Soil Testing Companies Background on soil testing companies



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Founded in 1983 by Frederick W. “Rick” Haltenhoff, CEG, CHG (MS Geol ’78 SJSU), after working for United Soils Engineering. In 1979 Haltenhoff edited the oft-cited volume “Recent deformation along the Hayward, Calaveras, and other fault zones, eastern San Francisco Bay Region, California” for field trips accompanying the Cordilleran Section meeting of the Geological Society of America. The company was based in San Jose. Diane A. Hughes, and Ken Mateik, CEG, CHG (BA Geol ’78 SFSU), and Bill Dugan, PG (BS Geol ’85; MS ’93 SJSU), founder of GeoRestoration and WellTest, all worked for the firm in the 1980s.

Applied Engineering Construction was also founded by Rick Haltenhoff, CEG in March 1985, and based in San Jose. In July 1989 Haltenhoff founded Associated Terra Consultants (ATC), while working part-time as the Santa Clara County Geologist. ATC was originally based in Los Gatos, and then moved to Campbell. In 1993 he was fined for conflict of interest violations as Santa Clara County Geologist in recommending geotechnical reports to assess damages after the October 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake for projects that were later awarded to his firm. He paid the fine and continued to provide respectable work products, passing his CHG exam in 1995. His firm provides a wide array of services relating to engineering geology and hydrogeology, including assessments of septic tanks and leach fields, etc.



Geoforensics (1989-present)

In 1989 Daniel F. Dyckman, GE (BSCE ’80; ME ’81 Cornell) founded Geoforensics as a geotechnical testing and consultation firm, based in Foster City. He previously worked for Haley & Aldrich (1981), Golder Associates (1981-82), and Jeffrey & Katauskas in NSW Australia (1982-83). In 1984 he came to the Bay Area to accept a position with W.F. Jones, Inc, where he served as the office manager until 1989. After starting Geoforensics, he continued to provide technical support for W.F. Jones and other geotechnical firms, with his principal focus on expert witness services.


Nielsen Geotechnical, Inc. (1991-present)

John P. Nielsen, PhD, GE (BSCE ’56 SJSU; MS ’58 Wyoming; PhD ’61 Colorado) began his career in the fall of 1955 working 20 hrs per week for Testing & Controls of Mountain View, while studying civil engineering at San Jose State. After graduation in June 1956, he worked full time for them until departing for graduate school at Wyoming, in the fall of 1957. After completing his PhD at Colorado in 1961 he was hired by Gribaldo, Jacobs, Jones & Associates shortly after their start-up, and shared an office with Bill Jones, with whom he remained close for many years.

In late 1962 he joined Soil Mechanics & Foundation Engineers, Inc. (which became Wahler & Assoiciates) at their office in southern California, supervising large scale triaxial tests (36” x 72” cylinders) for large hillside grading projects. When he returned to the Bay Area he continued working for Wahler & Associates, while teaching soil mechanics courses at San Jose State. In 1983 Al Grbaldo aksed him to supervise the technical aspects of Earth Systems Consultants while he went on an extended trip to Europe. Satisfied with his oversight, Gribaldo asked him to work full-time for Earth Systems, and he remained there for eight years, overseeing the technical aspects of their geotechnical group. In 1991 he established his own consultancy in Los Altos, and in 2007 moved to Palm Desert, where he continued his consulting.


Haro, Kasunich & Associates (1995-present)

Founded by Joseph A. Haro GE (Cabrillo College) of Hollister and John E. Kasunich, GE of Watsonville, in 1995, after both men had worked in the Santa Cruz, Monterey, and San Benito County areas for many years, with Jo Crosby, Myron Jacobs, Jim Reynolds, and Steve Raas, as well as Reynolds, Jacobs, Haro & Associates (1979-81) and Jacobs, Haro & Associates (1981-87), profiled above. The firm is based in Watsonville. Senior engineers have included: Christopher George, PE (BSCE ’87 SJSU), Vicki Odello, PE (BS Geol ’86 CSU Sonoma; MSCE ‘88 Berkeley); Elizabeth Mitchell, PE from 1999-2006 (profiled below), and Moses Cuprill, PE (BSCE 2003, CPSLO) since mid-2005.


Landset Engineers, Inc (1998-present)

Landset Engineers, Inc.was formed in 1998 as a civil engineering design, land surveying, soil and geotechnical engineering, geology, construction inspection and testing, stormwater pollution prevention, and environmental consultation.full-service firm, serving Monterey, San Benito, and southern Santa Clara Counties. The firm principals include: Guy R. Giraudo, PE, LS (BSCE 1990 CPSU-SLO), Brian E. Papurello, CEG (BS Geol 1986 SDSU), and Caroline D. Hodges, PE, QSD (BSCE 2001 Texas A&M). Papurello also serves as the Santa Luis Obispo County Geologist.


ES Geotechnologies (2004-present); Earth Systems Pacific, Inc (2011-present)

The San Francisco Bay Area office of the Earth Systems Group of Companies, replacing Earth Systems Consultants-Northern California. Formed in 2004 and based in Milpitas. President Terrance J. Zich, AG (agricultural engineer) and their Principal Geotechnical Engineer was Bill E. Zehrbach, GE (BSCE ’68 USC; MS ’70 Berkeley). Zehrbach had previously served as vice president of Earth Systems Consultants - Northern California. Girmay Weldegiorgis, PE (BSCE 2002 Arbaminch; MS 2011 CSU Sacramento) serves as senior engineer with Earth Systems Pacific, who maintain an office in the Bay Area.


Pacific Crest Engineering, Inc (2006-present)

Firm founded as a WBE by Elizabeth Mitchell, GE (BSCE 1989 CPSLO; MS ’96 SJSU) in May 2006 and based in Salinas, after having worked for Haro, Kusinich & Associates as a senior project engineer, from 1999-2006. Soma Goresky, GE (BS EnvSci ’86 UCSC; MSCE ’89 SJSU) joined the firm in Feb 2016 as an Associate Geotechnical Engineer.



Wahler threadline
Soil Mechanics & Foundation Engineers, Inc. (1961-68); W. A. Wahler & Associates (1965-79); and Wahler Associates (1979-94)

William A. “Bill” Wahler (1925-88) was born in Colorado in November 1925 and his family moved to southern California in the late 1920s, where his father worked for the Navy and the family lived near San Diego and on Catalina Island before the Second World War. Bill graduated from Pasadena City College in January 1944, and likely entered the military during the last two years of the Second World War. He completed his BSCE in 1950 and MS in March 1952 at the University of Colorado.

In 1952 he formed a partnership with Dr. Jim Sherard in Denver and Washington, DC, which only lasted about a year. The following year (1953) Sherard joined Woodward-Clyde as their 4th partner, and Wahler sent to Harvard (Sherard’s alma mater) to secure advanced training in soil mechanics. After this he returned to Denver to work for the Bureau for a few years before moving to the San Francisco Bay Area, around 1955-56 (he was registered as a California PE in 1956), possibly to work for Bechtel’s earth dams group.

In 1961 Soil Mechanics & Foundation Engineers was established with Bill Wahler, PE, CEG as President with a 78% share, and John G. Pacey, PE as Vice President, with a 22% share. The firm was based in Sunnyvale. Wahler handled the dam engineering work the firm performed, both within the United States and overseas; while Pacey managed all of foundation engineering and local geotechnical work in California. Pacey had a MSCE degree in soil mechanics from MIT in 1956. He received his PE registration in 1965, but departed in 1968 to found Terratech along with Wayne Ferree (profiled below).

In 1965 the firm was re-organized as W.A. Wahler & Associates. Key individuals of the late 1960s included: Chief Geologist Robert O. Dobbs (died in 1969), Eugene A. Nelson, CEG, Doug Hamilton, CEG, Ed Danehy, CEG, Roger Hail, CEG, Rolf Mannson, PE (from Sweeden), Richard C. Harlan, PE, Peter Kaldveer, PE, John Lowney, PE, Richard L. Meehan, PE, James F. Riley, PE, and Richard L. Volpe, PE. Joseph N. Gabriel supervised the field work during construction and Earl Williams came from the Bureau of Reclamation lab to manage Wahler’s soils lab.



With the departure of Wayner Ferree and John Pacey in 1968, followed by the departure of Meehan, Nelson, Hamilton, and Harding seven months later (in 1969), management the day-to-day operations were taken over by Jack Wulff, PE (BSCE ’50 UNR). Wulff implemented an associates program to encourage the senior staff to became junior partners of the firm, which was approved by Bill Wahler. This program had three levels: Principal Associates, Senior Associates, and Associates. The value of the firm was estimated by an external audit and the associates were floated loans to begin purchasing stock. The original Principal Associates were Jack Wulff, PE, Chuck Perry, PE, Frank Kresse, CEG, Chuck Stewart, PE, and George B. Fink, PE (1925-2009). The Senior Associates were Tony Buangan, CEG, Jon Hennegan, GE, Dick Volpe, GE, Forrest Gifford, GE, Ken Rodda, GE, and Joe Kulikowski, GE (managed the Newport Beach office). The Associates were Dick Lubina, PE, Leonardo Alvarez, CEG, Jose Ladazzari, GE, Ed Danehy, CEG, Ernie Solomon, CEG, and Bob Tepel, CEG (BS Geol ’60 CSULA). Other senior geologists included Frank Kresse, CEG from the CA DWR (who departed for Harding Lawson in Aug 1976), Jean M. Bahr (BS Geol ’76 Yale; MS ’85; PhD ’87 Stanford), and joined the faculty of the University of Wisconsin as a hydrogeologist; and Jim Berkland, CEG (BA Geol ’58 Berkeley), who came from the Bureau of Reclamation in Sacramento and was named Santa Clara County Geologist in 1977.
Wahler’s soils laboratory: Wahler & Associates maintained one of the best soil mechanics laboratories in the United States in the 1960s and 70s. It was Bill Wahler’s goal to maintain lab capabilities equal to, or better, than the Bureau of Reclamation in Denver. These efforts pre-dated the era of automated data acquisition we enjoy today, and required considerable effort and manpower to manually recorded readings, arpoud the clock, seven days a week. All of the triaxial cells and lab cabinetry were manufactured in-house by Jack Wahler, Bill Wahler’s older brother, who was an expert machinist. They employed a triaxial-cell-bay that could handle six samples at a time for back-pressure saturation, and performed triaxial permeability and pore pressure dissipation studies. They were able to apply loads isotropically, anisotropically, and under kloading conditions. The also employed high-pressure-rated triaxial cells that could exert confining stresses up to 750 psi, while specimen sample size could vary between 2.4, 2.875. 4.0, 6.0, and 12.0 inches in diameter, very unusual at that time, and today. They also had several Wykum-Farenc load cells, the largest of which could accurately measure vertical loads up to 50 tons of force. The Wahler Lab also performed all of the triaxial and consolidation testing for Bechtel’s earth dams group in San Francisco. It was an incredibly productive lab, and the great majority of testing was for in-house work. They possessed impressive capabilities in performing consolidation testing. They were the first soils lab to develop the capability of performing dynamic triaxial tests in the mid-1970s. By that time their lab was doing more lab work for other clients than simply for Wahler, under the direction of Dick Volpe, PE (BSCE ’63; MS ’64 SJSU), who maintained the title of Lab Director until he departed in 1979.

During the 1970s the firm grew from 20 to more than 50 employees, working on projects in Brazil, Costa Rica, Mali, Nigeria, and the Philippines. They maintained branch offices in Newport Beach and Washington, DC. The DC office coordinated contracts with the US Bureau of Mines to assess the stability all mine tailings dams in the USA following the failure of the Buffalo Creek Coal Refuse embankment in 1972. In 1976 they hired retired Army Brigadier General George B. Fink, PE (BSCE ’46 USMA; MS ’53 Caltech; MS ’63 GWU), who had recently served as the Sacramento District Engineer, as commander of the Pacific Ocean (in Honolulu) and South Pacific (in San Francisco) Divisions of the Army Corps of Engineers, then as VP of Metcalf & Eddy in Palo Alto. In the late 1970s, John J. Hengan, GE (BSCE ’63 IIT) served as the firm’s Manager of Foundation Engineering and as President of SAFEA in 1981-82 (before moving to Earth Systems Consultants in Fremont). A few other senior engineers of this period included Michael J. Poulson, Roger L. Wilson, and Farad S. Mawlaoui.

In April 1979 the senor partners took control of the company away from Wahler and established Wahler Associates, and Bill Wahler formed a new firm named W.A. Wahler, Inc. Wahler Associates continued operating for another 15 years. George Fink assumed presidency of this new firm. Jack G. Wulff, PE (1929-2009), former Chief of Earth Dams Design at CA DWR, succeeded Fink as the President and CEO, in 1985. Forrest Gifford, GE became the Chief Geotechnical Engineer, and Ernie Solomon, CEG (BA Geol ’59 Berkeley) was named Chief Geologist. During their last decade some of their senior staff included Jim McClure, PhD, GE, Lou Richardson, CEG, and many others. Many of the firm’s principals had previously worked for the CA DWR on the State Water Project (Wulff, Perry, Gifford, Solomon, Danehy, Kresse, Harding, and Tepel). Bill Wahler closed out his professional career working as the San Jose City Geologist, beginning in 1984, and died on September 1, 1988 (at age 62).
Terratech, Inc. (1968-98)

Founded by Wayne E. Ferree, GE (BSCE ’56 and BS GeoE ’56 Washington Univ-St Louis; MSCE ’65 Harvard) and John G. Pacey, GE (MS ’56 MIT) in 1968 and based in San Jose. Previous to the start-up Pacey had served as a managing partner, and Ferree as chief engineer, of Wahler & Associates. Previous to this Ferree had worked 10 years with Fru-Con Construction Corp in St. Louis (1956-66). Pacey served as president of Terratech in the early 1970s, before starting EMCON in 1981 (profiled below).

Other senior staff included: Dennis E. Eccles, PE, Jerry Freeman, CEG, Michael A. Kern, CEG, Pete Anderson, CEG (fmr Santa Clara County assistant geologist), Jon Benfer, John Mattey, Joe Gabriel, CEG, Mark R. Peterson, PE, CEG, Betsy Mathieson, CEG, Frank Groffie, CEG, Bob Baker, and Joe Rafferty, GE. They had three Bay Area offices for a while. Pete Anderson, CEG departed in 1988 to found Pacific Geotechnical Engineering in Morgan Hill. Before the firm shut down, Wayne had been practicing solo for many years, mostly as an expert witness. Around 1992 Ferree moved to Minden, NV (just south of Carson City), and continued serving as an expert witness, as recently as 2103.
Earth Science Associates (1969-90)

Founded in 1969 by Richard L. Meehan, PE, Gene Nelson, CEG, Doug Hamilton, CEG, Dick Harding, CEG, and John D. Fett, CEG, RGp, with Professor Dick Jahns of Stanford as one of the firm’s Directors. Geotechnical engineer Dick Meehan (BSCE ’61 MIT; MS ’66 Univ London; DIC ’66 Imperial College) served as the firm’s president. Prior to this Dick had worked for Wahler (1967-69), Tippetts, Abbett, McCarthy, and Stratton (TAMS) in New York, the Royal Irrigation Department in Thailand (1963-65), and as an officer in the Army Corps of Engineers (1961-63). ESA drew their key personnel from Wahler & Associates. Nelson, Hamilton, and Harding were engineering geologists, while Fett was a geophysicist from the southern California office. Gene Nelson received his BS in geology from Caltech (1956). Doug Hamilton had a master’s degree in geology from Stanford (1962) and later completed his PhD in geology at Stanford (1984). Dick Harding (1935-97) had a BS in geology from UC Riverside (1961). John Fett (1933-2009) had a BA in geology from Redlands (1954), BS in physics from Caltech (1956), and an MS in geophysics from UC Riverside (1968). He departed the firm after a short time, but served as a consultant on a number of projects. The firm was based in Palo Alto on Welch Road, adjacent to the Stanford campus. Earth Sciences Consultants was ESA’s branch office in Colorado.

During the 1970s some of the principal staff included: Leonardo Alvarez, CEG, who came from Chile (and moved to EMCON), Roger Hail, Karl Vonder Linden, CEG (PhD Geol ’72 Stanford), Robert H. Wright, CEG (BS Geol ’68 SJSU; PhD ’82 UCSC), Patrick O. Shires, PE, RGP (BS Geophy ’72; MSCE ’75 Stanford), Michael Dukes, PE, Michael L. Traubenik, GE, Barbara L. Turner, Douglas M. Yadon, PE, CEG (BS GenEng & Geol ’74 Oregon State; MSCE ‘76 Stanford), Philip A. Frame, CEG (BS Geol ’69; MS ’74 SJSU) , Roger D. Robert, PE, and Jon Y. Kaneshiro, PE, CEG (BA Geol ’80; MSCE ’81 Berkeley). According to Dave O’Shea, ESA closed the doors of its Bay Area office in June1996.
Emcon/Emcon Associates (1971-91); Emcon Associates, Inc (1991-present)

Emcon Associates was founded in 1971 by John G. Pacey, GE (MSCE ’56 MIT), former managing principal with Wahler and Terratech. The firm was based in San Jose before moving to San Mateo in the mid-1990s. Some of the firm’s early principals and partners included: Eugene M. Herson, H. Randolph Sweet, Donald R. Andres, PE, Thorley D. Briggs, Richard J. Leach, PE, Fred W. Cope, PE, and Robert E. Van Heuit, PE. Their first principal geologist was Leonardo Alvarez, CEG. A foreign for-profit corporation was established in 1981 for overseas work, and the firm was subaequently re-organized as Emcon Associates, Inc. in June 1991. At that time the principals included William C. Paris, Jr., PG as President (from Bechtel), H. Lee Fortier, PE, Peter W. Clifford, Douglas A. Liddie, IE, Michael T. Dukes, GE, Donald M. Olsen, PE, Richard A. Peluso, Peter Vardy, CEG, and Hari D. Sharma, GE (PhD GeotE ‘73 Purdue) as Chief Geotechnical Engineer.

Emcon’s business focus has been on solid waste management and geoenvironmental emgineering, including the design, construction, and permitting of solid waste facilities, and remedial investigations. In the early 1990s the firm established regional offices across the United States as separate entities (EMCON-West in San Jose, EMCON-South in Jacksonville, EMCON-Wehran in New York, EMCON-OWT in Baton Rouge, etc). The company currently has 950 employees in 40 offices spread across 16 states and Puerto Rico, with annual revenues of about $115 million. EMCON's professional staff includes chemical, civil, geotechnical, mechanical, electrical, and environmental engineers; marine and terrestrial biologists; oceanographers; plant ecologists; chemists; geologists; hydrogeologists; hydrologists and toxicologists.
Riley Associates, Consulting Civil Engineers, Inc. (1971-2004)

Consulting firm established in 1971 by James F. “Jim” Riley, PE (1926-2004), a principal with W.A. Wahler & Associates. The firm was based in Saratoga and was not incorporated until November 1979. In 1976 he and George R. MacLeod of Saratoga patented a semi-conductor wafer packging system which they sold to Monsanto Corporation.



Lowney-Kaldveer Associates (1971-75)

Established by John V. Lowney and Peter Kaldveer in 1971. John and Pete had previously worked with one another at W.A. Wahler & Associates (profiled above). Some of their senior associates included Don Hillebrandt (formerly with Dames and Moore, Woodward Clyde, and Lee & Praszker) who worked out of the firm’s Oakland office, while Martin R. Owen was sent down to San Diego to manage a branch office established there (from 1971-76). Robert R. “Bob” Prater came over from Woodward Clyde to be the firm’s chief engineer, then moved to the branch office in San Diego. From 1969-71 their chief engineering geologist was Jeremy C. Wire, CEG (BA Geol ’58 Pomona; MA ’61 UCLA), formerly with USACE WES-Vicksburg and the Santa Clara Valley Water District.

Aroud 1975 the firm was split up into derivative firms: Peter Kaldveer & Associates in Oakland, Don Hillebrandt & Associates in San Francisco, Prater and Associates in San Diego, Don Banta & Associates in Mountain View, and Mike Cleary & Associates in Los Altos, Owen Geotechnical in San Diego, and John V. Leonard Civil Engineers in San Jose.
Kaldveer & Associates (1975-92); Harza West (1992-2003); Fugro West (2003-10); Fugro Consultants, Inc. (2010-present)

Founded by Peter Kaldveer, GE (BSCE ’63 SJSU; MS ’64 Berkeley). In 1979 geotechnical engineers Dick Short, GE (formerly with Woodward Lundgren), and Ron Bajuniemi, GE (BSCE ’71; MS ’73 UC Davis; now with Fugro) became partners. Short served as President of SAFEA in 1983-84. Some of their more notable employees included: Richard Rodgers, GE (Lee & Praszker, Treadwell & Rollo), Alan Kropp, GE (Alan Kropp & Associates), Bill Rudolph, GE (Subsurface Consultants), Mike MacRae, PE (Jacobs Associates), John North (Kleinfelder), Robin Bartlett (City of San Ramon), Patrick Stevens (deceased in 2013), Ken Ferrone, PE (Stevens, Ferrone & Bailey), Ken Sorrensen (Kleinfelder), John R. Sutton, GE (The Sutton Group), while David Hoexter, CEG managed the environmental and geological services team (1987-91).

In 1992 Kaldveer & Associates was sold to Harza Engineering Co. of CA (Harza ECC). Fugro West absorbed Harza’s CA operations in 2003, and were reorganized as Fugro Consultants, Inc. in 2010 (profiled separately, below). Tom McNeilan, PE was the first Oakland branch manager for Fugro West, around 1997. Project managers included Christopher D. Trumbull, GE (BSCE ’89; MS ’95 SJSU).

After their absorption by Harza, VP Richard D. “Dick” Short, GE (BSCE ’66 UNR; MS ’72 Berkeley) managed the Oakland office of Klienfelder Associates. He then became manager of the Blackhawk GHAD, where he invented plate piles to mitigate shallow slope failures. In 2004, he started Slope Reinforcement Technology, based in Danville, which designs and oversees installation of plate piles for public and private clients. In August 2012 they were purchased by Geopier Foundations, a subsidiary of Tensar.


John V. Lowney Associates (1975-95); Lowney Associates (1995-2007); TRC Lowney (2007)
Formed by John V. Lowney (BSCE ’59 Manhattan College; MS ’61 Purdue) in Palo Alto in 1969. Previous to this he worked for Moran, Proctor, Mueser & Rutledge in New York (1961-65), followed by a year with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Kansas City. He then worked for a small consulting firm in Las Vegas, which had a contract at the Nevada Test Site. In 1967, Lowney joined Wahler Associates in Palo Alto and worked on the engineering aspects of several earth dams in California and Peru, as well as commercial developments. Between 1971-75 he formed Lowney-Kaldveer, a partnership with Peter Kaldveer, who covered the East Bay, while Lowney covered the San Francisco Peninsula.

In 1975 Lowney separated from Kaldveer and remained on his own the balance of his active career (till 2003). His long-time senior engineer was Glenn Romig, GE, while engineering geologists included David W. Buckley, PE, CEG (1978-84), David Hoexter, CEG (from Woodward-Clyde) (1984-85), followed by Ron Helm, who joined the firm in 1988. Fred Brovold, GE was a senior engineer between 1999-2005.

Lowney retired in June 2003 and turned the helm over to Ron L. Helm, CEG. Brian Hubel was senior engineer and Tom McCloskey, CEG became their principal geologist around 2005. In January 2007 TRC (Lowney Associates) joined all of TRC’s affiliate companies under the TRC Companies, Inc. geotechnical engineering brand (which evolved from the Travelers Weather Research Center, an affiliate of the Travelers Insurance Company, formed in 1961; which became an independent Connecticut corporation named TRC in 1969). Also called TRC Solutions during the environmental era, they have offices in Mountain View, Fairfield, Oakland, San Ramon and Fullerton. Key personnel are Kent Screechfield and Brian Hubel in their Mountain View office.

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