Soil Testing Companies Background on soil testing companies



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California Association of Engineering Geologists (1957); Association of Engineering Geologists (1963); Association of Environmental & Engineering Geologists (2005-present)

In June 1957 13 engineering geologists met in Sacramento to discuss the formation of an organization or society specific to the emerging field of engineering geology. The founders were employees of the U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Army Corps of Engineers, California Department of Water Resources and Division of Highways, and two consultants (including Ray Taber of Moore & Taber). Over the next eight months they drafted the Constitution and Bylaws as the California Association of Engineering Geologists (CAEG), with three sections in Sacramento, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. CAEG vigorously promoted certification of engineering geologists in southern California (in Los Angeles, Orange, and Ventura Counties) and then professional registration of geologists in California (and later, nationwide).

AEG was also the organization primarily responsible for the development of “modern” [second generation] grading and excavation codes, adopted in southern California in the early 1960s and by the International Conference of Building Officials for inclusion in the Uniform Building Code in 1964. As interest in affiliation spread beyond California, the prefix was dropped and it became the [national] Association of Engineering Geologists, or AEG, in January 1963, and was accepted as a member society in the American Geological Institute in 1964.

In 1963 AEG began publishing a referred journal titled “Bulletin of the Association of Engineering Geologists,” released quarterly. Management of this journal was conjoined with the Geological Society of America in 1995 and the name changed to “Environmental & Engineering Geoscience,” released six times per year. In January 2005 members voted to change the name to the Association of Environmental & Engineering Geologists to better describe the geoenvironmental work many of its members specialized in. The new name was formally adopted in September 2005, although the organization still calls itself “AEG.”


USDA Soil Conservation Service county reports (1960-94)

Around 1960 the Soil Conservation Service (SCS) began publishing reports contain summaries of engineering properties for the mapped soils on aerial photo mosaics published at 1:24,000 (same scale as 7.5 min. quadrangles). The post-1960 SCS reports also contain tabulations of test data and engineering classifications, according to the American Association of State Highway Officials (AASHTO) and Unified Soil Classification System (USC) used by most consultants. The SCS has published and updated these reports from 1960 to present, though they are often out-of-print. In 1971 SCS issued their Guide for Interpreting Engineering Uses of Soils (USDA, Soil Conservation Service, Washington, D.C., 86 p.), which lays forth the rationale by which engineering classifications of soil are tabulated in the individual county reports they publish.


American Institute of Professional Geologists (1963)
Prior to 1963, geologists were not accountable with respect to public responsibility, regulation, and business practice, and no established guidelines or no national representation existed in behalf of those engaged in private practice. That year a small group of geologists met in Golden, Colorado, to compose the Constitution and Bylaws for the American Institute of Professional Geologists (AIPG), which was chartered on November 14, 1963 as a nonprofit corporation. Consulting petroleum geologist Martin Van Couvering of Los Angeles was elected the first President, and the institute’s headquarters was established at the Colorado School of Mines. Members who went through an established process of verifying their formal education and professional experience could qualify to use the title "Certified Professional Geologists," abbreviated by the letters "CPG" after their name. This was fairly common practice in California prior to the state’s adoption of a geologist registration act in 1969.

AIPG drew a significant number of its members from AEG, who were most concerned about geology registration (most consulting geologists in the mining and petroleum industries were ambivalent about professional registration). AIPG worked diligently to secure model registration acts in those states where a significant number of geologists worked I the private sector, usually working with the local organizations operating in those areas.

AIPG become a national organization with a membership of nearly 850 by 1965, little more than a year after its founding. By 1974, AIPG had more than 2,000 members, and moved its headquarters to 622 Gardenia Court in Golden, where it remained for eight years. By the mid-1970s it had attracted a broad spectrum of geoscientists, including geophysicists, geochemists, and engineering geologists. In 1982 the AIPG headquarters moved to Arvada, Colorado. Today, AIPG has over 5,000 Members and Affiliates, which are organized into 36 sections.
First Engineering Geology Lab Manual (1965)

In 1965 Professor Arthur H. Brownlow of Boston University and consulting geologist Mahlon J. Reinhard of Wichita, Kansas co-authored Laboratory Manual - Geology for Engineers, published by W.C. Brown of Dubuque, Iowa. One of those who contributed significantly to the the manual’s review was Professor Thomas S. Beverage, Chairman of the geological engineering department at the Missouri School of Mines.


Completion of Geologic Atlas of California (1966)

In 1951 the State Mineralogist Olaf P. Jenkins initiated a program of preparing a new Geologic Atlas of California, aimed at filling in the unmapped regions on the 1938 State Geologic Map project he had previously compiled in the late 1930s (described above). In this effort the base map would be the new USGS 1:250,000 scale 1o latitude by 2o longitude topographic sheets, at double the scale of the 1938 map sheets (1:500,000). This began as something of an adhoc project, compiling information from all available sources, such as the published literature, mapping by students of the major universities, academic theses and dissertations, mapping by state and federal agencies, mapping by mining and petroleum firms, select mapping by the State Division of Mines, and the mapping of Thomas W. Dibblee, Jr, which eventually encompassed almost 20% of the state. The project was complicated by the fact that it sought to conjoin geologic mapping of divergent eras, with different scales, and with outdated stratigraphic nomenclature. In many cases, detailed geologic mapping was adjacent to poorly understood, incompletely mapped, or totally unmapped areas. A master legend of the state’s geologic units was included on the margins of each sheet. These include 79 geologic units designated by specific colors and/or patterns, and 39 additional units, distinguished by special symbols.

Eight preliminary black & white sheets were released in 1955. The first color map, the Death Valley Sheet, was released in 1958. When Ian Campbell succeeded Jenkins as the State Mineralogist/Geologist in January 1959, he kept the state mapping program alive, under the direction of Charles W. Jennings. Campbell added a series of Bouguer Gravity Anomaly overlays on top of the State Geologic Map sheets. All 27 sheets of the State Geologic Atlas were completed in 1966, and in color print by 1969. These were labeled the “Olaf P. Jenkins Sheets,” in honor of Dr. Jenkens’ role in initiating the program (described in Jahns, R.H., 1961, Geologic Map of California, Olaf P. Jenkins edition: Economic Geology, 56:6, p. 1154-1156). Revision and periodic updates of these 1o x 2o map sheets continues to be a priority of the state survey.
Establishment of Geologic Hazards Committee (1967) and Town Geologist (1969) for Portola Valley

Shortly after incorporation of the Town of Portola Valley in July 1964, one of the residents, Dr. Dwight Crowder, a geologist with the USGS and a member of the Town’s Conservation Committee, recommended geologic mapping and adoption of development regulations to limit exposure to geohazards, which they knew from the surface fault ruptures engendered by the April 1906 San Francisco Earthquake, was a very real hazard. In 1967 the Town Council approved the formation of a Geologic Hazards Committee. Its original members included several geologists, including Professor Ben Page (Stanford) and Dr. Robert Wallace (USGS).

In 1969 Stanford Geology Professor Bill Dickenson began mapping of the surface traces of the San Andreas Fault. Later that same year the town hired its first Town Geologist, Stanford Geology Professor Arvid Johnson, CEG. In 1974 the Town Council approved and adopted the “Geologic Map of Portola Valley” and “Movement Potential of Undisturbed Ground,” and established land use policies for lands shown on those maps. This included recent mapping by the State Division of Mines & Geology for the Alquist-Priolo Special Studies Zone Map (described below) covering Portola Valley, and adoption of Geologic Criteria for all permitted development in the town.

When Arvid Johnson departed Stanford in the summer of 1978 he was succeeded by Hayward State Geology Professor Jon Clark Cummings, CEG (MS Geol ’56; PhD 1960 Stanford) who had previously prepared a report titled “Geology and Geologic Hazards, Town of Woodside, California,” released in 1976. When Cummings died in 1986, he was replaced by William R. “Bill” Cotton, CEG, whose firm, Cotton, Shires & Associates, Inc., has served in that capacity ever since.


Essential Services Building Seismic Safety Act (1968)

In 1968 the California Legislature enacted the Essential Services Building Seismic Safety Act, which set standards to ensure that essential facilities could withstand seismic loads greater than non-essential services structures. “Essential Services Buildings” are those which are used or designed to be used as a fire station, police station, emergency operations center, California Highway Patrol Office, sheriff’s office, or emergency communications dispatch center.


State Board of Registration for Geology & Geophysics (1968-2009)

After seven years of vociferous lobbying by AEG and the political support of State Geologist Dr. Ian Campbell, in 1968 the State Legislature and Governor Reagan approved legislation establishing the California Board of Registration for Geologists and Geophysicists (BRGG), which was sponsored by Assemblyman Bill Ketchum of Bakersfield. It was the first geosciences professional registration board in the United States. The Act became law on November 13, 1968, and made it unlawful to practice geology without a license in California after December 31, 1969. The California State Board of Registration for Geologists was established on June 30, 1969.

Applicants that filed with the board after November 13, 1969 were required to take a written examination, while those who applied before this date and were approved by the board received their licenses through grandfathering. The first certificates were issued in September 1970. By 1972, 848 people re-registered themselves in California as Certified Engineering Geologists (CEGs). Of these, only 518 were California registrants, the remaining being individuals who grandfathered into the title, but maintained residences out-of-state or, out-of-country.

Two years were then expended evaluating the respective roles and responsibilities engineering geologists would have, as opposed to civil engineers. By June 1970 the stated purpose of the BRGG was to protect consumers by ensuring that people practicing geology and geophysics possessed sufficient education, experience, and knowledge to competently perform their duties, such as: geologic mapping of subsurface condition exposed during construction, geologic mapping, assessing presence and risk of landslippage, evaluating groundwater conditions, using remote sensing or aerial photos to investigate the geomorphic character and structure of an area, using geophysical methods to investigate the subsurface, logging boreholes, and assessing mineral deposits.

Geologists and geophysicists were licensed as separate disciplines, with the subspecialty certifications in engineering geology (from 1970), and hydrogeology (from 1995). This action came largely as a result of landslides, slope failures, and significant property damage, including the infamous Portuguese Bend and Abalone Cove Landslides on the Palos Verdes Peninsula in the 1960s.

With the passage of Senate Bill 1914 in the fall of 2004, the name for licensed geologists in the State of California changed from Registered Geologist (RG) to Professional Geologist (PG), effective January 1, 2005. In 2009 the BRGG was absorbed into the Board of Registration for Engineers and Land Surveyors (BORPELS), to save money. On January 1, 2011 the name was changed to the Board for Professional Engineers, Land Surveyors and Geologists.


Associated Soil & Foundation Engineers (1969-75); Association of Soil and Foundation Engineers (1975-88); ASFE/The Geoprofessional Business Association (1988-93); ASFE/The Association of Engineering Firms Practicing in the Geosciences (1993-2014); Geoprofessional Business Association [GBA] (2014-present)

The insurance situation for geotechnical practitioners worsened markedly in the wake of damaging storms of 1967-68 and 1968-69 in northern and southern California. These storms wrought so much property damage that geotechnical engineering firms suddenly found themselves unable to purchase liability insurance. The principals of ten consulting geotechnical engineering firms met in a Chicago airport hotel in December 1968 to resolve a common problem that threatened their companies: Professional-liability claims were at an all-time high and professional-liability insurers worldwide refused to cover them. In May 1969 the ten firms formally launched Associated Soil and Foundation Engineers, Inc. to identify the causes of professional liability claims and losses, and to develop programs and materials to help geoprofessionals reduce liability exposure in the future. These same firms also agreed to form Terra Insurance Corporation, based in Monterey, CA (ASFE headquarters was based in Silver Spring, MD).

Within a year of its formation, ASFE launched a new contract provision called “Limitation of Liability.” After 1970, ASFE member firms re-defined field activities to limit their scope to providing construction observation and testing services, eliminating the terms “inspection,” or any inference that they were “directing,” “overseeing,” or “approving” construction activities. The adoption of increasingly tighter Limitation of Liability (LOL) clauses, limiting their exposure to the sum total of the professional fees incurred by the geotechnical engineers, followed shortly thereafter.

In 1975 the organization changed its name to the Association of Soil and Foundation Engineers. In 1977, ASFE initiated Organizational Peer Reviews of member firms seeking to be insured by Terra Insurance, and helped the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC), the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), and the American Institute of Architects (AIA) develop programs based on ASFE’s model. Through Peer Review, firms enhance the quality of their performance by having their methods and materials reviewed and critiqued by experienced peers.

ASFE-member firms underwent a transformation in the mid-1980s, as they expanded their staffs and service mixes to provide expertise to the then-emerging field of hazardous waste remediation and attendant geoenvironmental assessments and remediation services. These roles and markets have continued to evolve, and today provide geotechnical, geologic, environmental, construction materials engineering and testing, and related geoprofessional services.

In 1985 the organization abandoned “Association of Soil and Foundation Engineers,” changing its name to ASFE: The Geoprofessional Business Association. In 1993 the organization’s name was changed again, to ASFE/The Association of Engineering Firms Practicing in the Geosciences to better reflect the expansion into geoenvironmental and geohydrology disciplines. In July 2014 the member forms voted to drop the ASFE acronym and replaced it with “Geoprofessional Business Association (GBA), which the membership felt describes the organization and its purpose.










National Environmental Policy Act (1969) and regulation of solid waste disposal

In 1969 Congress passed the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in response to increasing societal attention environmental degradation triggered by anthropogenic activities. As a result of NEPA, the US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) was created and activated on 1 January, 1970, and the related Federal agency programs were considerably re-shuffled. As defined by the Federal government, solid waste encompasses wastes of municipal origin (residential and commercial, as opposed to industrial). Prior to the creation of USEPA in 1970, California acted under the Federal Solid Waste Management Law, which required that each County create and submit its own Solid Waste Management Plan by 1 Jan, 1974. As a result of the follow-up Congressional legislation (see RCRA in 1976, below) the common forms of wastes and of air pollution were established and then integrated into California’s regulatory agencies. California established a State Solid Waste Management Board in 1972, which was renamed the California Waste Management Board in 1982. This was incorporated into the California Integrated Waste Management Board (CIWMB) established in 1989, one of six agencies subsequently absorbed into the California Environmental Protection Agency (Cal/EPA) when it was formed in 1991 (see below).


USGS/HUD San Francisco Bay Region Environment & Resources Planning Study (1970-83)

In the early 1970s the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) sponsored joint project with the Western Regional Office of the U.S. Geological Survey termed the San Francisco Bay Region Environment and Resources Planning Study. Its purpose was to develop geologic hazard maps for planning purposes in the San Francisco Bay Region. This was an unprecedented undertaking, which involved compiling maps on a wide range of features, including bedrock geology, landslides, groundwater resources, hydrology, water quality, and toxicity. Earl Brabb, PG (BA Geol ’51 Dartmouth; MS ’52 Michigan; PhD ’60 Stanford), a geologist with the Regional Geology Group in Menlo Park, supervised this project. His goal was to glean unpublished geodata from the petroleum industry and spearheaded the preparation of large volumes of geologic mapping products as part of the HUD Landslide Mapping Program (described below). These work products were subsequently released by the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG). An early example of this program included baseline geologic map sheets of most counties, such as: Brabb, Sonneman and Switzer, 1971, Preliminary Geologic Map of the Mt. Diablo-Byron Area, Contra Costa, Alameda and San Joaquin Counties, CA: USGS Open File Map, 1:62,500 [blueline].

In the aftermath of the HUD program, the Western Regional Office also released a number of pioneering reports addressing various types of geohazards, and how to assess these for planning purposes. These post-HUD products included the 940 series of Professional Papers: R.D. Borcherdt, ed., 1975, Studies for Seismic Zonation of the San Francisco Bay Region: USGS Professional Paper 941-A, 102 p.; A.O. Waananen, et al, 1977, Flood-Prone Areas and Land Use Planning - Selected Examples from the San Francisco Bay Region, CA: USGS Professional Paper 942, 75 p.; E.J. Helley, et al, 1979, Flatland Deposits of the San Francisco Bay Region, California - their geology and engineering properties, and their importance to comprehensive planning: USGS Professional Paper 943, 88 p.; Tor H. Nilsen, et al, 1979, Relative Slope Stability And Land-use Planning In The San Francisco Bay Region, CA: USGS Professional Paper 944, 96 p.; Raymond T. Laird, et al, 1979, Quantitative Land-Capability Analysis: USGS Professional Paper 945, 115 p.; and R.D. Brown and W.J. Kockelman, 1983, Geologic Principles for Prudent Land Use: USGS Professional Paper 946, 97 p.
USGS-HUD Landslide Hazard Mapping S.F. Bay Area (1970-77)

The USGS-HUD San Francisco Bay Region Environment and Resources Planning Study described above also paid for the preparation of reconnaissance-level bedrock geology and landslide hazard maps, initially at 1:62,500 scale. The first of the true landslide maps was E.E. Brabb, E.H. Pampeyan and M.G. Bonilla, 1972, Landslide Susceptibility in San Mateo County, CA: USGS Misc Field Studies Map MF-360.

These were followed upon by special bulletins dealing with landslide mapping and correlations between rainfall and historic activity , which culminated in the following documents: T.H. Nilsen and B. L. Turner, 1975, Influence of Rainfall and Ancient Landslides (1950-71) In Urban Areas of Contra Costa County, CA: USGS Bulletin 1388, 18 p., 1 pl.; T.H. Nilsen, F.A. Taylor and E.E. Brabb, 1976, Recent Landslides in Alameda County, CA (1940-71): An Estimate of Economic Losses and Correlations with Slope, Rainfall, and Ancient Landslide Deposits: USGS Bulletin 1398, 21 p, 1 pl.; and T.H. Nilsen, F.A. Taylor and R.M. Dean, 1976, Natural Conditions That Control Landsliding in the San Francisco Bay Region - and Analysis Based on Data From the 1968-69 and 1972-73 Rainy Seasons: USGS Bulletin 1424, 35 p., 1 pl. The landslide maps contained in these bulletins were also released at a scale of 1:62,500, or about 1 inch to the mile.

The key products of the HUD program were 57 7.5-minute USGS landslide quadrangle maps by Tor Nilsen, termed Preliminary Maps of Landslides and Surficial Soil Deposits, and released as open file reports, beginning in 1975 (method described in T.H. Nilsen and E.E. Brabb, 1977, Slope stability studies in the S.F. Bay region, CA: GSA Reviews in Eng’g Geology, v. III, p. 235-243). In the late 1970s these HUD products were re-released by the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG), as Basic Data Contributions. Most of these maps are now out-of-print, but have been scanned onto CDs and are available from private sources/suppliers, such as Graphic Reproduction in Concord.


Soil and Foundation Engineers Association (SAFEA) (1971-87); California Geotechnical Engineers Association (1987-2009); CalGeo (2009- present)

In February 1970, a group of soil and foundation engineers from Southern California met to discuss the status of the profession, and to assess if there was a need to form an organization to represent the unique needs of California’s private-practice geotechnical engineering consultants. In May 1971, the Soil and Foundation Engineers Association (SAFEA) was established with a goal unlike other engineering associations. Rather than focus only on technical research and social events, SAFEA tried to address the key business and legislative issues necessary to advance the profession of private-practice geotechnical engineering. In the mid-1980s SAFEA successfully lobbied for a Geotechnical Engineer title act by the State Board of Registration for Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors. From 1987 onward the professional title “geotechnical engineer” can only be used by those who are duly registered, similar to “structural engineer.” In 1987 the organization changed its name to the California Geotechnical Engineers Association, and this was shortened to CalGeo in 2009. The organization continues to meet and discuss various issues that impact California’s private-practice geotechnical professionals.

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