Project Software Developer, joins Aspect’s growing Portland, Oregon office.

These three will enhance Aspect’s already robust Data + Mapping services—helping our clients and project teams with solutions like map-integrated stormwater monitoring dashboards; environmental data management system design and integration; technology needs assessment and road-mapping; web map and GIS application development; integrated systems for mobile field data collection; and the development of machine learning-based approaches to basin-scale hydrology issues.

Data + Mapping Practice Lead and Aspect’s Director of Professional Services Parker Wittman explains the benefits to clients, “Chris, Blair, and Mike boost our core skills and add industry-leading, sought-after services like web development and cloud-based data management expertise,” Wittman said. “Reflecting the world at large, our clients will continue to seek out solutions that are interactive and mobile-platform friendly, that translate large amounts of data into scientific and business insights. These clients require teams that are analytical high-performers, who speak in the languages of business, regulation, earth science, and technology.”

 Chris Bellusci

Chris Bellusci

Chris Bellusci recognizes Aspect as an emerging leader in the data science and mapping world. “Joining Aspect was a clear choice for us. They’ve always partnered their earth engineering and science experts with creative technologists focused on client satisfaction. The three of us (Bellusci, Deaver, and Mills) see a lot of potential to help Aspect’s growing client base,” Bellusci said. “The cloud and web tools we leverage can shrink project times and costs—for example turning a typically three-week monitoring report process into three days. Mountains of data that were tracked by hand previously can now be managed in the cloud and presented to decision makers in minutes instead of weeks.”

Chris has been working in the world of IT/software development, support, and product management for more than 20 years, with an educational background in Electrical Engineering. For the past 12 of those years, Chris has been helping clients plan for and build technology-driven solutions related to earth science problems. He is a seasoned project and client manager with a penchant for new business development. 

 Blair Deaver

Blair Deaver

Blair Deaver’s educational background is in Environmental Studies and GIS. His geospatial expertise is both broad (everything from open source GIS, scripting, mobile development, dev ops, data management, enterprise IT) and deep—he is a recognized Esri GIS expert and is Amazon Web Services certified. Blair is known for an incredibly nimble style of problem-solving, a trait that meshes well with Aspect’s overall approach to client services. 

 Mike Mills

Mike Mills

Mike Mills’s core expertise/background is in web and database development—he’s done everything from statistical analysis (writing custom kriging algorithms for in-browser spatial analyses) to mobile application development.  He’s a full-stack developer with a decade of experience delivering solutions for earth science and engineering projects. Mike’s educational background is in Mathematics and Computer Science.

Chris, Blair, and Mike all joined Aspect from GeoEngineers, where they had previously worked as a team for the better part of 10 years. Together—with Associate Water Resources Engineer, John Warinner—Chris and Blair make up Aspect’s new Bend, Oregon office. With Mike joining Aspect’s growing Portland office as well, Aspect is continuing its earnest expansion into the Oregon earth + water market. The experts who are part of Aspect emerging Oregon presence service all the firm’s core practice areas—and are collectively a reflection of Aspect’s multidisciplinary approach.


Inspiring Burgeoning Environmental Consultants

For an interdisciplinary WWU course led by Dr. Ruth Sofield and focused on the Science and Management of Contaminated Sites (SMoCS), Aspect’s Steve Germiat and Kirsi Longley gave budding environmental consultants a look at what life and work is really like for professional environmental consultants.

To complement the students’ landfill RI/FS case study, Kirsi presented Aspect’s recent RI/FS work at a landfill in western Washington. The presentation focused on the scope of the investigation, the findings, including how volatile contaminants can transfer between landfill gas and groundwater, and how the findings were developed into recommendations for remedial alternatives.  In addition to the scientific and technological challenges of environmental remediation, Steve and Kirsi addressed the nuts and bolts of a consultant’s role in the MTCA cleanup process, and the skills and attributes that enable a consultant to excel. Looking back on the presentation, Dr. Sofield said “Students benefit so much from interactions with Steve and Kirsi.  To actually learn from a practitioner and see that classroom material has real application changes how students think about and participate in their education.  It changes a lot for the students, including their intended career path.”

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 http://faculty.wwu.edu/harperr3/SMoCS.shtml.

The Story in the Sediment: Tracing Stormwater Pollution Sources at Superfund Sites

Since 2001, the lowest five miles of Seattle’s Duwamish River (known as the Lower Duwamish Waterway or LDW) has been designated as a 412-acre Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Superfund site. The LDW’s Superfund status results from decades of historical industrial activity. On top of the historical contamination, the LDW has ongoing issues with contaminated stormwater runoff. Rain hits the abundance of impervious surfaces – e.g., asphalt roads and lots, building roofs – in the industrial areas next to the river, collects contaminants from those surfaces, and carries it to the nearest storm drain and into the river.

Sediment sampling in Seattle's Lower Duwamish Superfund area helps identify contaminates and cleanup strategies to improve water quality. 

Among the many tasks in cleaning up Superfund sites is the ongoing detective work to sleuth what contaminants are there and where they came from. In the LDW cleanup, one of the key clues isn’t even in the river water itself, but in the sediment carried by stormwater. 

Aspect staff have sampled stormwater sediments across the LDW Superfund site – previously for the City of Seattle and King County and currently for the Port of Seattle at Harbor Island. Our efforts studying these solids in stormwater runoff provide key information about the recent history at a site and the extent of contamination.

The Benefits of Sediment Sleuthing: Unlike Water, It Accumulates

Unlike stormwater, which runs through and beyond an outfall to receiving waters, heavier sediments and other settleable solids (relatively heavy substances that sink in water) carried by runoff drop out and accumulate. This accumulation, which occurs in key locations such as stormwater catch basins, vaults, and low-gradient pipes, provides a rich environment for valuable leads on water quality contaminants that may eventually end up in streams, rivers, lakes, wetlands, and Puget Sound. Sediment monitoring often provides a more comprehensive historical picture of pollutants compared to instantaneous or short-term sampling of water alone.

At Superfund areas, and many other sites challenged by stormwater runoff, sediment monitoring benefits clients by: 

  • Providing a historical picture of pollution—through accumulated sediment analysis--associated with stormwater runoff and industrial discharge.
  • Identifying chronic types of pollution that may deteriorate water quality and habitat.
  • Tracing the sources of pollution to their origin for purposes of management, treatment, or elimination.
  • Determining sediment accumulation rates in sewers and catch basins to improve maintenance and operation needs and to anticipate and prevent flooding.
  • Complying with permits, records of decision, and other legal requirements for preventing environmental degradation or requiring cleanup of polluted sites.
  • Measuring the effect of land use activities and stormwater treatment best management practices (BMPs).

Tracking Hot Spots Across 600 Acres of Pavement and Buildings

Boeing Field (aka King County International Airport or KCIA) is one of the nation’s busiest primary non-hub airports and covers over 630 acres of mostly impervious surface. Managing stormwater runoff over this much area and with many industrial tenants is a challenge, especially because KCIA faces the challenge of being responsible for all discharge to the LDW from its property, even runoff or discharge in tenant-operated areas. 

 Sediment traps in a storm sewer manhole

Sediment traps in a storm sewer manhole

Aspect staff previously performed inexpensive but high-resolution sediment monitoring throughout KCIA’s storm drainage infrastructure that ranged from shallow old brick manholes to deep new stormwater treatment vaults. The results from the sediment monitoring provided a finer-grained picture of accumulated sediment quality than had ever been collected at KCIA. This allowed King County to identify hot spots of likely pollution sources coming from both individual tenants and from legacy airport infrastructure and helped prioritize an action plan to address these areas.

Using Sediment Data to Track Down Drainage Ditch Polluters

In a different area of the LDW, sediment data helped the City of Seattle identify the source of intermittent toxic metal pollutants from a far upland drainage area to the LDW, despite having outdated drainage maps. 

 Sediment collection in a storm sewer manhole

Sediment collection in a storm sewer manhole

Because the area was previously in unincorporated Seattle, sewer records were incomplete. With the assistance of an Ecology inspector who knew the area and businesses well, Aspect staff collected sediment samples from both the public and private drainage systems. The sediment samples helped both Ecology and the City efficiently trace the source of the metals pollution to a business that had a previously unknown illicit connection from its industrial waste drainage system to the ditches outside, which served as the public storm drainage.

Long-term Sediment Monitoring at Harbor Island to Support Environmental Compliance

Aspect is currently assisting the Port of Seattle with sediment monitoring at a 15-acre marine terminal on Harbor Island, a discrete Superfund site located downstream of the LDW Superfund area. The sediment monitoring supports the Port in demonstrating compliance with a Record of Decision (ROD) to rehabilitate the site. As a site that drains directly to Puget Sound, the objective of the cleanup (which included dredging and removing contaminated soil) is to reduce concentrations of hazardous substances in runoff to levels that will have no adverse effect on marine organisms. 

 Sediment traps mounted on the side of a storm sewer manhole

Sediment traps mounted on the side of a storm sewer manhole

 Sample bottles with accumulated sediment at the bottom

Sample bottles with accumulated sediment at the bottom

To evaluate this over the required 10-year monitoring period, Aspect is monitoring accumulated sediments in the new stormwater drainage system at the terminal for metals, tributyltin, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). The results from the sediment monitoring are compared to target concentrations in the Washington State Sediment Management Standards and show the Port’s commitment to compliance with the ROD and to ensuring that the site rehabilitation was successful. 

Sediment Sampling Provides Key Historical Context to Water Quality Evaluation

Measuring sediment quality is an excellent – and affordable – complement to measuring water quality. Aspect’s sediment sleuthing has helped clients in the LDW create a more holistic picture of both historical and ongoing stormwater pollution, as well as flooding potential. From this picture, they are better able to identify sources of contamination and create specific plans to address them—leading to a healthier LDW for all.