Dave Cook Discusses Consent Decrees, Cleanup and Ecology’s Healthy Housing Program for Contaminated Sites at the WA Brownfields Conference on May 30, 2019

On May 30, Aspect’s Dave Cook will co-present on affordable housing development from the environmental consulting perspective at the Washington State Brownfields Conference in Spokane.

Brownfield properties represent opportunity. Dave will talk about innovative ways 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 Association (MBHA), as a 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. Dave will join Scott O’Dowd of Ecology, Conor Hansen of MBHA and Mike Dunning of Perkins Coie to describe how these properties were purchased, investigated, liability managed, and the cleanup financed—all keys that made this pioneering project successful and sparking the State’s new Healthy Housing program .

Contact Dave (206.838.5837 and dcook@aspectconsulting.com), or learn more about prospective purchaser consent decrees, funding, and redeveloping contaminated land for affordable housing at https://www.aspectconsulting.com/affordablehousing

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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

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

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

Video Credit: Port of Bellingham

A historically industrial site with strong post-cleanup potential

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

How to Clean It Up

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

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

What it takes to put a Cap on 31 Acres

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

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

Before – Pre-existing site surfaces requiring capping

Random intact slab with "veneer" around it.

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

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

During – Regrading and consolidating contaminated material 

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

During – Smoothing it out

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

During – Capping it off

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

Done – The finished product

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

What’s Next: Reconnecting the Community to the Waterfront

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

Join Aspect at the NEBC 2016 Northwest Remediation Conference

Aspect is once again a proud sponsor and participant in this year’s Northwest Remediation Conference held October 4th in Seattle, WA. For session 2A, “Implementing Combined Remedies,” Senior Remediation Engineer, Adam Griffin, will discuss how, why, and with what results remediation technologies have been deployed at complex sites.  Later in the day, join Carla Brock, Aspect’s Associate Geologist, as she moderates a panel of remediation professionals and regulators on the challenges they face when mitigating surface water contamination.

The conference is presented by the Northwest Environmental Business Council, “a regional trade association representing leading service and technology firms who are working to protect, restore, and sustain the natural and built environment.”

Learn more about the conference HERE

Meet Adam Griffin

Aspect is excited to welcome Adam Griffin to our Environmental team. He recently joined us as a Senior Remediation Engineer working from our Bainbridge Island office. Adam has 10 years of remediation experience across the country and internationally, supporting projects in Europe and South America. His experience is focused on the design and implementation of in-situ remediation approaches at commercial, industrial, and mining sites. Adam received his B.S. and M.S. degrees in environmental engineering from the University of Tennessee and has worked in the Northwest for five years.

As part of his introduction to Aspect, Adam hosted a technical exchange for the staff. The presentation highlighted his broad experience with in-situ remediation technologies, or the cleanup of contaminated media in place as opposed to pumping or removal for aboveground treatment. Every site’s conditions are different, and therefore developing a sound Conceptual Site Model (CSM) allows the “tuning” of in-situ remediation technologies for successful implementation. Adam shared examples of unique site conditions, such as soil geochemistry, high-flux aquifers, and stratigraphic constraints, and then explored how to tailor an approach and design to allow successful implementation of the selected technologies. He walked us through five case studies spotlighting some of these methods that have led to successful site remediation.

When he’s not contemplating aquifer conditions or remediation geochemistry, Adam enjoys camping and kayaking around Western Washington, accompanied by his wife and their two dogs.

We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Port

The Port of Tacoma is preparing to berth some of the biggest ships in the world. Container ships are quickly outgrowing the U.S. ports that serve them – a trend that shows no sign of slowing down. These enormous container ships enable liners, shippers, and cargo owners to ship more goods at a lower unit cost. The newest of these ultra-large container ships carry more than 18,000 TEUs (20-foot equivalent unit containers), significantly exceeding Panamax dimensions (i.e., the largest ones that can pass through the Panama Canal, about 4,000 TEUs in 1985 and about 12,500 TEUs planned in 2015). These ultra-large container ships currently serve only the Asia-Europe trade routes, and exceed the capacity of U.S. ports. The average size ship calling on U.S. ports is still below 6,000 TEUs, but California ports have begun berthing 12,000 to 14,000 TEU ships. The increasing size of these ships puts pressure on ports to remodel, and fast, or else lose business to a competing port. Ports need to modify their channels and piers to accommodate these behemoths and upgrade their infrastructure to quickly unload, stage, and transport these containers to the hinterlands. See the trend in Vessel size over time in the graphic below. 

Source: Sisson, M. (2013). “Impact and Opportunities from Global Change.” Presented at AAPA Facilities Engineering Seminar on November 6, 2013

The Port of Tacoma is redeveloping the Husky Terminal to allow the simultaneous berthing of two 18,000 TEU ultra-large container ships, which are about 1,300 feet long and 205 feet wide. This project involves the reconfiguration and construction of Pier 4 to align with Pier 3, creating a 2,954 feet long pier that can accommodate up to six 100-foot cranes capable of loading ships that are 24 containers wide. The project enables the Port of Tacoma to be one the first U.S. ports capable of berthing these ultra-large container ships, allowing the port to remain an economic engine for the Pacific Northwest.

Although a natural deep water port, this project involves the dredging of approximately 500,000 cubic yards of sediment, including about 45,000 cubic yards of tributyltin (TBT) contaminated sediment that will be dredged during Phase I of the project. TBT is a marine biocide that was commonly used in ship paint to kill mollusks, but is now globally banned. Aspect engineers Alan Noell and Tom Atkins worked with lead-engineering firm KPFF to evaluate TBT treatment technologies and to design a water treatment system capable of treating millions of gallons of TBT-contaminated dredge return water. Phase I of the project is currently underway with scheduled completion by April 2016, and soon after, the Port will move towards completing Phase II and begin berthing these ultra-large container ships. 

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

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


ACEC Washington Best in State Silver Award Winner: Riverside Property Cleanup

Mark Sadler (2nd from right), City of Everett, joined Aspect project team members at the awards banquet.

Mark Sadler (2nd from right), City of Everett, joined Aspect project team members at the awards banquet.

For our technical guidance on the Riverside Property Cleanup, Aspect received a Best in State Silver Award for Social/Economic Sustainability at the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) Washington 2013 Engineering Excellence Awards banquet on January 18.

The cleanup of the 90-acre Riverside property on the Snohomish River in Everett was conducted collaboratively through a public-private partnership between the City of Everett and Kimberly-Clark Worldwide - the Riverside Environmental Team (RET). With the RET relying on the technical analysis to drive the process, Aspect's deep understanding of MTCA regulatory requirements and strategic application of cleanup design and engineering steered the comprehensive cleanup of the former industrial property.

Aspect worked with the RET and Ecology to develop an efficient, focused approach and practical, cost effective engineered solutions that went beyond conventional industrial cleanup. Employing innovations including backfilling with available dredge sands and installing a subsurface drain system for use in groundwater treatment, Aspect oversaw a cleanup program of complete soil removal and active groundwater treatment that resulted in non-detect contaminant levels and six No Further Action (NFA) determinations for soil and groundwater.

Achieving unrestricted cleanup standards at the former Sawmill site preserved opportunities for a full range of future redevelopment options, not limited by capped contamination or deed restrictions.

The project was previously recognized with a 2011 Association of Washington Business (AWB) Environmental Excellence Award for Kimberly-Clark.

Aspect Consulting in Action: Now on Google Street View!

It's a point of pride in this modern age, isn't it? Getting captured by one of Google's roaming car cameras is a badge of honor we'll wear proudly.

Aspect staff can be found onsite at remediation and monitoring projects state wide. Remediation engineer Eric Geissinger was captured--monitoring the Air Sparge/Soil Vapor Extraction (AS/SVE) system at the Dolarway site -- by a roving Google street view camera in Ellensburg.

The jury is still out on how worried we should be that Eric will leave Aspect to pursue a career in modelling.

One Site. Four Sources. One System.

The groundwater beneath an eight-acre shopping center exhibited chlorinated solvent impacts from four different source areas of varying ages.

To sort out the complexities of multiple sources with multiple responsible parties, Aspect hydrogeologists distinguished the relative solvent contribution from each historical source and developed a site conceptual model that was used to reach an equitable cost-sharing agreement. At the same time, our remediation engineers pilot tested an in situ chemical oxidation system for groundwater treatment without disruption to the active retail facility.

The final remediation system treats all source areas through one air sparge and soil vapor extraction (AS/SVE) system consisting of 16 soil-vapor extraction wells and 47 air-sparging wells spread over an acre of the property.