Sunday, December 04, 2011

Gulf Coast Saga: Day 1, Part 3 - Stranger in a Strange Land

Landed in Pensacola without a hitch and picked up my ride, a brand new Chevy Traverse, loaded.  One of the first things I noticed about driving here in the deep South is that the use of turn signals is definitely an option or a sign of weakness, take your pick, but it's really OK to change lanes without signaling.  I still had another 65 miles to plow through to get to my hotel in Mobile.  The route was mostly on Interstate 10 through the piney woods that make up the natural environment here.  Crossing Mobile Bay was really quite beautiful.  I was trying to imagine Union Admiral David Farragut steaming his way into the Bay shouting "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!"

With the ease of modern technology whose name is Tom Tom, I found my hotel.  The front desk clerk was an affable African American woman who asked me "What brings you to Mobile?"  I'm thinking Mobile, it's definitely not pleasure, so I answered truthfully "business" which is nobody's business but my own.  Then out loud she read my company's name on my company shirt.  Maybe I don't get this Southern chit-chat curiosity and maybe I'm just a little too Pacific Northwest reserved.  I should probably lighten up.

After throwing my bag into the room and a little nest building, I cruised out to look for food.  I was starving after a long day of travel fueled on Starbucks and scones.  I quickly found a fast food place, Raising Cane's, that served up all manner of deep fried chicken strips, or as they refer to them in the South, chicken tenders.  Fried chicken, for sure I was in the South.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Gulf Coast Saga: Day 1, Part 2 - Windowless Leaving Seattle

My travel profile includes window seat.  I look forward to flying over the landscape, gazing down at meandering rivers, tilted fault-block mountain ranges, Cascade volcanoes, open-pit mines, belching industry, small towns, small airports, just about everything.  I boarded the plane with this in mind.  Boarding a plane is a routine that involves shuffling down the aisle to my row, dumping my bag in the overhead, squirming my way to the window seat, buckling in loosely, relaxing a bit, then taking a look out the window.  What! Wait! Hey, no window.  Yep seat 10A on this 737-800 had no window.  I was honestly quite bummed.  I told the young woman in the center seat next to me that I was going to draw a window with a face looking in.  The upside to being windowless was that I read a book cover to cover between Seattle and Dallas-Forth Worth.  As we were on approach into DFW, I strained to look out the window in the next row up.  The young woman next to me who it turns out had a wicked sense of humor says to me "Looking out your imaginary window?"

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Gulf Coast Saga: Day 1, Part 1 - TSA Carnival Barker

I'm on my way to Mobile and Pensacola to visually review vacant residential units in several apartment complexes for damaged asbestos-containing materials and mold.  The work is a little south of my pay grade but we're lacking in available qualified staff and I'm happy to win a trip to the Gulf Coast.

I'm flying from Seattle to Pensacola, with a stop in Dallas-Fort Worth.  The real trip starts with running the TSA gauntlet.  This morning we're greeted by a carnival barker TSA agent with his pitch about removing all liquids and gels from your bags.  Geez, he's annoying.  I never remove my liquids and gels from my bag, at least I don't in Seattle.  But I'm tempted to this time.  He's loud but not that compelling.  Like the majority of TSA agents, he's packing some extra pounds and he's having a bad hair day, everyday.  I didn't take out my liquids and gels one time in Salt Lake City and they looked in my bag and found them.  The TSA agent scolded me.  It was rough.  Well, they didn't find my liquids and gels this time.  So there Mr. Loud Mouth TSA agent.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Two Weeks in the Life

It's been an interesting couple weeks with not much chargeability but lots of proposal, business development, and a little project management.  Here's a bullet point roundup:
  • We're going in as the environmental subconsultant for one of the largest dam removal projects in the country, located in Olympic National Park.  If we get the work, which doesn't seem likely, I'll have a key role in the project, which will stretch out for three years.  I've been working out some of the costs and scope of services.
  • Inked a master services agreement with a major real estate player in Seattle.
  • Prepared and submitted a proposal for a mold assessment update of a portfolio of properties located in California, Texas, and Florida.  We'll probably get this project and I'll do the three northern California properties, the same ones I did about four years ago.  This is a great road trip, fly into SJC, one property in the Bay Area, the next one in a Central Valley town, and the last one on the central coast.  It's a lot of driving but through some great country, with a side trip through Parkfield, California, a famous earthquake research area being on the boundary of the Pacific and North American crustal plates.
  • Steered a client away from doing $30,000 worth of subsurface investigation because it wouldn't yield much useful information.  Just too many physical constraints at the property, the building footprint covers just about the whole parcel.  The concerns are relatively low risk.  It pays in the long run to be a good, ethical consultant, providing the best advice a client can buy.
  • Under very short notice, scrambled to staff a project in the Bay Area from our office there, implementing a soil and groundwater management plan for some excavation work done by a tenant moving into one of our client's properties.
  • Got out and measured groundwater levels at one of my projects where there's some pretty significant chlorinated solvent contamination.  Groundwater appears to be moving in the opposite direction of what we expect, which is good for my client.  It rained the whole time, naturally, but I had rain gear.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Biodiesel Cleanup

For the last three months or so, I've been helping out one of our Port districts with the cleanup of a biodiesel plant that caught fire and pretty much destroyed everything in the building.  The Port owns property and leases land and buildings to industries, providing jobs and economic growth to their region.  Washington State has 75 Port districts located throughout the state.

In this scenario, the Port had leased a former grain terminal to a biodiesel producer.  One summer night, kids set a porta-potty on fire next to the building which spread to the roof that was covered by foam insulation.  Everything inside the building was burned, baked, or smoked.  When I first inspected the building, there was vegetable oil spilled all over the building's floor and still vegetable oil, biodiesel, and glycerol (a byproduct) held in a number of tanks, totes, and drums.  Some of the remaining hazards were a stainless steel tank that held hazardous methoxide (a mixture of methanol and potassium hydroxide) used as a catalyst in biodiesel production.  There was also a few sacks of potassium hydroxide laying around.  Most of the vegetable oil, biodiesel, and glycerol was contained within the building with very little, if any, having leaked to the outside.  These materials do not pose a significant environmental or human health hazard.

It was the Port's desire to get the building cleaned up, rebuilt, and leased out once again.  Although my company can act as a general contractor, it was the Port's desire to have a third party do the cleanup oversight as owner's representative.  The Port hired me to prepare an RFQ for the cleanup and demolition, conduct a job walk with contractors, solicit bids for the cleanup, evaluate the bids and provide a selection recommendation to the Port.  I was happy that the Port decided to go with a local contractor who subbed with a reputable environmental contractor with a national footprint.

Once the cleanup was underway, I conducted an interim review of work progress.  At the conclusion of the cleanup project, I conducted a final visual review and prepared a closeout report.  The job went extremely well and I have some new regional contacts to pursue to potentially develop some new business.

At the start:

Cleanup action:

Cleanup complete:

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Commercial Real Estate Warming Up

Commercial real estate is warming up.  I'm working on a Phase I Environmental Assessment of two large commercial properties.  I haven't seen anything like this in at least a year and a half.  Maybe prices have hit bottom and the rush is on.  It's still a trickle.  We'll see.