Soil Testing Companies Background on soil testing companies

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Burton H. Marliave, CEG (1917 – 1991) was born in Berkeley and received his BS with a dual major in mining engineering and geology from Berkeley in 1939. He took a position with the USGS in California and then with the Bureau of Mines in Utah. An Army Reserve officer, he was recalled to active duty during the Second World War and served in North Africa and Italy. In the fall of 1945 he joined PG&E as an engineering geologist, working on their Feather River hydroelectric projects. In 1949 he joined his father Chester’s consultancy, working on water resources projects as well as groundwater and slope stability problems. After his father's death in March, 1958, Burt continued as a consultant in engineering geology, working out of his home in Walnut Creek. His clients included the East Bay Municipal Utility District and numerous private firms. Supplementing his major water-related studies, he also performed geotechnical studies for the various campuses of the University of California, including Berkeley, Santa Cruz, and San Francisco. During the 1980s he became an arbitrator for the American Arbitration Association. He was active in the California Association of Engineering Geologists from its inception in 1957 and served as the first president of the Association of Engineering Geologists when it was renamed on January 1, 1963. He continued working up until the time of his death at age 73 on February 4, 1991.
Ray C. Treasher, CPG (1898-1967) was born in Chicago, but grew up in Sunnyside (Yakima), Washington. He served as an enlisted soldier in the First World War. After the war he was educated at Washington State, receiving his BS (1924) and MS (1925) degrees in geology (his thesis was the geology of the Pullman [Washington] Quadrangle). He then attended Oregon State as a teaching fellow for one year to work on his PhD, but decided to teach high school in Longview, Washington. In 1936 he accepted an appointment as Economic Geologist on the staff of Oregon State Planning Board, where he compiled a comprehensive bibliography of the geology and mineral resources of Oregon. The following year (1937) he became the first geologist appointed to the newly formed Oregon Department of Geology & Mineral Industries in Portland.

In December 1943 Ray moved to the Sacramento District of the Corps of Engineers, becoming Assistant Chief of the Geology Section under Claire P. Holdridge. He served as the project geologist for the Folsom Dam project between 1949-53, where he supervised some impressive mapping of the dam’s foundation excavations, which proved valuable 60 years later, when the dam’s foundation stability underwent a thorough reassessment. In 1953 he became Chief Geologist of the Corps San Francisco District, where he focused his energies on the Coyote Dam/Lake Mendocino project near Ukiah and complied a “Comprehensive Survey Report on San Francisco Bay,” which became one of the most oft-cited geotechnical documents of that era, which influenced planning of the BART system and assessment of geotechnical site response to earthquake shaking along the bay margins.

Ray was a charter member of the California Association of Engineering Geologists when it formed in 1957 and was the second person to be named an Honorary Member of AEG, in 1965. He retired from the Corps in 1861 and served as a consultant on dimension stone, of which his expertise was widely known and respected. He also lectured in the geological engineering program at U.C. Berkeley. He died at his home in Duncan Mills, California on June 25, 1967.
Thomas F. Thompson, CEG (1906-76) was a consulting engineering geologist throughout the 1960s and 70s working out of an office in San Francisco (between 1956-62), and later, from his home in Burlingame (1962-76), mostly consulting on dams. He previously worked for the Army Corps of Engineers, serving as Chief of the Geology Section working on the proposed Panama Canal expansion in the late 1940s. After retiring from the Corps, he worked for Ralph M. Parsons as a resident engineer on Bakhra Dam in India during the mid-1950s. He lectured in geological engineering at U.C. Berkeley in 1961-62, after Parker Trask died unexpectedly. Throughout the 1960s and into the early 1970s he did a lot of consulting work on various dams and water supply projects in Africa for Kaiser Engineers, and served as a consultant to the Metropolitan Water District and the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (during the Operation Plowshare “pan-atomic canal studies” of the late 1960s).

William I. Gardner, PhD, CEG (1903-91) received his BS in mining engineering from U.C. Berkeley in 1927, and PhD in geology from the University of Minnesota in 1937 (Structural study of the Merrimac Batholith, Sierra Nevada, California). After several years working for mining and oil companies he joined the US Bureau of Reclamation in 1936, and remained with that agency for 33 years, rising thru the ranks: Regional Geologist at Sacramento in 1942 (overseeing the geologic aspects of Reclamation’s Central Valley Project, which included detailed mapping of the foundations of Shasta and Friant Dams, mapped at a scale of 1 inch = 20 ft); and Chief Geologist of Reclamation’s Division of Geology, from 1963-69. Along the way he was one of 13 founding members of AEG in 1957, and served as the association’s third president in 1959. He was elected an Honorary Fellow in 1974. He retired from the Bureau of Reclamation in 1969 and moved to Moraga, CA. From his residence he continued consulting on a wide array of dams and water resources projects world-wide, until his death in July 1991.
John A. Trantina, CEG (1904-90) was a native of Missouri, who found employment with the US Army Corps of Engineers as a civilian engineering technician in the 1920s, working on navigation projects in the Missouri River Basin. In 1932 he enrolled in the geology program at the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology, completing his bachelor’s degree in 1938, followed by a master’s in geology from the Missouri School of Mines & Metallurgy, in 1939. He returned to the Army Corps of Engineers, and worked on the Oahe, Garrison, and Fort Randall embankment dams constructed along the Missouri River in the 1940s and 50s. He became Chief Geologist of the Corps Omaha District by the time he retired, in 1956. He then joined Woodward-Clyde-Sherrard Associates in Oakland as Executive Vice President and Chief Geologist, engaged primarily with embankment dam design and construction. He subsequently served as Chuief Consulting Geologist until retiring altogether from Woodward Clyde, around 1980. He worked as a consulting geologist out of his home in El Cerrito on a host of projects, mostly dams. He was known widely for his work on the properties of clay shales, in particular, frost action and rebound triggered by sudden unloading and stress relief.
Frank A. Nickell, PhD, PE, CEG (1906-75) was born in Beatrice, Nebraska in March 1906 and grew up in Los Angeles. He earned all of his degrees in geology and civil engineering at Caltech. He completed his BS in geology in 1927, M.S. in 1928, and Ph.D. in geology and civil engineering in 1931. During graduate school he was a teaching assistant in languages and physical education (along with his roommate Layton Stanton). His Ph.D. dissertation was on the Geology of the Soledad Quadrangle, Central California. He was the first geologist hired by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (in the fall of 1931) to map the rock exposures at Hoover Dam, which began construction in mid-1931. Nickell had already been assisting Caltech Prof. Leslie Ransome with his mapping at Hoover Dam.

After Hoover Dam was completed in 1935, he worked on other BurRec dams, including Parker and Grand Coulee. He was named Chief Geologist of the Bureau of Reclamation in 1939, but left to open his own consultancy, based out of Whittier, in 1942. Nickell then took a position with Shell Oil Company and Standard Oil and Gas as a petroleum geologist from 1943 to 1944, but this work took him overseas. From 1945 until 1973 he was a consulting geologist on dams, hydroelectric development, irrigation, and geologic studies for companies and governments worldwide. In the early 1950s he moved to San Mateo, where he remained until he retired and moved to La Jolla, where he died in September 1975. He consulted on dam projects all over the world the remainder of his life, including the ill-fated Taum Sauk Upper Reservoir pumped storage project for Union Electric Co. of St. Louis in Missouri (completed in 1960-64), which failed in December 2005.

Clark E. McHuron, CEG (1919- ) (BA Geol ’40 Syracuse; postgrad studies Brown Univ) was a consulting engineering geologist who began working out of Belmont in 1953, after working for the Bureau of Reclamation in Wyoming and Alaska. Some of his consultations included an evaluation of the Stanford Linear Accelerator site in the late 1950s for the Utah Construction Co. He also did a lot of work for PG&E on a number of their sites, including the nuclear power plant at Bodega Bay, astride a strand of the San Andreas Fault. Around 1970 he moved to Santa Rosa, and then to Oakmont, CA, before moving to Port Ludlow, WA in 1993. In 2004 he and his wife Jean returned to California, settling in Davis. Their son Eric also became an engineering geologist, working for Dames & Moore and Foott & Associates, before starting McHuron Geosciences in 1993, based out of San Francisco.
Alvin L. Franks, Ph.D., CEG, CHG (1924- ) was a native of the Akron, Ohio area. During the Second World War he led clandestine forays behind enemy lines to tap their phone lines. During the Battle of the Bulge he was trapped for an extended period, suffering from severe frostbite of his feet and toes and pneumonia in the right lung, which took 6 weeks to clean up. Al was given a 45% disability from the Army for frostbite damage to his feet and the spent much of 1945 and early '46 in Army and VA hospitals, undergoing treatment to curtail recurring infections in his damaged feet and pneumonia in the right lung, which came back every 8 to 12 years. The VA doctors recommended that he find a warmer climate for his feet, which were becoming re-infected after prolonged exposure to cold, during the winters, and he could not walk for any extended distance. 

In the summer of 1946 he drove to Los Angeles, and enrolled at East Los Angeles Junior College for one semester. In January 1946 he transferred to UCLA to major in geology, and attended geology field camp in Baja California in the summer of 1947. Al received his BS degree in geology from UCLA in August 1950, after completing his third summer field camp! In 1951 he enrolled in graduate studies at UCLA, while working for Shell Oil.

In 1952 he joined the State Division of Highways Materials and Research Lab, as their only geologist outside of the Bridge Department. He then moved to field exploration, where he worked under Travis W. Smith, PE out of the Transportation Laboratory in Sacramento from 1953-58. This work included the engineering geology for many elements of the proposed new interstate highway system, including assessments of slope stability, foundations, and predictions of ground settlement under embankments and bridge approaches, etc. The most challenging project was the massive fill placed across Candlestick Cove to convey US Hwy 101 between Candlestick and Sierra Points, just north of the San Francisco Airport. The fill displaced 5 to 10 feet of  soft mud laterally, and required ongoing monitoring as each increment of fill was placed, eventually allowing 2.4-mile long section of the Bayshore Freeway to be completed.

                In the 1950s most areas of the state employed incinerators and burning dumps, prior to the advent of the sanitary landfills. In 1958 Al transferred to the Water Rights Board and was instrumental in doing all of the Geology section of the 1969 Porter-Cologne Water Quality Control Act. The Water Rights Board was given more power and renamed the California State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB), based in Sacramento. This became the regulatory agency that oversaw the state’s water quality, and reviewed applications for solid waste disposal, with Franks serving as they agency’s senior hydrogeology expert. This eventually led to Al becoming the State of California's senior technical expert on solid waste landfills and adjudication of water rights, including groundwater in court actions, while serving as Supervising Engineering Geologist of the WRCB, from 1963-80. While in that capacity he co-wrote Subchapter 15 [Waste Discharge Requirements] of Title 23 of the California Administrative Code (originally adopted in March 1972), which regulates groundwater and surface water quality around solid waste landfills. At the time these were the most restrictive geoenvironmental regulations for solid waste landfills in the United States. In his capacity as the author of these new regulations Franks received a great deal of pressure from landfill operators, who were wary of the new requirements.

Al also wrote a number of articles and regulations that were pivotal in establishing better standards for groundwater quality. In the September 1972 issue of California Geology Al penned one of the most oft-cited articles on sewage disposal systems in California, titled “Geology for individual sewer disposal systems.” In July 1980 he wrote “Waste Discharge Requirements for Nonsewerable Waste Disposal to Land” for the SWRCB, which became an oft-cited standard in the solid waste industry, nation-wide.

                In the late 1970s Al completed doctoral studies at U.C. Davis, where he also completed 75 units of civil engineering and soil science courses, working with Professors Krohn and Bigger. He completed his PhD in 1980 with his dissertation topic “Environmental geology-land use planning, erosion and sedimentation of the west Martis Creek drainage basin, California” (near Truckee). During the 60s and 70s he also taught evening courses at USC and at UC Davis.

After retiring from state service in 1980, he opened a consulting business, A. L. Franks Engineering/ Geologist as a DVBE firm, which specialized in solid waste geoenvironmental engineering and hydrogeology, based at 44 Lakeshore Circle in Sacramento. His expertise was sought by just about every landfill applicant in the state during the 1980s and 90s. He was also hired by the National Park Service to develop a groundwater supply system for use in Yosemite Valley. Using the latest geophysical system at that time he had a well drilled into an ancient streambed system beneath 400 feet of gravel and sand, and developed a well with a capacity of 1,200 gpm. They required 800 gpm, so the extra water was pumped to other parts of the park.

                When Al served as the senior geologist of the SWRCB, the Regional Water Quality Control Boards didn't require technical proficiency testing similar to that required by the State Division of Mines & Geology. Franks fought for proficiency testing of geologists, but lost that battle. He continued lobbying for a separate certification in hydrogeology, which eventually met with success in 1995, without allowance for grandfathering (every applicant was required to take and pass the proficiency test, for the first time in California history). His colleagues honored him by designating him as Hydrogeologist (HG) #1.   

Geophysical Consultants
Allied Geophysics (early 1940s – late 1970s)

Operated by R. Burton Rose, CEG, RGP (1910-90) grew up in San Jose and received his graduate education at UCLA in the late 1930s (MS Geol 1939 UCLA). He was writing articles on geophysical exploration as early as 1941 (see Radioactive Exploration, R. Burton Rose, The Mines Magazine, Vol. 31, No. 12, p. 617-620, 635, Dec 1941). He operated a consulting firm known as Allied Geophysics out of San Jose from about 1940 through the late 1970s. Rose performed seismic refraction surveys for numerous public agencies, engineering firms, and private clients, many associated with groundwater studies.

EG& G (1947-2001)

EG&G’s origins date back to 1931 when MIT Professor Harold E. “Doc” Edgerton (1903-90) formed a partnership with his graduate student Kenneth Germeshausen. Edgerton was a pioneer in developing high speed photography. In 1934 they were joined by another MIT grad student named Herbert Grier. They became a prominent defense contractor during the Second World War and gained considerable fame for their work in high speed imaging of attempts to prepare a perfect implosion device as part of the ultra-secret Manhattan Project during the war. Bernard "Barney" O'Keefe became the fourth partner of the firm, which was reformulated as Edgerton, Germeshausen, and Grier, Inc., or EG&G, in 1947.

During the 1950s and 1960s the firm did a lot of work for the Atomic Energy Commission, working with Lawrence Livermore National Lab, Raytheon, Reynolds Electrical and Engineering, and others. EG&G expanded its services to include facilities management, technical services, security, and pilot training for the Department of Defense. EG&G also developed a variety of sensing, detection and night visioning products designed to detect radioactive, chemical, and biological agents, and a variety of acoustic sensors. The company also provided microwave and electronic components to the Department of Defense for electronic warfare and mine countermeasures.

During the 1970s and 80s EG&G diversified by acquiring interest in firms involved in paper making, scientific instrumentation for marine, environmental and geophysical users, automotive testing, fans and blowers, frequency control devices and other components. In the late 1980s and early 1990s most of these divisions were sold. Although EG&G was based in Wellesley, Massachusetts, they maintained a branch office in Palo Alto, where their rep was Gerald B. ‘Geb’ Church (BS ’76 Biology Stanford; MBA Laverne), and they provided high-quality geophysical surveys of individual sites around the bay area. In May 1999, the non-government side of EG&G purchased the Analytical Instruments Division of PerkinElmer and the remainder by the Carlyle Group. In 2001 Carlyle was purchased by URS Corporation of Gaithersburg, MD. In December 2009 the EG&G Division of URS became URS Federal Services.

Gasch & Associates (1970-present)

Gasch & Associates-Engineering Geophysics was founded by Jerrie W. Gasch, CEG, PGP (1931- ) (BS Geol ’60 Wisconsin) in Jan 1970, after having worked for CA DWR and CDMG in Sacramento. They were the first engineering geophysics firm to be established in the Sacramento area, based out of Rancho Cordova. Gasch subsequently entered the gold mining business, but the firm continues to operate under the leadership of his son Kent L. Gasch, PGP (Geol CSU Chico) and senior consultants David T. Hagin, CEG, CHG, PGP (BS Geophy 1998 UCR) and John W. Busby, CEG, PGP (BA Geol Regents Col NY).
Geonomics (1975-80)

Geonomics was a Berkeley-based geophysical consulting firm made up primarily of scientists from Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory (LBL) that did quite a bit of interesting work in the 1970s, mostly for oil companies and the US Department of Energy, examining geothermal potential. Some of their senior associates included Vice President Subit K. Sanyl, Allen M. Katzenstein, Tsvi Meidav, PhD and his wife Mae Z. Meidav, PhD. Others who authored reports for Geonomics included L. H. Goldsmith, M. Stark, Norman E. Goldstein, H. Wollenberg, B. Strisower, H. Hege, and M. Wilt. Richard Weiss worked for them briefly, in 1976-77. In 1980 Subit Sanyl (PhD ’71 Pet Eng’g, Stanford) started a firm named GeothermEx, Inc., based in Richmond

Norcal Geophysical Consultants (1983-2016)

Founded in 1983 by Kenneth Blom, PG, PGP, a former marine geologist for the USGS (1969-73), and Manager of Geophysical Operations for Harding Lawson (1973-83). Ken has a BS in geology from Fresno State in 1969 and graduate studies in geophysics at San Jose State. The firm maintained offices in Sacramento, moved to Petaluma, and then to Cotati (with a branch office in Fountain Valley). Kenneth Blom was still President in 2000. In 1994 Norcal expanded its capabilities to include borehole logging and imaging instrumentation and brought Bill Henrich, CEG, PGP (BA Econ ’76 LaSalle; MS Geol ’79 Idaho State) from Harding Lawson to manage this new department. Other principals include VP Bill Black, PGP (BA Geophy ’69; MS ’72 UC Riverside), who also served as President of the State Board of Geology & Geophysics from 2002-09; Don Kirker, PGP (BS Geol ’86 SDSU), David Bissiri, PGP (BS Geophys UCLA), David T. Hagin, CEG, PGP (BS Physics ’84 UC Irvine; MS Geophys ’86 UC Riverside), and Anna Brody Haynie (BA Geol Univ Rochester; MS Geol 2011 CSU Fresno). In 2016 Norcal was acquired by Terracon, Inc. which will continue operating the Sonoma County office with 11 employees. This will give Terracon a SF Bay Area presence.

Redpath Geophysics/Qest Consultants/Geometrics (1985-present)

Founded around 1985 by Bruce B. Redpath, RGP in Galt, and later, Murphys, CA, after he had worked for Lawrence Livermore National Labs (LLNL) and URS/John Blume & Associates. At LLNL he worked on refining the seismic refraction technique for geoengineering applications (see Seismic Refraction Exploration for Engineering Site Investigations, Tech Rpt E73-4, USACE-WES Explosive Excavation Research Lab, Livermore, May 1973). In the late 1970s-early 80s he performed pioneering work on downhole seismic arrays, including a 58 m deep hole in the midst of the downhole array at Berkeley’s Richmond Field Station (see Redpath, B. B., Edwards, R. B., Hale, R. J., and Kintler, F. C., 1982, Development of field techniques to measure damping values for near-surface rocks and soils: NSF grant PFR-7900192; and Redpath, B. B., and Lee, R. C., 1986, In-situ measurements of shear-wave attenuation at a strong-motion recording site: USGS Contract No. 14-08-001-21823, prepared by URS-John A. Blume and Associates, San Francisco). Redpath had previously worked for GeoRecon in the Seattle area in the 1960s. He did pioneering work in downhole measurement of shear wave velocities, of particular import following the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake for Caltrans.

Bay Area City and County Geologists
The first “Town Geologist” in the Bay Area was Stanford Geology Professor Arvid Johnson, CEG who prepared an engineering geologic map of Portola Valley in 1969 and accepted the sobriquet “Portola Valley Town Geologist.” The hills west of Palo Alto are traversed by the San Andreas fault, mantled with all manner of shallow and deep-seated landslides, and the Butano Shale had caused all sorts of differential heave problems. Johnson was succeeded by Bill Cotton in early 1979, after Johnson left Stanford for the University of Cincinnati. Cotton updated Johnson’s geologic map of the city in the 1980s.

The City of Woodside has also retained a consulting geologist to serve as their reviewing geologist for building permit applications. This position was originally held by Dick Harding of Earth Science Associates, then by Bill Cotton, and later, by Robert H. “Bob” Wright. For many years Earth Science Associates performed similar geotechnical peer review services for a number of peninsula cities, including San Carlos.

William Cotton & Associates provided engineering geologic and geotechnical peer review for a number of municipalities from the 1970s through the 2000s, including: Portola Valley, Los Gatos, Saratoga, Milpitas, Fremont, Morgan Hill, etc. Cotton has continued serving as the Town Geologist for Portola Valley since 1986.
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