Removing Barriers to Fish Passage at Icicle Creek

Like many of Washington’s waterways, Icicle Creek in Chelan County is the site of several projects with the goal of helping salmon and other fish make their way upstream to spawn. Many of the projects involve constructing structures, like a habitat-friendly culvert or a fish ladder, to balance fish passage with the many other needs and uses for the river. But a project sponsored by Trout Unlimited is focused on removing barriers—in this case, large boulders in the creek that stand in the fish’s way. Once the boulders are removed, fish will have access to another 26 miles of habitat.

This project is one of a suite of projects the recently released Icicle Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) recommends in the Preferred Alternative to implement the Icicle Strategy, an $82 million dollar effort to ensure a sustainable water supply and water resources for people, farms, and fish in the Wenatchee Basin through 2050. Aspect has been the technical and facilitation lead on this project since 2012. Our work includes serving the Icicle Work Group—a group of approximately 30 stakeholders from local, state, and federal governments, Tribes, irrigation districts, farmers, and non-profit groups that created the Icicle Strategy; developing the PEIS; and leading technical evaluation of proposed projects across the basin that may improve water resource management and increase instream flow during critical flow periods.

Senior Geotechnical Engineer Nick Szot, PE, and Senior Engineering Geologist Mark Swank, LEG, are supporting Trout Unlimited’s goals for the Icicle Creek project by developing alternatives for fish passage and relocation of a 16-inch-diameter watermain that brings water to the City of Leavenworth. They have also provided considerations for protecting creek bank slope stability during construction, which is expected to start in summer 2020.  Learn more about the project in this recent article in the Wenatchee World.

MTCA Turns 30

Happy 30th Birthday to the Model Toxics Control Act (MTCA)­—Washington’s citizen-led law put in place to help cleanup over 7,000 sites statewide. Those thousands of cleaned up sites have led to a cleaner environment, better human health, and thriving communities. The interpretation or implementation of it has had some bumps and difficulties, but on balance MTCA has been very beneficial to the common good and, as the video discusses, an example nationally of a successful cleanup process. As a firm that helps clients interpret and cleanup sites, Aspect is proud to be a part of its effect on all of us.

Checkout Ecology’s short video for the history and highlights of this important and innovative law.

Learn about the history of Washington's citizen-led environmental cleanup law - the Model Toxics Control Act. This innovative law powers our work to investigate, clean up, and prevent hazardous waste.

Talking Field Data Collection at 2019 OCEAN Connect Conference on April 11

Over the past decade or two, technological advancements have presented opportunities to streamline field data collection. However, migrating field staff to a paperless workflow requires more than choosing the right software and hardware.

On April 11, Aspect’s John Warinner and Robyn Pepin will cover this topic and give tips on how to effectively convert field data collection from paper to digital process at the 2018 Oregon Conservation Education and Assistance Network (OCEAN) Connect Conference in Sunriver, Oregon.

Key areas of the presentation will include:

  • Overview of commercial off-the-shelf software and reporting systems

  • Case studies and lessons learned by Aspect’s field and data teams

  • Successful talking points to convince decision makers

See good field techniques and analysis put into practice, with some mountain biking thrown in for good measure here:

It's IPAD Mini vs. Trimble GPS in a mapmaking showdown on the sunny trails of the Chelan-Douglas Land Trust in the Wenatchee Valley.

And read more about our experience with how one suite of field data technology has improved our workflow.


The State’s Longest-Running Water Rights Adjudication is Coming to an End

In 1977, James J. Acquavella’s name was listed first on the summons when Ecology filed a petition for an adjudication to determine the legality of all claims for surface water in the Yakima River Basin – birthing the Ecology v. James Acquvella, et al water rights case. Forty-two years and 2,500 claimants and interested parties later, it is coming to a close. Some takeaways for this milestone moment in Washington state water management are:

  • Starting in 1977, the Department of Ecology v. Acquavella adjudication is the longest-running general adjudication in state history, determining the validity and establishing priority of surface water claims in the Yakima Basin.

  • With the issuance of the Final Decree by Yakima County Superior Court, water right holders in the Yakima Basin will finally have certainty over the authorized quantities and purposes and places of use of their water right claims.

  • Adjudicated water right certificates will be issued by Ecology for all claims determined by the Court to be valid; water right holders will no longer need to get approval of the Court to complete a change or transfer a water right, but instead file applications with Ecology like everywhere else in the State.

  • During the adjudication, stakeholders in the Yakima Basin continued to lead the state in providing innovative approaches to water resource management challenges, including early adoption of water banking and mitigation markets to ease permitting of new water rights, and development and implementation of the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan.

Aspect has worked on a variety of Aquavella claims over the decades – including hundreds of due diligence water right evaluations; helping buyers/sellers move and change these rights; and developing water banks through the State’s Trust Water Right Program to support efficient transfer of existing rights and permitting of new, mitigated water rights.

Read the fascinating tale of water management in the Yakima River Basin and the implications of this ruling in this great Department of Ecology blog post.

See what else Aspect’s Water Resources practice has been up to.

Helping Power Seattle's Tech Sector

Seattle City Light is about to unveil its new state-of-the-art substation that will transition this South Lake Union site from a Greyhound bus maintenance facility and parking lot into an “architectural marvel.” From property acquisition and contaminant remediation through design and construction, Aspect completed a full range of environmental and geotechnical services to support the redevelopment of a sleek electrical substation wedged in the heart of Seattle’s tech sector.

Check out this great Seattle Times article on the new substation and peruse some photos of the truly impressive facility.

A Thousand Photos to Better Storytelling: The Aspect Photo Contest

In the earth science consulting world, our work is innately photogenic. Stream gauging at a quiet bend in the river. Installing new pin piles at a pier on a scenic city waterfront. Even the “grimy” photos, like well sampling at a contaminated site, provoke interest and fascination. Staff take pictures to document their technical work and those same photos are the lifeblood of firm branding and storytelling. However, Aspect’s marketing team, tasked with telling our firm’s story, can struggle with harvesting high-quality visuals. The photos are out there, yet they may be buried in forgotten file locations or staff’s work phones. Just asking “Have you got any good pictures?” yields scattershot results, which often then means reusing the same tired photos again and again.

So, a year ago, our marketing group decided that we needed a better way to consistently draw out quality photos. What better incentive than a friendly contest?

I love it, it gives me glimpse to what our field people are up to, since I am in the office 100% of the time and not a field person, I envy them the fun they have when in gorgeous location in beautiful weather and not so much when they are bundled in the snow and rain.

- Mirka Ramsey, Accounting Lead

The Idea: Prizes and Public Recognition

We started with a weekly raffle, awarding tickets to all contributors and bonus tickets for the week’s best photos – all leading up to a cash prize drawing and winners that we celebrated at quarterly firm-wide meetings. After the first call for entries, staff responded with 54 pictures. Where had these all been hiding?

If we had only received those first 50 photos, that would have been a modest success. However, we were surprised and amazed that the photos kept coming week after week. We knew we had something special when, at the first quarter’s staff meeting, the photo contest became a highlight. It turned the meeting into an informal art exhibit, where the employees and their beautiful, funny, and, often times, poetic snapshots of field and office life were the stars of the show. The idea continued to gather steam and, by the end of the year, we’d received over 1,100 photos.

It’s awesome! I love seeing the work that other folks are doing. I think it improves our company culture: gives us something to talk about with staff we might not interact with otherwise, and also gives me a better sense of pride in some of the work that I’m doing when I share my photos.

- Hannah McDonough, Staff Geologist

The Takeaways

One thousand photos later, if there’s one general takeaway, it’s that being curious and asking staff what they are working on—and learning what they’re excited about—is always worthwhile. The photos gave our marketing team materials to help tell Aspect’s story, but also delivered an unexpected benefit: they shone a light on firm culture. Over the photo contest’s first year, we found that:

The field staff’s photos remind everyone of the aesthetics of working in environmental consulting – they are outdoors a lot in both beautiful settings and grimy conditions. It’s a way to appreciate the beauty and commiserate when things are grim.

It’s not just about the projects. We got many photos of what staff are doing outside of work –biking trails, climbing mountains, running races, vacationing in places sunnier than the Pacific Northwest.

Sharing our work brings staff of all levels together around firm culture and put names to faces before people may have met in person.

Aspect staff are now in the field, at industry functions, or just in the office, with an eye out for photo opportunities.

Submitting on a regular basis helps keep taking photos in the front of my mind so I have more photos of my projects which helps when putting together reports. I enjoy seeing others as it gives insight into what the rest of the company is up to. I often get a sense of a “can-do” attitude mixed with people enjoying what they are doing.

- Bryan Berkompas, Senior Hydrologist

A Hub for Storytelling

As the photo contest enters Year Two, the marketing team now has an established source of photos to illustrate our work in proposals and spotlight our culture for recruiting. Field staff have told us that taking photos helps them with their project work and report writing. And everyone enjoys seeing what our colleagues are up to and takes pride in our collective work.

Follow our photographers on Aspect’s Instagram page.

Meet Daniel Babcock!

Staff Scientist Daniel Babcock recently joined Aspect’s Seattle office. Here are five questions we asked to get to know him better.

Daniel Babcock - Staff Scientist

Daniel Babcock in Farmington, New Mexico

Daniel Babcock in Farmington, New Mexico

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

    I was born in Wichita, Kansas and had lived there my whole life up until now. After living in a place with no trees or mountains for 26 years, my wife and I decided it was time for a change of scenery! Western Washington satisfied everything we were looking for in a new home i.e., opportunities, mountains, trees, and multiple Chipotle locations.

  2. What inspired you to pursue environmental science What made you curious about it?

    My background is in Geology and I fell in love with learning about the natural word—I also knew I didn’t want to work behind a computer 24/7. It seems to have worked out perfectly that I was able to find a career that allows me to combine my love for science while allowing me to work both in and outdoors.

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

    At the end of the day, it is rewarding work. There is a sense of pride that goes along with being part of a team that remediates sites and knowing that you contributed to that. It is work that feels bigger than yourself.

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

    I enjoy most things outdoors—hiking, backpacking, mountain climbing, camping, kayaking, downhill mountain Elk riding…well maybe one of those isn’t a real activity… yet. But, I also enjoy playing a few instruments like the guitar, bass, and ukulele.

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

    It may not sound as cool as saying Paris or Australia but, I have always wanted to visit the New England area of the United States. I love history, and as far as the USA goes, there is a lot of history out there and I have never been out east before. So, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, and Massachusetts are high on my list.

From Brownfields to 500 Units of Affordable Housing – Aspect in the News

The Daily Journal of Commerce takes a look inside Mt. Baker Housing Association’s pioneering affordable housing work in South Seattle. Aspect, overseeing the environmental effort for the MBHA team, continues to drive the idea of brownfield sites as unique opportunities for affordable housing – including the 160+ unit Maddux project and the 350+ unit Grand Street Commons project.

READ HERE

Learn more: www.aspectconsulting.com/affordablehousing

The $82 Million Icicle Creek Subbasin Watershed Plan Hits a Milestone

This Seattle Times article provides an in-depth look at the complex mix of aging alpine dams, world-renowned wilderness area, and the potential of changing climate patterns in the Icicle Creek Subbasin. The spotlight’s on this North Central Washington region as the 6+ year Icicle Creek Subbasin strategy hit a recent milestone with the release of the project’s Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement.

Since 2012, Aspect has been the facilitation and technical lead for this effort, serving a broad working group of city and county agencies, tribes, fisheries, irrigators, and the community. The overall program is designed to improve instream flows, assist in agricultural sustainability, and provide for local domestic growth beyond the year 2050 at an investment of $82 million over the next 10 years.

Tales from Bertha: Till, Fill, and Dewatering

As Seattle weathers the close of one historic stretch of Highway 99 and awaits the opening of a brand new one (at the time, the largest soft-ground tunnel bore in the world), we’re recapping a tale that played out in connection to one of the more dramatic milestones of the tunneling project: Bertha gets stuck.

In December 2013, the mega tunnel boring machine known as Bertha overheated and broke down 1,000 feet into its journey. Eager to keep the project moving, crews working for Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) quickly designed and excavated a deep rescue shaft to get in front of the stuck machine and repair it. It was a complicated effort to drill down to Bertha considering the unique geology and human history that has defined Seattle’s waterfront.

Peering into the 130-foot-deep rescue shaft. Photo credit: Seattle Times

How an Inch of Displacement Can Cause Trouble

Stabilizing the ground to create the 130-foot-deep shaft required a significant amount of dewatering [1] that had to be done quickly. This dewatering caused the surrounding soils to settle much more than was anticipated from the planned tunnel construction—the settlement reached over a wide half-mile radius, and about an inch in some places, and even more than that close to the shaft.

An inch may not seem like a lot, but for the underground maze of City of Seattle (City) utility infrastructure, including aging, brittle water and sewer lines (some over 100 years old), any additional settlement was problematic. This unforeseen settlement was enough to trigger an expedited program to assess and replace the utilities where risks were unacceptably high. The City, in need of expertise on local geology, hydrogeology, tunneling, and soil behavior, brought on Aspect to investigate problems resulting from the rescue shaft construction and help design repairs.

The aerial image of the Seattle waterfront shows locations of satellite radar altimetry points TRE Altamira used to measure precise changes in ground surface elevation from May 2014 through February 2015, which included the period of Bertha rescue shaft dewatering. The colors of the dots represent the cumulative change in elevation, with hot colors showing subsidence and cool showing uplift. The orange and red areas show the broad pattern of ground subsidence associated with the shaft dewatering. For more information on this technology, visit TRE Altamira.

Aspect’s role was four-fold: determine what parts of the City’s infrastructure were being most affected by the settlement; assess vulnerability of other areas further along the tunnel route; assist with geotechnical engineering recommendations for replacing infrastructure damaged by the settlement; and help the City understand the cause of the settlement.

Till + Fill + Development = Complex Subsurface Challenges

Our investigation started with an extensive review of the waterfront’s underlying geology. Deep beneath the City lies a complex history of multiple glacial advances and retreats, separated by long interglacial periods. Sediments from glaciations include tills, layers of glacial lake and marine silts and clays, and sheets of glacial outwash sand and gravel. These glacial soils are interbedded with floodplain silts and sands and gravelly channel deposits transported by rivers flowing from the surrounding mountains, including lahar deposits (large volcanic mudflows) from as far away as Mount Rainier.

These strata were deposited in more-or-less horizontal and generally orderly ways, then subsequently compressed and compacted by repeated advance of glacial ice sheets. In the Pioneer Square area, a present-day look at the resulting stratigraphy is, however, far from orderly, due to its setting within the Seattle fault zone. This zone of tectonic compression repeatedly ruptured during prehistoric earthquakes, and much of the strata are now sheared, tilted, overthrust, and truncated. All of this was then overlain by weak estuary, beach, and tide flat deposits—and then extensively modified by humans.

This map shows the rescue shaft – and the southern portion of the tunnel route – in or below what was formerly the beach and tide flats of Elliott Bay. Pioneer Square was a tidal marsh area. These areas were infilled over the century with sawmill wood waste and soil fill, making the ground throughout the (now) Pioneer Square area both geologically and historically complex. Map credit: Aspect

This map shows the rescue shaft – and the southern portion of the tunnel route – in or below what was formerly the beach and tide flats of Elliott Bay. Pioneer Square was a tidal marsh area. These areas were infilled over the century with sawmill wood waste and soil fill, making the ground throughout the (now) Pioneer Square area both geologically and historically complex. Map credit: Aspect

A major part of Aspect’s analysis focused on the location, thickness, and nature of the weak and shallow soils draped above the strong glacial soils, intertwined with the historical changes that occurred as Seattle developed its waterfront. The Pioneer Square area was a small upland Native Americans had lived on for millennia. Occidental Square was a shallow coastal lagoon, and most of the area south of King Street was tide flats. As timber and shipping industries flourished in the 1800s, much of the waterfront was developed with piers and trestle bridges, then filled with sawdust and wood waste from waterfront mills and soft muck sluiced from nearby hills.

On top of all that, roads, sewer lines, water lines, and buildings were constructed on the new ground. Not surprisingly, these weak fills have settled over time, resulting in bumpy roads, tilted sidewalks, and tall curbs in the Pioneer Square neighborhood. But these same soils were also highly susceptible to further consolidation when the water table was rapidly lowered by the Bertha rescue shaft dewatering.

Historical Record Sleuthing

To assess the areas of vulnerable underground utilities, we dug into the historical records—maps dating from the original land surveys of Seattle to locate the original shorelines, and previous drilling investigations going back decades to reveal the subsurface data. Aspect compiled soil records of hundreds of borings and wells to develop a database that could be mapped in three dimensions and used to identify the areas where weak soils were present. When combined with the City’s utility maps, Aspect’s weak-soils map allowed the City to easily spot areas where weak soils and vulnerable infrastructure overlapped.

Aspect also assisted the City in pursuing remote surface elevation surveying techniques including use of synthetic aperture radar (InSAR), a satellite-based radar distance measuring technique that permits detection of precise changes in ground surface elevation over time. These studies looked at time-series analysis of data beginning well before tunneling started through shaft dewatering and continuing to the time of the study. They showed an unmistakable correlation between rescue shaft dewatering and broad areas of ground settlement.

Dewatering: The Science of Making a Wet Excavation Dry

Dewatering the excavation required pumping, but at a rate and depth to keep water pressure low (too high could risk “blowing out” the bottom of the 130-foot-deep shaft). There are two aquifers beneath the rescue shaft site and Pioneer Square area – one shallow and one deep. Because the shaft bottom sat in the “deep” aquifer, pumping targeted that aquifer, which was thought to be confined from the shallow aquifer and the vulnerable utilities sitting above it.

However, because settlement happened in the shallow aquifer area, Aspect’s forensic analysis looked at answering several questions: how susceptible are the utilities to pumping a deep aquifer? Does pumping the deep aquifer cause dewatering of the much shallower aquifer? And if so, does pumping the deep aquifer or dewatering the shallow aquifer cause most of the settlement that the City was observing? Understanding the hydrogeologic connections between pumping the two aquifers and the net effects of dewatering on soil behavior required multidisciplinary consideration of many factors.

This graph from TRE Altamira shows the elevation of a single point on the map near the area of greatest ground subsidence. The dots show the date of the satellite pass, and the elevation difference from the baseline series. The sharp drop in elevation between October and December 2014 corresponds to the period when shaft dewatering began. These satellite altimetry data correlated well with elevation control data collected by others using traditional on-the-ground surveying methods.

To understand the amount of shallow dewatering that had occurred, Aspect developed a comprehensive groundwater monitoring program that instrumented existing wells to collect data while the dewatering pumps were running. Then, once the pumps were shut off, before and after comparisons of water levels could be made to see the changes brought on by dewatering. Data collection continued until dewatering had ceased and groundwater levels had returned to normal.

Fixing the Faults Caused by the Fault

Ultimately, the project team concluded that there had been localized impacts to the shallow aquifer that were related to pumping of the deep aquifer. Some of those impacts were the result of leakage from the shallow aquifer downward along the outside of the Bertha rescue shaft, and some from leakage between the shallow and deep aquifers that occurred along zones of disrupted strata that the Seattle fault created to form the complex geology below Pioneer Square. The data collected by our team provided strong support that the Bertha shaft dewatering caused enough settlement to require replacement of vulnerable utilities. This led to a program in 2015 to replace the large water main buried below Western Avenue, with Aspect providing the geologic analysis used for the design. The drive along Western Avenue is now much smoother, and the section of new water main is now less vulnerable to the next big construction project or major earthquake.

Ironically, while past activity along the Seattle fault was largely responsible for the complex hydrogeology that made dewatering the Bertha rescue shaft a challenge, it was concerns about future rupture of the Seattle fault (or one of the other regional faults) that triggered replacing the Viaduct with the tunnel to begin with. This in turn led to the rebuilding of the waterfront seawall and reconstruction of Pier 62.

As some Aspect geologists are fond of saying – “geology explains everything.” With a site as complex as the Seattle waterfront, it takes an expert “read” of the geology and a skilled team of geologists, hydrogeologists, and engineers to inform design for projects that make Seattle safer and better for the future.

The Waterfront’s Next Chapter – Highway 99 Tunnel

While the water main beneath Western Avenue was being replaced and groundwater monitoring continued, WSDOT crews had Bertha repaired and chugging along beneath the city, breaking into daylight near South Lake Union in April 2017. Seattle now awaits the opening of the tunnel Bertha cleared that will move traffic through the complex web of geology, hydrogeology, infrastructure, and development that makes up the Seattle waterfront.

WSDOT’s map shows the new Highway 99 tunnel through downtown Seattle to South Lake Union. Map credit: WSDOT

[1] Dewatering is the process of pumping water to keep an excavation dry.

Environmental Consulting Lessons Learned from the World of Analytical Chemistry

tech excange logo white.jpg

The story of environmental consulting projects often start with what the laboratory results tell us. However, all results are not created equal, and it’s important to know the big picture – site subsurface conditions, regulatory criteria, and chemistry principles – when uncovering culprit contaminants.

At one of Aspect’s recent, ongoing Technical Exchanges, Staff Scientist Andrew Yonkofski invited Mike Erdahl from Environmental Laboratory Friedman and Bruya to discuss the role of analytical chemistry in environmental consulting, including general petroleum chemistry, gas chromatography, and interpreting those results. Part of the discussion was focused on an Aspect-specific case study from a Seattle-area waterfront site. This site presents a unique look at how organic matter in the subsurface can affect results from the NWTPH-Dx analysis.

Lessons learned from the talk included:

  • Common petroleum hydrocarbon mixtures, such as gasoline and diesel, contain thousands of unique organic compounds. The NWTPH-Gx and NWTPH-Dx analytical methodologies attempt to capture the wide range of organic compounds found in petroleum hydrocarbon mixtures.

  • While the laboratory provides a reproduceable, quantifiable number for total petroleum hydrocarbon (TPH) results, those results often need to be interpreted in light of the chromatographic results. For instance, the higher boiling end of gasoline overlaps into the diesel-range. As the gasoline weathers, the proportion of material in the diesel range increases in relation to the total TPH value. Qualifying the diesel results as overlap from gasoline contamination can reduce the number of site-specific contaminant of concerns.

  • Likewise, results using both the NWTPH-Gx and NWTPH-Dx methodologies can sometimes include organic compounds from natural sources including degradation of organic material in the subsurface.

  • To properly characterize a site, environmental consultants must use multiple lines of evidence to determine the nature and extents of contamination. This includes interpreting analytical results and the associated chromatograms in the context of the historical site use.


This chromatogram illustrates how gasoline can overlap into the diesel-range. The diesel results reported by the lab do not indicate a separate diesel release from the gasoline release but rather illustrate how gasoline can overlap into the diesel-range as the product becomes weathered in the subsurface.

This example shows what a chromatogram may look like when there are multiple sources (both gasoline and diesel) present in a sample.

This example shows what a chromatogram may look like when there are multiple sources (both gasoline and diesel) present in a sample.

Dan Haller Presents to the Water Mitigation Task Force

Aspect is routinely involved in helping inform State policy makers on implications of existing and proposed legislation. Our staff track and comment on existing legislation, help our clients propose new legislation, and interact with State agencies as they propose and shape new water policy. Aspect’s Dan Haller was asked in the summer of 2018 to provide a presentation on mitigation projects and mitigation sequencing to the Washington State Joint Legislative “Water Mitigation Task Force”. This Task Force is charged with evaluating how the law could be changed to adopt mitigation standards for water projects where water-for-water cannot be supplied for a project in-time and in-place. Often the “in-time” component of mitigation is the most challenging element as supply and demand are hard to match perfectly.

Dan speaks about several mitigation projects Aspect staff have worked on in recent years, including:

  • Town of Twisp / Methow Valley Irrigation District, which paired an irrigation project rehabilitation with water banking to offset growth in the Town for the next 20 years.

  • Lake Roosevelt Drawdown, which re-operates Grand Coulee Dam by 1 foot making that supply available for agricultural reliability, instream flow, and municipal use.

  • Kittitas County Consumptive Use Pilot, which seeks to clarify the exact nature and magnitude of indoor domestic use.

  • Chelan County Alluvial Storage Pilot, which seeks to engineer natural storage log jams to retime water from spring to summer.

Check out the video of Dan’s presentation below.

Innovative Affordable Housing Solutions Continue in South Seattle

The Seattle City Council recently approved the 2nd Redevelopment Opportunity Zone (ROZ) in Seattle’s history for the 700-unit Grand Street Commons housing development near the future Judkins Park light-rail station. The ROZ designation means that this innovative $20 Million private/non-profit partnership (Lake Union Partners and Mt. Baker Housing, respectively) now has direct access to state funds to build a 700-unit development—with about half of those units earmarked for affordable housing. These 350 future units, together with the 160 units planned at The Maddux (the City’s first ROZ zone near the Mt. Baker light-rail station), brings 500+ ROZ-designated affordable housing units coming online in the next five years in South Seattle.

The 700-unit Grand Street Commons is a unique private/public partnership, where approximately half the units will be affordable housing. The cleanup for this brownfield site is being led by Aspect and funded by a new approach to access money specifically for affordable housing projects.

Aspect, with law firm Perkins Coie, has helped Mt. Baker Housing pioneer this ROZ model to unlock state-backed grant funding in a first-of-its-kind model. Recognizing this success, the state introduced the Healthy Housing Program this fall– earmarked specifically for affordable housing developers looking at restoring land at brownfield sites.

Learn more about new approaches to restore land and find solutions for our affordable housing crisis here: www.aspectconsulting.com/affordablehousing.

Reducing Risk and Uncertainty: A PCE Site, a Model Remedy, and an NFA

No Further Action (NFA) determinations are Washington state’s sought-after finish line for regulatory closure of contaminated sites. An NFA is often the stepping stone for a property owner to secure financing for development of their property and alleviate concerns that their property won’t be put to productive use. NFAs are not easy to get—particularly for former dry cleaner sites, where perchloroethylene (PCE; a dry-cleaning solvent) is a common culprit that can keep a property in regulatory limbo and cause cleanup timelines to be counted in years.

Not a Typical Cleanup: Applying a Model Remedy at a Chlorinated Solvent Site

Aspect had a recent success story where we helped a client achieve an NFA by pursuing site closure through Ecology’s Initial Investigations program using a Model Remedy approach. The premise of this approach is that if you can completely address or clean up a release upon discovery, then you may be able to request an NFA at the initial investigation/reporting stage, thereby circumventing the Voluntary Cleanup Program process.

Identifying and excavating the contaminated soil from inside the store led to a successful No Further Action determination for the Site.

Identifying and excavating the contaminated soil from inside the store led to a successful No Further Action determination for the Site.

The project site, located in Kent, was a former dry cleaner with PCE impacts limited to shallow soil around the dry-cleaning machine. Following Aspect’s Phase I/II ESA investigation as part of a pending property transaction, we implemented a cleanup action after our client purchased the property. The space inside the store was limited, and the excavation was surgical. Confirmation soil sample results following the excavation were below Model Toxics Control Act (MTCA) Method A cleanup levels. Instead of entering the VCP and facing delays with Ecology’s backlog of VCP sites, we instead reported the release to Ecology within the framework of a Remedial Investigation and Cleanup Action Report, with the completed excavation and off-site disposal of contaminated soil presented as a model remedy.

Reducing Risk and Uncertainty

After follow up discussion and negotiation with Ecology’s Initial Investigations coordinator, the site recently received an NFA. Though there may not be many PCE-impacted sites where the contamination is limited to shallow soil, it pays to know the options if this is the case. Model remedies are more commonly applied to petroleum-impacted sites. However, because Aspect was on the lookout and understood the regulatory framework for achieving closure, we were able to help our client significantly reduce risk and uncertainty when weighing prospective property purchases.

The Model Remedy approach is a strategy that Aspect has used on several sites with success and, under the right set of circumstances, can be an efficient regulatory pathway for property owners seeking an NFA.

Contact Eric Marhofer or Doug Hillman to learn more.

New Seattle Address. Same Focus on Earth Science and Engineering.

As we near 20 years in business, Aspect has moved its Seattle office to a new address and bigger space in Seattle’s iconic Dexter Horton building. Our expanding client base and growing staff—now over 100 strong across seven offices in Washington and Oregon—is driving the move.

“The Pacific Northwest is thriving and so is the demand for our earth and water services,” says Tim Flynn, Aspect’s President. “This move represents the culmination of almost two decades of upward growth driven by clients in the Seattle market and throughout the Pacific Northwest.”

The Dexter Horton building—located in the heart of Seattle—has a combination of grand architectural aesthetic with innovative modern features. The 1926 building is a historical landmark as well as LEED Gold-certified. Aspect’s office on the 5th floor was designed intentionally to provide clients and staff with a variety of ways to collaborate, including open layout areas and comfortable meeting spaces.

Come visit us at 710 Second Ave, Suite 550, Seattle, WA 98104!

Learn how to get here/where to park/what to eat.

Aspect’s Tom Atkins Presenting at ECOSS’s 201X: Stormwater Management Workshop

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On October 18th and 19th, ECOSS will be hosting 201X: Advanced Stormwater Management, a two-day workshop that looks at Industrial Stormwater General Permit (ISGP) requirements and compliance. This event is geared toward helping permittees, consultants, and engineers gain a deeper understanding of the permit by presenting several case studies and touring industrial sites with installed treatment technologies.

Aspect’s Tom Atkins will present the case study, “Alternative Pathways to Achieving Level 3 Corrective Action Requirements.” His presentation will include 3 case studies featuring roof downspout filters, pressurized filtration, adsorptive media, and discharge to publicly owned treatment works (POTW).

Learn more about the workshop HERE.

Aspect Joins The Nature Conservancy and Microsoft to Hack for Good

Aspect’s Curtis Nickerson and Bryan Berkompas recently participated in a Hackathon with The Nature Conservancy and Microsoft employees. The Hack for Good event focused on developing low-cost stormwater monitoring solutions that could identify pollutants and collect data in real time.

Read more about this event on the Nature Conservancy's website.

Washington State Helps Turn Brownfields into Affordable Housing

See Washington State Department of Ecology’s new article covering the state’s new Healthy Housing Remediation Program for restoring contaminated land to promote affordable housing. Mt. Baker Housing’s 160-unit project in South Seattle — which Aspect is leading the cleanup for — was the inspiration for this program.

Read more here.

Learn more here: https://www.aspectconsulting.com/affordablehousing

Visualizing Stormwater Infiltration + Visualizing the Story

Aspect recently led a first-of-its-kind approach to help the City of SeaTac (City) understand water quality requirements at the land use planning stage. Aspect, along with Robin Kirschbaum, developed publicly-available webmaps that visualize stormwater infiltration potential at a parcel level across the City’s 10 square miles. These maps will help both City planners as well as developers screen development options with infiltration requirements and make this step of the land use planning process much more efficient.

Take a look at the interactive Story Map for this exciting new tool here: https://maps.aspectconsulting.com/lidmapjournal/index.html.

Read Emelie’s article in the Daily Journal of Commerce about this pioneering project.

Dave Cook to Discuss Reclaiming Brownfields for Affordable Housing at Housing Development Consortium Event

On September 18, join Aspect’s Dave Cook and Perkins Coie’s Mike Dunning as they share their experience developing innovative ways to reclaim brownfields for affordable housing. Dave and Mike will be joined by representatives from project partner agencies Mt. Baker Housing Association and the Washington State Department of Ecology in discussing Mt Baker Housing’s The Maddux – a two-building development with 144 apartments affordable to people earning up to 60 percent of the area median income. This project was made possible by implementing innovative cleanup solutions and identifying creative funding mechanisms. Learn More Here.