Soil Testing Companies Background on soil testing companies

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Geological Map of California (1938-onward)

In 1938 the State Division of Mines and Mining released their initial six-sheet Geologic Map of California (edited by Olaf P. Jenkins, Chief Geologist of the Division of Mines) at a scale of 1:500,000 (about an inch to 8 miles). The sheets took nine years to compile and showed about one-quarter of the state’s land are to be unmapped, including the Klamath Mountains, the northern Coast Ranges, the southern Sierra Nevada, and the desert areas of southeastern California. Much of this early work was carried out by field geology courses taught by Berkeley, Stanford, Caltech, and UCLA each summer. These maps were out-of-print by 1952. The first generation maps were superseded by more detailed Geologic Atlas of California at 1:250,000 scale (1 inch = 4 miles) geologic map sheets released by the California Division of Mines & Geology (after a name change in 1961), between 1958-66 (described below). DMG also released a 1:750,000 scale State Geology Map in 1977, which was reprinted in 1991 (small enough to be mounted on a classroom wall). More recent interpretations have subsequently been in release since 1982, and continue to the present. This series of maps covers all of California and is considered basic information that would be cited in any engineering geologic study.

Government sponsored aerial mapping of California (1938-40)

Between 1938-40 the U.S. Soil Conservation Service (SCS) contracted for all of California to be photographed with black and white stereopair aerial images. Soils data for each county were usually plotted directly upon large prints of these photos (described in W.C. Lowdermilk’s article Use of Aerial Mapping in Soil Conservation, in Civil Engineering, v.8:9, September 1938, pp. 605-07). After 1945 soil designations were then represented spatially on black-and-white photo mosaics. These post-1940 SCS reports contain soils information of reliable accuracy.

First use of drilled horizointal drains [hydraugers] (1939)

Hydarugers, or horizontal drains, were first employed in 1939 by the The California Division of Highways, described in “Horizontal Drains on California Highways” by T.W. Smith and G.V. Stafford in the July 1957 ASCE Journal of the Soil Mechanics and Foundations Division. Similar concepts were developed in 1940 by Earl M. Buckingham, PE (1902-97), Supervising Civil Engineer for Oakland, working with the Ransome Construction Company (est by E.L. Ransome in 1870, and still operating out of San Leandro), the first private venture to emply similar technology. Ransome developed a drilling machine that utilized a reversible air motor with a hollow crankshaft which delivered water to the rotating cutting bit through a string of hollow rods. They were often used in combination with vertical relief wells, as part of slope stabilization schemes. Some of the early stabilization projects included the McKillop Road and Simmons Street Landslides (1940), the Barrows-Holman Roads Slide (1942), and Underhills Road slide (1943), all in the City of Oakland (described in the discussions of Hyde Forbes’ 1946 article Landslide Investigation and Correction, cited below).

The original approach was to use modified fishtail bits drilling 4-inch diameter holes, within which would be inserted 2-inch diameter steel pipe with 3/8th-inch diameter perforations. The perforated casing came in lengths between 16 and 24 feet. In 1949 the industry began shifting to the use of rock roller bits used in the petroleum industry because these were readily available in a large variety of diameters. The industry came to call horizontal drains “hydraugers,” a moniker that was subsequently adopted by most agencies that employ them.
Adoption of the Standard Proctor Compaction test by AASHO (1939) and ASTM (1942)

The Standard Proctor Compaction Test was adopted with slight modifications by the American Association of State Highway Officials (AASHO) as the Impact Compaction Test, and assigned Test Designation T-99 in 1939. The Modified Proctor Compaction Test was designed as AASHO Test Designation T-180 in 1946 (described below).

In 1942 the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) approved the same procedure as their “Tentative Methods of Test for Moisture-Density Relations of Soils” as ASTM Test Standard D 698 in 1942. This procedure assumed a compactive effort derived from dropping a 5.5 lb weight from a height of 12 inches, engendering a compactive effort of 12,400 ft-lbs input energy per cubic foot of soil. In June 1957 ASTM approved revisions that introduced Methods A, B, C, and D to the standard. Methods B and D allowed the use of 6-inch diameter molds, while Methods C and D allowed the inclusion of particles up to ¾-inches in diameter. The D 698 test procedures were also revised in Oct 1978 (introduced option for 25 or 56 blows), Nov 1991 (manual versus mechanical rammers), and January 1997 (correction of Eqn 1 to ascertain dry unit weight).
Early textbooks on soil mechanics in English: Plummer and Dore (1940); Krynine (1941) and Terzaghi (1943)

In 1940 Fred L. Plummer, Chief Research Engineer for the Hammond Iron Works in Warren, PA, and Stanley M. Dore, Assistant Chief Engineer for the Metropolitan District Water Supply Commission of Massachusetts, co-authored the first textbook soil mechanics in English published in the United States, titled “Soil Mechanics and Foundations,” released by the Pittman Publishing Corp. This text was used in many eastern colleges during the early 1940s, including The Citadel. It included a fairly comprehensive overview of embankment dam engineering practice in the United States up until that time.

In 1941 Dimitri P. Krynine (1877-1967), Research Associate in Soil Mechanics at Yale University, published a textbook in English titled “Soil Mechanics,” released by McGraw-Hill Book Co. Krynine had immigrated to the United States from Russia in February 1930, and became a naturalized American citizen in September 1935. This text went through 11 printings, and was used extensively in the training of both Navy and Army combat engineering officers during the Second World War. Krynine became a Lecturer in Civil Engineering at Yale and released a Second Edition of the textbook in 1947. In 1957 he and William R. Judd of the Bureau of Reclamation co-authored the text Principles of Engineering Geology and Geotechnics, also published by McGraw-Hill. Krynine retired from Yale in 1947, and moved to Alameda (his son Paul Dimitri Krynine who had attended Cal Berkeley in the late 1920s and was a Professor of Geology at Yale and Penn State). Krynine continued consulting to Woodward Clyde in Oakland until he passed away in 1967, at the age of 90.

In early 1934 Professor Karl Terzaghi (1883-1963) at the Technical University in Vienna began preparing the manuscript of a new textbook on soil mechanics in English. This was in anticipation of his involvement in the First International Conference on Soil Mechanics and Foundation Engineering held at Cambridge, MA in June 1936. Terzaghi had hoped this would open up opportunities for him to return to the United States as a professor, but the Great Depression prevented any meaningful offers. He returned to the United States in September 1938 and was given the title of Lecturer in Engineering Geology at Harvard. He continued working on his book manuscript, assisted by a post-graduate student named Ralph Peck, who checked Terzaghi’s English and drafted many of the ink figures. This collaboration resulted in the release of Terzaghi’s first book in English, titled “Theoretical Soil Mechanics, released by John Wiley & Sons in 1943, during the Second World War. It quickly became one of the longest selling titles in John Wiley’s line of textbooks, which remained in-print until 1967.

Army Corps of Engineers Airfield Pavement Design Advisory Council (1942-45)

In June 1941 the Los Angeles District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began wrestling with pavement bearing failures beneath the massive 96-inch diameter tires of the new Douglas B-19 bomber, which weighed 162,000 lbs., spread on just three wheels. The aircraft had cased pavement distress at Clover Field in Santa Monica (where it was built) and at March Army Airfield in Riverside (where it was delivered to the Army Air Corps).

District engineers in Los Angeles quickly consulted with research engineers at the Corps’ Waterways Experiment Station in Vicksburg, MS and it was agreed that an Airfield Pavement Design Advisory Council should be formed, centered around O. James Porter (formerly of the California Division of Highways in Sacramento) because of his pioneering role in developing the California Bearing Ratio Test in 1928 (described previously). The advisory council was comprised of Colonel Henry C. Wolfe (who had worked on the Fort Peck Dam soil mechanics problems), structures Professor Harald M. Westergaard of Harvard, and Dr. Philip C. Rutledge of Moran, Proctor, Freeman & Meuser, soil mechanics Professor Arthur Casagrande of Harvard, Thomas A. Middlebrooks (the Corps senior expert in soil mechanics, who had also worked on the Fort Peck Dam landslide), James L. Land of the Alabama State Highway Department, and O. James Porter of O.J. Porter & Co. of Sacramento.

Through Porter’s urging the advisory council selected the “Stockton Test Track” at the Air Corps’ Stockton Field, about 60 miles south of Sacramento, for the most ambitious field pavement test program ever devised, up to that time. The tests employed a 240,000 lb pneumatic roller passing over pavement sections of varying thickness, stiffness, and consistency, to better evaluate the California Bearing ratio test results for wheel loads of as much as 150,000 pounds.

From these tests, the Army Corps of Engineers developed specialized design procedures for flexible asphalt runways that incorporated the properties of the pavement subgrade, because the aircraft wheel loads are transmitted directly to the subgrade in flexible pavements. This focused attention on the importance of subgrade compaction, leading to the Modified Proctor Compaction Test of 1946 (described below). These design procedures were subsequently incorporated into post-war design of flexible asphalt highway pavements, which were used in the Interstate & Defense Highway Program, beginning in 1955.
Adoption of the Modified Proctor Compaction Test (1946 to 1985)

In 1938-40 Thomas E. Stanton (BSCE 1904 Berkeley) of the California Division of Highways wrote two important papers on mechanical compaction of soil embankments: “Compaction of Earth Embankments” for the Proceedings of the Highway Research Board in 1938, and “Methods of Controlling Compaction in Embankments,“ for the Proceedings of the 1940 AASHO Meeting in Seattle. In the second article he describes a “Modified Proctor Test,” which sought to “obtain higher compacted densities and thus a lower optimum moisture content” than that employed in the “Standard Proctor Test.” Given the fact that Stanton was O.J. “Pappy” Porter’s supervisor, the description of compaction test employing considerably more input energy was therein coined formally in 1946 by Porter as the “modified Proctor basis” of 1946 (see “Soil Compaction for Airports” in Engineering News Record, March 21, 1946, p.82-86).

The “modified Proctor basis” was formally endorsed by the Embankment, Foundation, and Pavement Division of the Corps of Engineers Waterways Experiment Station in Vicksburg in 1946 as a “dynamic compaction test,” using the same sort of impact hammer suggested by Proctor in 1933. This was based on input from their Airfield Pavement Design Advisory Council, described above. It employed the same cylindrical mold as the Standard Proctor test (4 inches in diameter and 4.6 inches high, with a removable mold collar 2.5 in. high). The mold volume is 1/30th cubic foot, but it employs a heavier 10-pound hammer, 2 inches in diameter, which is allowed to free-fall 18 inches onto the soil (15 ft-lbs per blow). The soil mixture is compacted in five lifts, with an average thickness of 0.80 inches/lift. 25 blows were exerted per lift, which equals 25 x 15 = 375 ft-lbs per lift. The total input energy for the five lifts is 5 x 375 = 1875 ft-lbs on a soil sample with a volume of 1/30th cubic foot. This equals 56,250 ft-lbs of compactive energy per cubic foot of soil, about 450% more energy than the Standard Proctor procedure.

By 1950 the Corps of Engineers issued reports which suggested that cohesionless soils (e.g. aggregate subbase and aggregate baserock) should be compacted “in a saturated state with the modified AASHO compactive effort” (see Waterways Experiment Station,” Soil Compaction Investigation Report No 5, “Miscellaneous Laboratory Tests,” Technical Memorandum No. 3-271, Vicksburg, June 1950). The new test was designated as Modified AASHTO T180 (adopted in 1946), while the ASTM Test Standard D 1557 was not adopted until 1958. Though originally developed for airfield runways and pavement subgrades, the Modified Proctor Test become the national standard by 1985, when UBC Test 70-1 (33,800 ft-lbs/ft3 input energy) was discarded by the UBC Appendix Chapter 70, in favor of ASTM D 1557.

Landslide Investigation and Correction (1946)

In The February 1946 ASCE Proceedings San Francisco engineer and geologist Hyde Forbes published an award-winning article titled “Landslide Investigation and Correction,” which appeared in the 1947 ASCE Transactions and was recognized by the James Laurie Prize of ASCE for 1948. This article and the accompanying discussions included some excellent examples of multi-faceted landslide repairs, using fill buttresses, different types of subdrains, hydraugers advanced from subterranean “drainage pits,” etc.

USGS 7.5-minute quadrangles (1947-95)

Shortly after the Second World War the USGS began to photograph all of the continental United

States to develop 7.5 minute (1:24,000 scale) maps of urban areas and complete their 15-minute (1:62,500 scale) of mountainous and/or uninhabited areas, using orthophoto-derived techniques (most commonly, Zeiss Stereoscopes). These photos were imaged between 1946-49, and the initial series of 7.5-min. maps were released between 1947-59. Less inhabited regions, such as the Diablo Range, were covered by the larger scale 15-minute maps.

In 1956 the USGS began imaging a second series of aerial photos across California, part of a program then envisioned library photography on 10-year intervals. A second series of 7.5 minute maps began to be released, beginning in 1959, based on this new imagery. These second generation maps were only produced in areas where urban growth was rapidly expanding, such as the East Bay. These maps were released between 1956-79. Contour intervals were generally 20 or 40 feet on the 7.5 minute series maps and 40 or 80 feet on the 15 minute series.

In the early 1970s the USGS committed to mapping all of California on 7.5 minute 1:24,000 scale maps, and this program was completed around 1987. Digital map overlays are now provided for areas of large urban growth by using gray shadowing, without benefit of replicating the newly-created topography. These overlay updates are electronically generated from space-based imagery. Funding for USGS mapping activities was severely curtailed during the 94th Congress in 1995, and no new topographic map products are currently contemplated other than shadow overlays delineating newly developed areas. In 1996 Wildflower Productions began releasing USGS 7.5 min. topographic maps in electronic format. The USGS maps remain an important source of information, especially for those areas graded for agriculture or urban development, where old channels, escarpments, debris fans, terraces and landslide features have been all but obscured by man.
Engineering Geology Division of GSA (1947)

The Engineering Geology Division (EGD) of the Geological Society of America was established as the society’s first specialty division in 1947, in contrast to the Society’s established geographic sections. This came about because of the widespread use and organization of engineering geologists and military geologists by federal agencies during the Second World War (1939-45). Prof. Charles P. Berkey of Columbia University served as the division’s first chairman, Sidney Paige as vice-chairman, and Roger Rhoades, secretary. Other geologists who figured prominently in the establishment of the new division included: Arthur B. Cleaves, Parker D. Trask, Edward Burwell, William Irwin, Shailer Philbrick, and George Woollard.

In 1951 one of the earliest definitions of "Engineering Geologist" or "Professional Engineering Geologist" was provided by the Executive Committee of the EGD, as follows: “A professional engineering geologist is a person who, by reason of his special knowledge of the geological sciences and the principles and methods of engineering analysis and design acquired by professional education or practical experience, is qualified to apply such special knowledge for the purpose of rendering professional services or accomplishing creative work such as consultation, investigation, planning, design or supervision of construction for the purpose of assuring that the geologic elements affecting the structures, works or projects are adequately treated by the responsible engineer.” These concepts and definitions were absorbed into the certifications by the City of Los Angeles (1958), Los Angeles County (1960), Orange County (1962), AIPG (1963), and the State of California (1969), described below.

The EGD began publishing a quarterly newsletter titled The Engineering Geologist in April 1966, with Prof. Dick Goodman at Berkeley serving as the first editor. The division was re-named the Environmental & Engineering Geology Division of GSA in 2011, to better reflect the evolving focus of applied geology in the 21st Century.

SEAOCC (1947) and San Francisco Building Code (1948)

Following the 1933 Long Beach Earthquake, a group in the Structural Engineers Association of Southern California developed the first seismic provisions to be put into practice which was published in the 1943 Los Angeles Building Code. The year 1947 marked the formation of the Structural Engineers Association of Central California, SEAOCC (now SEAONC).

Shortly thereafter this organization became part of the state association and was able to lend its support to the efforts of the northern and southern associations. In 1948, the San Francisco Building Code (SFBC) was published and became known as the ‘Vensano Code,’ after Harry Vensano, the Director of Public Works in San Francisco. This code was the first in Northern California to include provisions for seismic design of buildings. Following the 1948 SFBC, a joint group of ASCE and the Structural Engineers Association of Northern California joined to develop a seismic design document which became published as ASCE Separate 66 in 1951.
Adoption of Title 21 and the requirement for compaction testing on public works projects (1950)

In 1950 California Administrative Code Title 21 (Public Works: Department of Public Works, Architecture, Highways, Toll Bridge Authority) was enacted by the California Legislature. This required government agencies to require materials testing for public buildings, streets, and trench backfill of buried utilities in streets. These new requirements included compaction testing of soils, which hastened the inclusion of soils testing capabilities by various firms in the San Francisco Bay Area, such as: Abbot A. Hanks, Inc. of San Francisco (established in 1886), Smith-Emery Co. of San Francisco (established in 1904), the Hersey Inspection Bureau of Oakland (founded in 1946), and Testing and Controls of Mountain View (founded in 1954).

GSA-ASCE Joint Committee on Engineering Geology (1950-86)

The GSA-ASCE Joint Committee on Engineering Geology was established in July 1950 by a memo from William R. Judd, CEG of the Engineering Geology Branch of the Chief Engineers’ office at the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation in Denver, addressed to the Engineering Geology Branch of GSA and the Soil Mechanics and Foundations Division of ASCE. The committee was formed “to deal with all of the problems pertinent to engineering geology, contributing to better understanding and communication between geologists and engineers.” From 1950-68 Judd served as the committee secretary, before joining the faculty at Purdue University in 1966.

Adoption of National Map showing Zones of Seismic Probability (1955)

During the 28th annual meeting of the Pacific Coast Building Officials Conference in 1950, it was moved to adopt a map of the United States showing zones of approximately equal seismic probability, compiled by the U.S. Coast & Geodetic Survey. This was eventually adopted in the 1955 Edition of the Uniform Building Code (UBC) of the Pacific Coast. California was divided into three zones: 1 – minor damage; 2 – moderate damage; and 3- major damage. The black dots on the map indicated the locations of historic earthquakes with shaking intensities between 7 and 10. At that time, the three largest events were the New Madrid earthquakes of 1811-12; the Owens Valley earthquake of 1872, and the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.

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Adoption of Excavation & Grading ordinances in the Bay Area (1956-65)

Influenced by the excavation and grading ordinances adopted in Los Angeles County between 1952-56, in 1956 the City and County of San Francisco adopted their first such ordinance. They were followed by Alameda County in 1958, Contra Costa County in 1960, Richmond in 1961, San Mateo and Monterey Counties in 1961, Santa Rosa, Walnut Creek, and Palo Alto in 1962, Sonoma County in 1964, and Santa Clara County in 1965. By the late 1960s a new awareness of landslides in the urban environment emerged, and the state of the practice at that time was much influenced by Beach Leighton’s classic article titled Landslides and Hillside Development, which appeared in the 1966 AEG publication Engineering Geology in Southern California.

Federal Housing Administration Land Planning Bulletin No. 3 (1956)

In 1956 the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) issued Land Planning Bulletin No. 3, which set forth minimum standards for excavation and grading of residential subdivisions, including: inclinations of cut and fill slopes, requirements for mid-slope drainage terraces, and certification by soils engineers of 95% of Standard Proctor soil compaction. Developers seeking federal assistance had to comply with these standards and present soils & foundation engineering reports.

USGS landslide mapping for FHA (1956-60)

That summer the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) began working in engineering geology in the S.F. Bay Region. The early personnel included Dorothy Radbruch, CEG (1920-), Manuel “Doc” Bonilla, CEG (1920-2006) (BA Geol ’43 Berkeley), Reuben Kachadoorian, CEG (1921-83) (BS Geol ’51 Caltech; MS ’58 Stanford), George Plafker, CEG (BS Geol ’49 Brooklyn Col; MS Geol ’56 Berkeley; PhD ’72 Stanford), and Fred Taylor, RG (Kachadoorian and Plafker transferred to the Alaska Geology Branch, after the 1964 Alaska Earthquake). One of the earliest products of this effort was a study mandated by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) for the proposed development of Warford Mesa in Orinda. This effort was summarized in a 1956 report by Reuben Kachadoorian titled Engineering Geology of the Warford Mesa Subdivision, USGS Open File Report. The 13 page report and detailed landslide map served as Kachadoorian’s master’s thesis in applied geology at Stanford. Doc Bonilla performed similar work in South San Francisco, but on an entire 15-minute quadrangle. This represented the first true reconnaissance-level attempt at landslide mapping, released as a USGS Open File report in 1960, titled Landslides in the San Francisco South Quadrangle, California.

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