Saturday, February 25, 2006


I finished up the field work looking in all the nooks and crannies for mold and water intrusion. I had the report pretty much wrapped up that evening. The site contact was a good guy, a native Utahn, hunter and outdoorsman. We hit it off pretty well, especially when I noticed the LED conversion on his Mini-Maglite. I must do the same with my own flashlight.

Wednesday I played a little hooky and headed up to Solitude for some skiing. I rented some Nordica Hot Rod all mountain skis and proceeded to tear it up. It was lightly snowing with some sun breaks. I stayed mostly on black groomed runs carving big fast GS turns. I did some exploring on the fringes and hit a few turns of untracked and windpacked – nice and deceivingly light snow. I did inadvertently run into some soft bump runs and managed to turn through them and managed some OK knees absorption. I couldn’t do that all day, especially with the altitude (gasp!). I saw some enticing double-blacks that required some traversing but I was by myself and the mountain was pretty uncrowded. It would have been nice to ski with someone who knows the mountain. But all in all it was a fantastic day of skiing. I realized just how much I love skiing and how I miss those 30-day seasons of my youth. I skied pretty well for an old fart.

I returned my gear to the shop, CanyonSports and grabbed a bite to eat before catching my plane home. I found a nice little place called Wriggles across from my hotel in Murray. They roll up a tortilla with a variety of meats and veggies and call it a Wriggles, a wrap by any other name. Like a homeless person, I had to change out of my ski clothes in my car.

I made it to the airport in plenty of time to put the finishing touches on my report. We took off from SLC and leveled off prematurely. The pilot came on and said a landing gear light was stuck on and that he’d lower and raise the gear and that would probably cure the stuck-on light. He did that and came back on and said the light was out. Very soon the engines revved up to take us to cruising altitude and home to Seattle.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Return to the Scene of the Crime

I've worked on several projects over the years in Salt Lake City. Like a serial killer I always return to the scene of the crime to relive those past experiences. Past project locations have a strange lure for me. I enjoy returning to see how things have changed over time and to walk the same ground I walked years before.

One of my first projects I worked on in Salt Lake was a couple of Phase I ESAs down around West 2100 South between Bangerter Hwy and I-215. This is an industrial area of concrete tilt-up business parks, warehouses, and factories. This is also near the former Remington Arms Company site, a small arms plant where 30- and 50-caliber ammunition was manufactured during World War II. Many of the old plant buildings are still present and in use for other purposes these days. The old alum ponds are also located nearby where Engelhard discharged wastewater from their catalyst manufacturing operations. Both the Remington Arms and Engelhard sites have known contamination.

I once did a quick one day in-and-out site visit of a vacant parcel in this West 2100 South industrial area. It was a wet day and all I had for protection was a rain jacket. I had to walk the site through wet grass and shrubs. My jeans and hiking boots were soaked by the time I finished walking the 20-acres. I didn't have a change of clothes and had to fly home in my wet clothes. It was a miserable flight back in wet jeans. This vacant parcel is now developed with three big concrete tilt-up industrial buildings.

One of the more fun projects was at the FAA Regional Air Traffic Control Center next to SLC. We pulled a waste oil underground storage tank and replaced it with an aboveground tank. The waste oil was from four huge diesel emergency power generators. I had hired a local subcontractor who was fortunately top-notch. The FAA had resident engineer to watch over us. His name was Cody out of Pocatello, Idaho. He was a real cracker. He looked at first like he was going to be a real asshole but at the end he turned out to be an OK guy. So I watched over the subcontractor and Cody watched over all of us. This turned out to be a nice little project.

I also did a Phase I ESA of the Triad Center, an office building complex at North Temple and South 300 West. The main tenant in the center is Bonneville International Corporation, a media company who owns a number of television and radio stations across the country, but mostly in Utah. Bonneville International Corporation is, I believe, owned by the LDS Church.

Back in December 2004 I did a Phase I of a facility that manufactures diamond core drill bits. It was interesting to see the manufacturing process. During that trip the whole of the Salt Lake Valley was covered in a thick layer of low clouds. It was cold and everything was covered in hoarfrost. I made a side trip out to Antelope Island and, except for the bitter cold, it was a beautiful area.

Whenever I'm in town again I'll swing by these old project sites, returning to the scene of the crime.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Salt Lake City

Up at 4 am - shower - shave - load - kiss my wife goodbye - hit the road to SeaTac. I've done this routine countless times. I've brewed a latte for the road. The home espresso machine has paid for itself many times over. I park at Doug Fox and hop on the bus with my fellow road warriors. Silence rules.

The airport is not too crowded considering the holiday. The security line is only a few minutes wait, plenty of TSA today. They are always refreshingly and thankfully cordial. Laptop out - shoes off - belt off - walk through. I am now in the enchanted land behind security. My gate is on the far end of the A Concourse. Plenty of time for a grande non.

The plane is full. I'm sitting next to a women about in her sixties. We exchange pleasantries and then become lost in our thoughts for the rest of the flight. A baby cries in the next row for nearly the entire flight. I'm immune. I'm a dad, though my boys are way beyond baby stage.

Is it me or are the female flight attendants all getting older?

I catch peekaboo views of Rainier through the clouds - the Wallowas, Hell's Canyon, the mountains of Idaho, and finally the relict shorelines of ancient Lake Bonneville tell me we're almost there. We pass SLC airport on our left and head south for what seems like a considerable distance, finally turning 180 degrees to the north for a smooth landing at SLC.

The car rental is a bit of a zoo. Harried are the attendants with cars coming in off the long weekend. A line is forming. I'm finally off in a utilitarian Ford Focus.

Salt Lake City is crisply cold, sunny, and covered in several inches of snow. The roads are clear. I make my way to my meeting.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

From the woods to Salt Lake City

The family (wife, the two boys, and I) took a stroll in the woods behind our house, a 120-acre park undeveloped except for a few trails. The walking was easy since we’ve had freezing weather the last few days. The usual mud this time of year was frozen and all the leaves are gone except for the tall firs, cedars, and hemlocks that form the bones of these woods.

Early tomorrow I fly to Salt Lake City to do a mold assessment of a shopping mall. The client acts as a fiduciary for accredited investors and small pension funds and this project is for one of their acquisitions. We do most, if not all the due diligence mold assessments for this client. One of our competitors does the Phase I Environmental Site Assessments.

I’ve checked the aviation forecast and it looks like a smooth flight. The weather in Salt Lake looks good, with a clearing and warming trend through the week.

I’ve scheduled the work for Monday and Tuesday having made arrangements with the site contact whose name sounds like he should be an actor in Westerns. This should be interesting. Unfortunately, Monday is a holiday and likely to be a busy shopping day. That might hamper the work somewhat. The place will be crowded and the retail tenants will be fussy.

I’ll be staying over into Wednesday to pick up a day of skiing. This is one of those little side benefits of trips like these. How can you travel to Salt Lake City in February and not ski? I haven’t skied there since the 1980s. I’m not sure where I’ll ski but I’m leaning to Solitude or Brighton. The weather for Wednesday looks perfect.

Now I just have to finish packing.

The Opening

The focus of this blog is my life as an environmental consultant and the environmental consulting industry, primarily die diligence with respect to commercial property transactions. This has been an exciting career over the last 18 years. I’ve traveled all over the country and met many interesting people. No one day is the same and a day can change with a phone call. It’s not as exciting firefighting but at least I’m not chained to a desk.

So come along and join me if you will.