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.