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.

Carla Brock Chairs WA’s Geologist Licensing Board

Associate Geologist Carla Brock was recently appointed as Chair of the Washington State Geologist Licensing Board by her fellow board members. The board is comprised of six licensed geologists and one public member and is responsible for licensing geologists; updating the rules and regulations governing the practice of geology in the state of Washington; and investigating violations of the regulations. Carla is starting her second year of a four-term appointment to the board.

Washington State is a member of the National Association of the State Boards of Geology (ASBOG), which develops standardized written examinations for administration by the 32 member states and Puerto Rico, assessing qualifications of applicants seeking licensure as professional geologists. In addition to her duties on the state board, Carla participates as a Subject Matter Expert (SME) on ASBOG’s Council of Examiners (COE). The COE is comprised of SMEs from across the country and convenes twice a year, immediately following administration of the tests, for examination development and validation workshops. The COE spends two days reviewing test questions and answers to maximize the fairness and quality of the examinations as measures of competency. The COE is not all work, each meeting includes lunchtime presentations by local experts on interesting and relevant topics and a third day in which local experts lead a geologic field trip.

Carla just returned from the spring COE, which was held in Nashua, New Hampshire and is proud to support ASBOG but also enjoys the opportunity to connect with colleagues from across the country and to learn about local geology.

Geologists love a good roadcut! A quartz syenite ring dike intrudes the pre-Mesozoic tonalite with mylonitization at the contact.

Geologists love a good roadcut! A quartz syenite ring dike intrudes the pre-Mesozoic tonalite with mylonitization at the contact.

Geologists love a good roadcut! A quarts syenite ring dike intrudes pre-Mesozoic tonalite.

Geologists ogling an outcrop in central New Hampshire.

Geologists stomping through the snow in central New Hampshire in search of an outcrop.

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.

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

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.

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.

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

Meet Chad Hearn and Jason Yabandeh

Project Engineer Chad Hearn and Staff Data Scientist/Chemist Jason Yabandeh both recently joined Aspect's Seattle office. Here are five questions we asked to get to know them better.

Chad Hearn - Project Engineer

Chad and baby llama in Colca Canyon, Peru.

Chad and baby llama in Colca Canyon, Peru.

  1.  Where are you from? If you’re not from the Pacific Northwest, what brought you here? 
    I grew up in Charleston, South Carolina. It was such a beautiful and fun place to grow up, and a great place to visit if you get a chance. After school, I lived in North Carolina before venturing this way. There’s so much that drew me here!  If I had to pinpoint a few things it would be the climate, the Puget Sound, and the energy around outdoor activities like biking, skiing, and just getting out in the mountains. And I’m pretty sure we have the best summer weather in the country!
     
  2. What inspired you to pursue environmental consulting and remediation?
    I think it was a pretty natural fit with my desire to have a hand in improving where we live and being motivated by helping others succeed. Remediation projects have tended to provide a lot of variety in the work side of the balance. Every site has its unique challenges and keeps you on your toes. There’s always a good learning experience to be had.
     
  3. What excites you and keeps you motivated? 
    It’s quite rewarding at the end of the day when you can say you’ve helped keep someone’s water supply clean, or maybe you just helped a client find a way to tackle a problem. I get really excited when I can help someone else look good. Environmental regulations, just like everything else around us, are constantly evolving. It’s exciting to have a hand in finding new ways to achieve outcomes that are better for everyone. 
     
  4. What do you like to do when you aren’t working? 
    Shocker alert; when I’m not working I’m doing my best to explore the PNW and enjoy the outdoors. These days it’s mostly weekend camping trips with the pup, biking, skiing, reading, occasionally squeezing in a round of golf, and if I’m lucky catching a surf session along the frigid Pacific coast. And when I’m able to find some extended time off, travelling somewhere new is always a priority.
     
  5. Where in the world would you like to travel next? Where would your dream house be located? 
    Perhaps this is one of the reasons I like to travel to new places. How do you pick a place for a dream house when you’ve only caught a glimpse of the possibilities?  Hopefully one day I find one. Until then…the criteria would have to be somewhere with a breeze, perhaps on a cliff overlooking an ocean (one that I can somewhat manageably get down to beach from), with mountains nearby, decent surf to keep me active and in the water, and maybe even have space for an organic farm and garden so I don’t have to sit in a car that will then be driving me to a grocery store on its own.

Jason Yabandeh - Staff Data Scientist/Chemist

At a Darrington, Washington farm with Bob (grey) and Howard (orange).

At a Darrington, Washington farm with Bob (grey) and Howard (orange).

 

  1. Where are you from? If you’re not from the Pacific Northwest, what brought you here? I’ve lived in the Puget Sound area for my whole life, which is great because I love this little corner of the world.
     
  2. What inspired you to pursue data management? What made you curious about it?While my background is in chemistry, I was drawn to data management by an appreciation of its power. Everything we do in work and life involves data and having good control and understanding of that data is key in making accurate conclusions.
     
  3. What do you like best about your area of expertise? What excites you and keeps you motivated? Working in data allows me to get involved with many different interesting projects. It’s fun to learn about a site and then play with the data and see trends in contaminant concentrations -- which are hopefully on the decline! It’s also a great excuse to practice programming. 
     
  4. What do you like to do when you aren’t working? I’ll take any chance I can get to go running, biking, hiking, or swimming with my two dogs. They are great training buddies for the Spartan races that I like to run every year. Besides the outdoorsy stuff, I really enjoy getting a few friends together for some games of the video or board variety. The current favourites are Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Word Slam.
     
  5. If you could be with any musical artist living or dead, who would it be?
    Definitely Queen. Not even necessarily to perform with them, as it would be an obvious understatement to say that my musical abilities pale in comparison, but just so I could bask in their glory.

Waypoint Park Opens Just In Time For Summer

Over the past five years, we’ve seen the Bellingham Waterfront District transform from a contaminated industrial site to a striking new waterfront park. We’re proud to have had a hand in cleaning up the site and providing geotechnical and environmental consultation throughout the design, permitting, and construction of the project. This included providing geotechnical design recommendations for siting of the 400,000-pound industrial acid ball tank turned public art piece titled “Waypoint”.

Congratulations to the City of Bellingham on your beautiful park!

Read more about the history of the park, the status of the waterway, and what’s next for the adjacent properties in this great Bellingham Herald article.

Washington's Healthy Housing Program Helps Fund Cleanup for Affordable Housing

Today, the Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce (DJC) published a great overview of the new Washington State Healthy Housing Program and the inspiration for the program - Mt. Baker Housing's $55 million Maddux project. Check it out.

Does your firm want help turning brownfields into affordable units?

Ecology wants to offer grants to get brownfields cleaned up and reused, and is seeking applications from developers until Saturday.

By BENJAMIN MINNICK
Journal Construction Editor

There are thousands of blighted properties across the state that could be redeveloped to create more affordable housing, but contamination on these sites has mostly kept developers at bay.

Now the state and its consultants are testing a way to get more of these sites developed. The Healthy Housing Remediation Program provides grants to help affordable housing developers build on brownfields.

The departments of Ecology and Commerce created the program. To gauge interest, they are seeking applications from developers until Saturday. The list of firms that respond will be used to develop Ecology's 2019–21 cleanup budget plan and to demonstrate funding needs for the Legislature to consider during the 2019 session.

Dave Cook of Aspect Consulting, one of the consulting firms, said affordable housing developers face high property costs, water rights issues and Growth Management Act restraints. He said this program will help fund remedial investigation studies and site cleanup to make blighted properties more attractive to developers.

The program was inspired by Mt. Baker Housing's $55 million Maddux project, which is slated for a site on South McClellan Street, east of Martin Luther King Jr. Way South and near the Mount Baker light rail station.

Maddux will have two buildings with 144 apartments that are affordable to people earning up to 60 percent of the area median income. Nearly half of the units will be “family-size,” with two- and three-bedroom layouts.

Mt. Baker Housing will use $6.2 million in state funds to clean up contamination from a gas station and dry cleaner. The nonprofit signed an agreement last year with Ecology that lays out the cleanup plan, and Ecology provided $400,000 for initial studies.

“We've been in the Mount Baker neighborhood a long time and these five properties always intrigued us — but we knew conventional options to develop the site were limited,” said Conor Hansen, director of real estate at Mt. Baker Housing, in a news release. “Once we learned about the opportunity to work with the Department of Ecology and play a part in creating a new innovative model, we believed this site would be the perfect candidate to clean up, develop and activate a prominent intersection that will serve as a catalyst for the neighborhood and provide much-needed affordable housing near light rail.”

In early 2017, the city designated the five properties as a Redevelopment Opportunity Zone, which allows state funds to flow directly to Mt. Baker Housing for remediation.

The parcels total about a half-acre.

Mt. Baker Housing aims to select a general contractor shortly, and break ground in late 2019 and open in early 2021. Other team members are architect Mithun, development consultant Beacon Development Group and acquisition lender Impact Capital.

Cook said it will be two months before all the data is available about the site contamination, but it's “very contaminated.”

Aspect and law firm Perkins Coie led the environmental team for Mt. Baker Housing, and worked with Ecology on the pilot program.

Cook said Aspect and Perkins Coie can help interested developers with the pilot program's application process.

 

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.

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. 

Meet Jackson Lundgren!

Jackson Lundgren recently joined Aspect’s Seattle office. Here are five questions we asked to get to know him better.   

Jackson Lundgren - Field Technician

Jackson in the Rainbow Basin in Southern California

Jackson in the Rainbow Basin in Southern California

1. Where are you from?  

I’m from just north of San Francisco, a friendly suburb called Mill Valley tucked away in the fog and Redwood trees of Mt. Tamalpais. I came to Washington for school in Bellingham where I wanted to study Automotive Engineering at Western Washington University. I wound up getting my Bachelor of Science in Geology instead.

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

I grew up along the San Andreas Fault and was fascinated by the idea of a force slowly tearing California apart. I was also impressed by the dynamic nature of the California coastline where mudslides often destroyed local homes and infrastructure. That background curiosity combined with vacations in Yosemite and the Mt. Shasta area led to a lifelong love for geology and the environment that eventually eclipsed my interest in engineering.

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

Helping keep people and property safe from hazardous conditions in the environment. The idea of working as part of a team to solve complex and often very different issues helps keep me motivated.

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

I like to fish, hike, cook (especially jambalaya!), read, road trip, and see live music.  

5.    Where would your dream house be located? 

One house on Bainbridge Island (right on the point by the ferry, you know the spot). Another house in Morro Beach, California, looking out at Morro Rock. I’d spend April through October on Bainbridge, then spend the winter on the central California coast.
 

Kirsi Longley Earns Project Management Professional Certificate

Kirsi Longley.jpg

Aspect’s Senior Environmental Scientist, Kirsi Longley, recently passed the Project Management Professional (PMP) certificate exam. The PMP designation is through the Project Management Institute, a globally recognized nonprofit that champions professional development through trainings, research, and certification programs. Public sector and private clients are increasingly favoring a PMP to lead teams on complex, multidisciplinary projects. Kirsi joins Aspect’s other certified PMPs on staff: Principal Geotechnical Engineer Henry Haselton and Principal Water Resources Engineer John Knutson.

Kirsi’s new PMP status creates more opportunities for her and Aspect to serve as valued advisors to our clients. Congratulations, Kirsi! 

Meet Amelia Oates!

Amelia Oates recently joined Aspect’s Seattle office. Here are five questions we asked to get to know her better.

Amelia Oates, GIT - Staff Geologist

Amelia Pic.jpg

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

I grew up in the town of Canandaigua, New York, more specifically, a delightful hamlet named Cheshire. I grew up at the end of a dead-end road, spending my time playing in my parents’ garden and pond. After my undergraduate studies at St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York, I decided I needed a change of scenery. Along with some dear college friends, I hatched a plan about five years ago to move to Seattle, looking for opportunities in outdoor adventure and possible careers. After a few years of hiking and biking my way around western Washington, I entered graduate school at UW for applied geology. After graduating I started work as a staff geologist in Seattle and hope to take advantage of all the opportunities this industry has to offer.

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

Growing up as an only child in western New York, I found peace and comfort in spending endless days playing outside, where my imagination was seemingly infinite.  My favorite place to pass the time was in the ravine behind my parents’ home, where Ordovician and Devonian shales layered stories of former environments and long-lost critters. Those adventures and findings of corals and concretions informed hours of intrigue for my curious brain. It wasn’t until my freshman introduction to geology course at St. Lawrence University, when we would spend five hours each week exploring the variety of terranes in the North Country, that I realized I had accidentally stumbled on a discipline that brought me back to my peaceful place and fed my curiosity for existential truth, problem solving, and dreaming of what once was. My curiosity was piqued after several field trips abroad showed me that geology is everywhere, and to be a great geologist, one needed to see as much as possible.

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

It’s the idea that there are multiple solutions to the complex problems we discover in geology. It requires diversity of expertise, interest, and constant learning to continue to produce the best science in this field. I am continually excited to learn new techniques, use innovative technology, and apply those techniques to real examples. The prospect of staying current and using my knowledge to adapt to the environment around me is inspiring and keeps me motivated.

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

I love to spend time with friends, and adventure to new places, via planes, trains, automobiles, boat, bike, or my own two feet. One of my favorite parts of traveling abroad is to indulge in the local cuisine. When I’m at home, I like to experiment with those culinary experiences and create delicious food to share with friends and family. When I’m not being active or travelling about, I love to curl up next to the fire, with a cup of tea, and a good book.   

5. What five people would be your dream dinner party guests?

I’d love to dine and discuss politics, music, culture, philosophy, and the environment with: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Prince, Malcolm X, Marie Curie, and Vandana Shiva. 

Who are the scientists in your neighborhood?

Aspect outreach connects younger residents with cleanup and redevelopment work at Mt. Baker Housing Association

On a recent cloudy afternoon, about 15 kids gathered on a corner in Seattle’s Mount Baker neighborhood to peer down a hole. The hole isn’t just any hole, it’s a groundwater monitoring well—one of 35 that Aspect is using to measure groundwater contamination levels in the area. The kids, ranging from second grade through high school, are residents of six nearby apartment buildings managed by the Mt. Baker Housing Association (MBHA). This field trip was led by Aspect’s Principal Geologist Dave Cook and Senior Geologist Jessica Smith, who have been sharing their environmental work on an innovative MBHA redevelopment project with some of the neighborhood’s younger residents through an ongoing series of visits that helps kids understand the science that will help shape the future of their neighborhood.

Located two blocks from the Mount Baker light rail station, the cleanup site has sat unused for years due to solvent-contamination from a dry cleaner and gasoline-contamination from a former gas station. Aspect is supporting a first-of-its-kind partnership between the MBHA, the City of Seattle, and the Washington State Department of Ecology that will use state funds to help cover some of the costs for environmental evaluation and cleanup. With significant help from an Ecology Public Partnership Grant, MBHA plans to redevelop the five parcels of land with two new residential buildings to meet the City’s critical need for more affordable housing.

Stepping out of the Typical Cleanup Process to Invite Community into the Project

Outreach and collaboration with the area’s residents, businesses, and other stakeholders is a key part of the project. Dave and Jessica’s work puts community, education, and science into action by speaking directly to a segment of the population not usually directly engaged in these types of projects. The kids get to meet the scientists and engineers working in their neighborhood and gets to find out what’s happening, and what’s going to happen, in their own backyard.

Dave and Jessica collaborated with MBHA’s Resident Services Coordinator Sameth Mell and intern Cristina Pinho to engage with the younger members of the Mount Baker community. “After 26 years of quietly cleaning up and recycling land for better uses, I thought it was time to break out of the standard consulting role and focus on the community in a more direct way,” Dave said. “I’ve always enjoyed educating people about what we do. The science is really cool, it’s practical, very visual, and I figured kids would be totally into geology and engineering. What kid doesn’t like playing with dirt, sampling water and learning about mysteries below ground?”

An Outdoor Classroom to See the Underground Up Close

On this recent visit, Dave and Jessica met the kids inside over pizza for introductions before heading out to the corner in front of the building, where Staff Geologist Na Hyung Choi was already busy gathering samples at one of the groundwater monitoring wells. She filled sample containers with groundwater located about 15 feet below the ground surface and answered questions while Jessica and Dave explained more about her work.

Jessica said, “For me, the best part of being involved in the community outreach is being able to introduce kids to the practical aspects of science and engineering to get them excited about STEM [science, technology, engineering, and math]. As we were watching Na Hyung obtain the groundwater samples, one of the fourth-grade girls asked me if she could be a Geologist or an Engineer when she grows up, to which I enthusiastically replied, ‘Of course!’ Facilitating that curiosity and excitement in these kids is what this is all about.”

Back inside, Dave and Jessica presented a video of how the well they’d just been looking at was created, showing how the hole was drilled and the soil that was unearthed from the drill. Jessica also gave a tangible explanation of just what groundwater is. Marbles in a glass represented the dirt, with a little water poured in to help them visualize how groundwater lives between the soil grains.  A bright green straw inserted into the glass stood in for the groundwater monitoring well that was installed into the soil to suck out the water.

Ongoing Outreach as Work Heads Toward 150 Units of New Housing

This visit was the second one Dave and Jessica have made since beginning their field work in mid-November. They plan to return often as the project continues, to share results from the samples Na Hyung was taking and what that data tells them about how the contaminants are behaving underground. From these data, Dave, Jessica and Ecology will develop the best plan to clean up the contaminated soil and groundwater so that construction can begin.

Cleanup and redevelopment on the MBHA project is slated to begin in 2019. Once complete, there will be an estimated 150 units of new affordable housing on the parcels. The kids Dave and Jessica have been checking in with will be able to tell their new neighbors, “Hey, I know what used to be underneath your building!” 

An Alternative Approach for Petroleum-Site Cleanups

With around 3,000 historical leaking underground petroleum storage tanks (USTs) and systems across Washington state, petroleum cleanup is a big issue for business owners, homeowners, and regulators. The traditional leaking UST cleanup process is typically counted in years and often stymied by the lack of available regulatory staff to handle the large volume of sites efficiently. 

To help remedy this, the state’s Pollution Liability Agency (PLIA) created a new cleanup route--the Petroleum Technical Assistance Program (PTAP)--beginning in January 2018. The PTAP program offers applicants the potential of lower cost associated with regulatory oversight and a commitment to faster turnaround times for opinions on their UST sites. Thanks to a 2017 change in state law, PLIA now has the statutory authority to provide technical oversight and write opinions--something only Ecology previously had--on UST sites, thus giving site owners and operators a new alternative to the state’s traditional Voluntary Cleanup Program (VCP) process.

With over a decade of petroleum site cleanup experience, Aspect’s Senior Engineer Eric Marhofer gives a primer on the potential PTAP has for UST owners.

What does the new PTAP Program Mean for Site Owners? 

The nuance of PLIA’s approach is to work more collaboratively with site owners--for example, they plan to hold an intake meeting at the outset upon enrollment to review the site status with the applicant and set achievable milestones. PLIA is looking to provide more certainty upfront, and quicker, more pragmatic opinions and responses throughout the process. The goal is to efficiently move sites toward a “No Further Action” determination and, ultimately, allow the owner to return their site to a business asset instead of a liability. 

Additionally, the PTAP may work more seamlessly for site owners already working in cooperation with PLIA through their Commercial Reinsurance and/or Loan and Grant programs.

There’s a number of PLIA financing and insurance options available to help UST owners and operators move their sites towards closure.

What’s the Process?

PLIA is looking to offer a streamlined application and approval process, a one-time flat fee of $7,500 for service (vs. hourly billing for review and opinions in the VCP), an intake meeting with senior technical staff to review your Site (which does not typically happen in the VCP), and faster turn-around times for written opinions (a goal of 45 days versus 90+ days with Ecology).  

PTAP’s Program begins accepting applications January 2, 2018.

Are there any risks?

Depending on how much regulatory oversight is anticipated, a flat-fee of $7,500 may not make sense for some sites. However, for more complex sites that may need multiple opinions over the life of the investigation and cleanup, that fee will likely represent a good value. 
There are also certain factors site owners will want to consider when determining whether their site qualifies for PTAP. For example, there can be no impacts to sediment or surface water and there can be no co-mingled, non-petroleum contamination. Additionally, sites facing litigation may not qualify. If the site is disqualified for one or more reasons after enrollment in PTAP, it is unclear whether the enrollment fee is refundable.

PTAP eligibility criteria.

PLIA also expects actionable steps to be taken on the part of the applicant/owners to move forward with investigations and cleanups once accepted to the program.  In other words, PLIA will not be a safe harbor for Sites to enroll to avoid Ecology enforcement but not take any actions to investigate or clean up their site.  Sites may be disqualified from the program for inactivity and the enrollment fee may not be refundable.  

Learn more here: http://plia.wa.gov/ptap/ or contact Eric at emarhofer@aspectconsulting.com.
 

Carla Brock Appointed to Washington State Geologist Licensing Board

Carla Brock, an Associate Geologist with Aspect, was recently appointed to the Washington State Geologist Licensing Board. The board consists of 7 members—5 licensed geologists, 1 public member, and the Department of Natural Resources’ Washington State Geologist. The board is responsible for licensing geologists within the state, investigating violations of state regulations related to the practice of geology, and recommending rules and regulations for administering licensing and regulatory laws. In addition to attending board meetings, Carla will join the other members in providing professional knowledge to improve services to geologists and the public. Congratulations Carla!

30 Years and Beyond: Caring for Landfills Post Closure

For landfill owners and operators, an ounce of prevention can be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars of cure. Read Chris Augistine’s DJC article about navigating the regulatory requirements and applying strategies to reduce monitoring requirements, save money, and successfully plan for post-closure care at closed landfills.

READ IT HERE