Pacific Avenue Rain Gardens

Recently, Tacoma has been receiving national and international attention for its approach to storm water pollution. One of the many ways the City has been tackling this issue is through the use of rain gardens, landscaped catchment basins designed to intercept and filter storm water prior to discharging to Puget Sound.

Mike Krautkramer and Jim Hay cleaning one of the two adopted rain gardens (photo credit: Joe Becker)

There are 14 rain gardens incorporated in the recently completed Pacific Avenue Streetscape Project, located along Pacific Avenue between South 7th and 15th Streets. The plantings are a welcome addition to this downtown corridor, and a local artist’s sculpture pieces add a splash of color and whimsy.

In May, Robinson Noble officially adopted two of the City’s rain gardens, located at Rain garden sign15th Street and Pacific Avenue in front of the DaVita Building and the Aviateur French Restaurant. We maintain the gardens to keep them clean and monitor them to verify that they function as intended. Robinson Noble is also sponsoring Wellspring 2014, a two-day conference focused on clean water issues and technologies held at the Greater Tacoma Convention and Trade Center on October 14th and 15th. Come join us!

John Hildenbrand Named Principal

John Hildenbrand

John Hildenbrand

John Hildenbrand has been made a Principal at Robinson Noble.

John joined Robinson Noble in 2003. He manages our Environmental Services Division, serves as our Health and Safety Officer, and is actively involved in several ASTM committees. John has over 24 years of environmental experience, including management of drinking water, waste water, solid waste, hazardous materials, food and community safety, and emergency and disaster response programs. While working at the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department, he implemented the South Tacoma Groundwater Protection District. John has also developed nationally-recognized hazardous materials training curricula and authored articles on emergency response.

We would like to take this opportunity to congratulate John and wish him every success in his new position.

2013 Wellspring Conference

Prairie Line Trail (UWT)

Prairie Line Trail (UWT)
(Photo credit: Dave Laush)

On October 24 and 25, 2013, the University of Washington, Tacoma (UWT) held the 2013 Wellspring Conference, their second annual event highlighting stormwater management and clean water technologies. The conference covered such topics as remediation and filtration systems, the effects of pollutants on biological systems, and regulatory trends. The conference also included a guided tour of three Tacoma locations using current stormwater management techniques: the Prairie Line Trail (UWT), the Pacific Avenue Streetscape Project stormwater filtration improvements, and the Point Ruston Development, where the ASARCO Smelter once stood.

Chuck Couvrette and Dave Laush of Robinson Noble attended the conference and found it very informative, illustrating the many engineering and consulting opportunities to keep our local waters clean. A number of new stormwater cleanup standards are proposed for 2015, and while it is not clear how much retrofitting of older systems will be needed, it does appear that existing systems will be included in the standards.

Robinson Noble welcomes Kari Thomas

Kari Thomas

Kari Thomas

Kari Thomas has joined Robinson Noble as a Project Geologist in our Tacoma office. She has over six years of experience in geotechnical engineering, industrial hygiene, materials, and environmental consulting fields. She is an experienced field team leader and field health and safety coordinator. Her work experience and formal education include groundwater and soil sampling, Phase I and Phase II environmental site investigations, geotechnical and environmental drilling, asbestos and hazardous material building surveys, hazardous materials abatement oversight, indoor air quality and mold assessments, well installation, and construction monitoring. Kari also has experience working with wetlands management, stream gaging, and sediment-loading studies.

Tacoma Smelter Plume Cleanup Progress

Former ASARCO Smelter

Former ASARCO Smelter site.

When ASARCO’s historic Tacoma Smelter closed in 1986, it left behind arsenic and lead pollution spread across more than 1,000 square miles of south Puget Sound. Numerous studies have since been accomplished to evaluate the so-called Commencement Bay Superfund site, and in 2009, the Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology) received a $94M bankruptcy settlement from ASARCO for cleanup activities. Ecology has now finalized its Final Interim Action Plan, which lays out what Ecology will do to manage risk and clean up some areas of the Tacoma Smelter Plume. The plan includes several options, including excavation and offsite disposal of contaminated material, onsite blending with clean soil materials, and in-place capping and containment.

Management and cleanup of this contamination is challenging for many reasons, not the least of which is the fact that the plume impacts reach far beyond the boundaries of the former smelter property. Ecology, in recognizing the challenge of cleaning up widespread contamination across thousands of properties, has chosen a multi-pronged suite of solutions. Settlement funds will be used to cleanup parks, schools, and childcare facility play areas, along with a variety of development-oriented options for properties undergoing redevelopment.

The model remedies provide proscribed methods for assessment and cleanup that can easily be incorporated by cities and counties into their permit processes. Property owners have the option of performing independent assessment and remediation or participating in Ecology’s Voluntary Cleanup Program. Unlike other types of sites, smelter plume sites can participate in this program free-of-charge.

A SiLi Bead Seminar Indeed

I had seen a presentation at the 2011 NGWA Expo by Mr. Reinhard Klause of Sigmund Lindner, a German manufacturer of precision glass bead products, on an innovative well-design technology—the use of glass beads as filter pack material. I thought the idea merited further discussion, so when I heard that Reinhard was going to visit the Pacific Northwest, my colleagues and I scrambled to organize a seminar.

To maximize the value of the seminar, we invited a broad cross-section of the groundwater community, including drilling contractors, water utilities, well design consultants, the regulatory community, and materials suppliers. We were only able to provide a few days’ notice, but people responded quickly to our invitation. Thank you to all who dropped everything to “come to the party.” I would also like to thank Burt Clothier (RN) and Bill Lum (Ecology) for working to qualify the event for continuing education credits for our driller guests and to Stan French and John Bowman (Lakehaven Utility District) for providing access to the Lakehaven Center meeting facility in Federal Way. Continue reading

Ecology’s Sediment Management Standards Rule Revision

Overview of the Process.

The dredging and cleanup of contaminated sediments in Northwestern waterways is important to the Northwest’s economy and in maintaining environmental integrity. In 1995, based in large measure on data developed for the dredging programs, Ecology developed the Sediment Management Standards (SMS; WAC 173-204) Rule to protect human health and the environment from potential impacts of contaminated sediments. The Rule was originally promulgated based on extensive research and regulatory guidance available for marine/estuarine sediments, but the body of knowledge for freshwater sediments has subsequently been developed as well and is being incorporated into the Rule, as originally intended. Continue reading