Things That Geologists Wear and Use & the Attire of a Geologist

 Things that Geologists Wear and Use

The things that geologists wear and use can be interesting to learn about. Just like any profession, there are different disciplines of geology, all of which call for the use of various technologies and equipment. Similarly, the attire of a geologist may vary. Most professional geologists start their careers working from the field. In fact, it’s typical to have a field office, as well as a traditional one. Depending on the discipline, general responsibilities include gearing-up for the outdoors, traversing terrains, collecting samples, taking measurements, drafting maps and writing notes. Consequently, geologists need special tools to do this work. Updated November 12, 2019.

Things a geologist wears and uses

Things a geologist wears and uses

What Geologists Wear 101

Aspiring geologists, geology students, and entry-level geoscience professionals everywhere are asking Geo Forward about the things that geologists wear and use. Thus, the Los Angeles headquarters team prepares this article in response. Below are some of the main tools geologists require to execute their tasks.

The Attire of a Geologist

The attire of a geologist varies, depending on the individual’s discipline of geology, and position within his jor her specific field. For instance, in the environmental engineering industry, entry-level geologists spend almost all their time in the field. As a result, they typically dress casual to work. Whereas project level geologists, who spend half their time in the office and the other in the field, may have alternating attire. At the project manager level, the attire of a geologist during field days could be casual, and office days could be slightly more professional. Very rarely does the attire of a geologist involve wearing a suit and tie. Although, it does happen from time to time.

Hiking & Steel-Toe Boots

In the field, Geologists face harsh weather conditions, and thus, a variety of terrains. Typically, the job will require traversing hard, dusty, muddy, wet and/or slippery surfaces. The terrains are insignificant, as the goal is simply to get to the places where data is needed. As such, grippy boots are the choice of footwear for these field scientists. And at drilling and construction sites, steel toe boots are a requirement (amongst other things), in order to protect their feet and ankles from injury. 

Outdoor Clothing & Gear

In general, one can confidently say that the attire of a geologist is typically “outdoorsy.” Most geologists are usually garbed in outdoor clothing and hiking gear. Even when indoors and in class. In fact, a lot of students today sport the outdoorsy clothing look, no matter what the occasion. Basically, anything that would provide them with comfort in the field is often worn as a fashion statement of sorts. It’s speculated that the enthusiasm for fieldwork contributes to the decision in dressing for the outdoors at all times. Much like the saying- “dress for the position you want, not the position you have.”


A hiking hat may seem unnecessary but it is important to shield your face, head, and neck from the scorching rays of the sun. Some hardhats and hiking hats also come with attachable accessories, which further protect a field geologist’s face, eyes, ears, and neck. The higher-end hats have interior bands which are soft to avoid skin, absorb and to catch sweat, dismantlable for packing and travel.

Construction Gear

Because they are usually amongst drilling rigs, bulldozers, heavy augers, and other construction site dangers, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) requires a minimum set of health and safety gear for geologists out in the field.

Job Site Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

At all sites, some level of personal protective equipment (PPE) is a requirement for field geologists. There are multiple categories for PPE. At a minimum, projects start with Level-D PPE, unless an upgrade is set forth by a Site Safety Officer (Field Supervisor). Typically, field geologists don’t require breathing protection, as long as breathing zone vapor concentrations remain within the nominal operational conditions. If breathing zone concentrations are above action levels; the field geologist will have to upgrade PPE for breathing protection.

Air-Purifying Systems

Often times, a geologist in the field has the requirement to wear an air-purifying system. The use of breathing respirators and purifying cartridges are typically in accordance with the local OSHA laws and ordinances. All on-site personnel, including the geoscientist, must possess a properly fitted air-purifying and respiratory system on-site. If not, he or she may face the obligation to exit the job site.

What Geologists Use 101

Less related to the attire of a geologist is the subject of what geologists use in their line of work. Geologists make a career out of examining rocks and their composition. To perform this effectively and efficiently they require special tools. The equipment listed below are some of the things that geologists wear and use in the field when studying the earth.

Rock Hammer

In writing about things that geologists wear and use… From a research and academic standpoint, the rock hammer is one of the vital pieces of field equipment that every geologist has in school. This hand-tool is made of hard steel and helps earth scientists break and split rocks. It is also known as rock pick or geological pick. Because most outcropping rock formations have faced extreme weathering and exposure to debris, their surfaces aren’t easy to study mineralogy and composition. Thus, a rock hammer assists geology students to break off a fresh surface of a rock, for sampling and analysis back at the lab.

Rock hammers can have two types of heads. One can have a chisel head and the other can have a flat square-shape head. The chisel head is typically less of a preference, as it applies to clear splintering fractures. On the other hand, the sharp point pick head helps dig through harder rocks and obtain rock joint samples, as well as soil samples.

Rock Hammer - Things Geologists Wear and Use

Rock Hammer – Things Geologists Wear and Use

Geologic Compass

A geological compass differs from a conventional compass. A conventional compass aids traversers in navigating the directions on maps. Whereas a geologic compass is a technical device used to collect data on the precise direction and angle of dipping geologic formations. Similar to the traditional compasses, the geologic tool utilizes magnetic induction damping for its needle oscillation. However, the readings with respect to the strick of a plane surface encountered in the field, are compared to magnetic-north. These measurements refer to as “attitudes” and “bearings,” and more colloquially as “strike” and “dip.” And each instrument requires periodic calibration for accurate the magnetic north vs true north values. Geologists also use this specialized instrument in the field to study the slope orientations and angles of faults and fracture zones. Brunton, Inc. is the top designer and manufacturer of these devices.

A Brunton Compass is what geologists wear and use

A Brunton Compass is what geologists wear and use


Trail and Top Map Apps

As a matter of practicing and learning the fundamentals of geological field methods, most schools and field camps still require geologists to navigate outdoors using large print maps, compasses, and rulers. This process can be daunting, as there is much to carry. And paperwork in the field isn’t exactly easy to deal with. Alternatively, bulky hand-held global positioning devices were a common field device in the mid-2000s. However, given the advancement of smartphones, hiking apps and data plotting tools today aid field geologists with navigating through the study areas and reporting data. In fact, some trail and topo map apps can be used offline. Which truly comes in handy in rural areas.

Hand Lens

A hand lens is basically a small magnifying glass, with a glass piece about the size of a dime. In fact, it is one of the first basic tools a freshman geology student gets to use during labs and field trips. The tool helps the naked eye identify small characteristics of rocks, such as splinters, fractional patterns, mineral content, texture and more. And many astute field geologists carry a miniature hand lense on their keys at all times, as a key chain. 

Learn More about the Attire of a Geologist

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Women in Geology

Women in Geology

Women in geology have been making astounding contributions to the scientific community since the 1700s. From environmental engineering to mining, petroleum and water exploration, female geologists are increasing in numbers, and are valuable assets to these industries. The planet earth and it’s geological formations show no preference or priority of gender. Consequently, neither shall the sciences of geology, or anything else for that matter. And by demonstrating proficiency in both, the field and the laboratory, female geologists have a positive influence in earth sciences today. Updated September 19, 2019.

Women in Geology

Women in Geology

History of Women in Geology

Up until the 1700s, the field of geology hadn’t been as disciplined as it is today. In fact, the subject was seemingly broad, encompassing a blend of biology, botanology and oceanography. Records show that most geological theories (prior to the 1800s) stem from European researchers, such as Thomas Burnet of England, Charles Lyell of Scotland or Horace Bennedict of Switzerland. Women in geology were scarce in the beginning. To illustrate, Etheldred Benett is notably the first female geologist and/or paleontologist, and the only one of her time. Bennet was an avid collector of peleontological artifacts throughout the United Kingdom, and worked alongside numerous male geologists in the late 1700s. Since then, many other inspiring female geologists have similarly risen through the ranks in universities, industry and geological societies around the world. The discussion below is about a few of the environments that women in geosciences prevail today.

Academia & Research

Many a woman have successfully accomplished higher level educational programs in the field of geology, and have also gone on to further contribute by teaching. For instance, one of today’s most esteemed geophysicists and experts of plate tectonics is Dr. Tanya Atwater. Dr. Atwater studied the geological disciplines at M.I.T., U.C. Berkly and the U.C. San Diego Scripps Institute of Oceanography in the 1970s. Today, she teaches at U.C. Santa Barbara, and dedicates her expertise to studying the Western Transverse Ranges and the San Andreas Fault complex in California. Her theories and animations are studied by earth science students from around the world today. And there are many other women in geology with stories just like Dr. Atwater’s.

The Office, Lab & Field

Each of the geological disciplines today are known to employ female geologists. And in these industries, entry level workers start by splitting their time between the field, office and laboratory. However, as one progresses into the career, an individual’s proven area of success (along with their preference) result in their full-time position in one of these settings. Many females in geology have proven their success in the office, field and laboratory.


The laboratory isn’t the most popular place to be amongst typical geologists (female nor male). Usually, the job-site is the choice spot. Nonetheless, some pretty important work gets done there. Many females in geology have shown their proficiency in laboratory work. For instance, in the geotechnical engineering industry, scientists perform intensive soil and rock sample analysis, which requires a great deal of accuracy and precision. And the testing procedures require a strong background in chemistry and physics, as well as soil mechanics. As the numbers of females in science rises, so do women in geology.


Whether female or male, there is no doubt that the field is typically where geologists like to be. And when outdoors, the earth knows no difference between man and woman. The passion for being outdoors is usually what attracts aspiring geologists to the science in the first place. Otherwise, the standard coursework of geosciences will groom the students into becoming comfortable with working outdoors. In fact, one can reasonably expect up to two (or more) weekend-long fieldwork trips for each geology core level course during their undergraduate program. And all students, regardless of gender, race or orientation, are must attend and perform optimally.

Woman in Geology: Total Station Surveying of Gravimeter Stations in Owens Valley

Woman in Geology: Total Station Surveying of Gravimeter Stations in Owens Valley

Regulatory Agencies

Regulatory agencies are the ultimate power house when it comes to the work geologists do. To illustrate, all of the geological efforts within the petroleum exploration industry, hydrology, mining and engineering industries are up for final review and approval by various regulatory agencies. For example, in the environmental engineering field, groundwater contamination cleanup actions are overseen by the local water quality control board. And within these agencies, are highly educated and esteemed geologists and engineers, who are trusted by the State to make sure things are done correctly. Today, regulatory agencies of all jurisdictions are known to employee many women in geology.

Women in Geology Field Work

Women in Geology Field Work

Famous Female Geologists in History

History’s women in geology have have gifted humanity in many ways. Below are some of the many feminist influencers of our time (the era of humans), who light the torch for future geologists, whether male or female.

Etheldred Bennet (1776 – 1845)

Among all historical females in geology, Etheldred Benett is the first. Benett was from one England’s wealthiest families at the time, and had a personal passion for fossils found in earth formations throughout the western and southern cusps of the United Kingdom. Benett’s involvement contributes to the early development of geology and paleontology, because information at the time was scarce and the subject matter was broad. At the time, she worked with the UK’s leading earth scientists, and executive members of England’s Geological Society. Much of her work has helped develop the modern geologic time scale, as well as theories of evolution and geologic formation deposition. Today, many of Bennett’s specimens are up for display in museums and universities around the world.

Elizabeth Carne (1817 – 1873)

Elizabeth Carne was another early female earth enthusiast, who was actually the first woman elected to become a member of the Royal Geological Society of England. Similarly as Ethelred Bennet, Carne was also born into one of England’s wealthiest and financially influential families. As a result, her personal interests in nature, geology and mineralogy provided a boost into the earth science community during the 1800s. Elizabeth Carne was also a writer and philanthropist who focused her contributions to earth and human environmental studies.

Janet Watson (1923 – 1985)

Janet Vida Watson is unarguably a feminist icon in the scientific community. Watson was an English geologist, technical author and astounding professor of earth sciences in London England. Watson also holds the title of being the first female president of the London Geological Society, during the year 1982. During her PhD program, Watson studied the precambrian geological formations and basement complexes which make up Scotland and other areas of the United Kingdom. And her contributions and theories revamped the society’s concurrent hypothesis regarding the chronology of early UK basement formations.

Marie Tharp (1920-2006)

Unlike the female earth scientists above, Marie Tharp was American. Tharp is most known for preparing with first geologic map of the Atlantic Ocean. And this work informs the world about the extreme topographic relief and landscaping of the ocean floors. Most importantly, this work introduces the concept of the mid-ocean ridge system underlying the Atlantic Ocean. Consequently, this ridge system contributes to tectonic movement, and the theory of plate tectonics.

Dr. Tanya Atwater (1942 – Present)

Dr. Tanya Atwater is a leading modern geophysicist and master of plate tectonic theory. Today Dr. Atwater teaches at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and devotes her brilliance to studying and explaining the San Andreas Fault complex in California, especially within the Western Transverse Ranges. Dr. Atwater is most known for her video animations, which visually enhance one’s ability to understand complicated fault and tectonic systems. And her animations, writings and lectures help simplify structural geology complexities for students and professors, worldwide.

The Future of Geology & Earth Science

The geoscience fields for women, are strongly encouraging at this time. Workforce data trends indicate a quickly closing gender gap in all disciplines of geology, and not just at the early career stages. Studies indicate that as of 2018, women in geology currently make up approximately 20% to 30% of the faculty in most academic institutions, worldwide. However, as more females pursue the higher education in geology and it’s disciplines, the community anticipates ratios of 50% in the near future. Similarly, the geological workforce anticipates the same trends in both the public and private sectors.

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John Muir Biography – Father of National Parks & Geology

John Muir Biography The Father of National Parks & Geology

John Muir was a Scottish-American writer, lecturer and an early influencer for nature, geology, wildlife and more. He’s also known as an honorary public figure for advocating the conservation of wildlife from the mid 1800s to the early 1900s. To many, he was a self-mastered glaciologist, botanist, geologist and explorer. And today, John Muir’s legacy lives on as the “Father of National Parks” due to his contributions in the literary and environmental worlds. Updated September 12, 2019.

Photo of John Muir, Courtesy of the National Park Service

Photo of John Muir, Courtesy of the National Park Service

Early Life

Born on April 21, 1838, John Muir grew up with a religious and strait-lace family in the City of Dunbar, Scottland. And as a young boy, he did odd jobs to make ends meet. For instance, working in sawmills or at work yards. In the year 1849, John Muir immigrated to the United States. Commencing his attendance at the University of Wisconsin in the year 1867, Muir chose to pursue the career path of a mechanical inventor. Although, upon nearly loosing his eye from an industrial accident, he quit the profession to become an environmentalist. Many understand this career change to be a cathartic moment of sorts, ultimately resulting in his unconditional devotion to the conservation and preservation of nature.

Preservation of Nature and Wildlife

In early 1876, Muir began advocating for forest conservation policy. By publishing articles of environmental topics with prestigious publications (such as the Atlantic Monthly), awareness on the topic of wildlife conservation became a higher interest of the people. Additionally, other considerably prestigious publications made waves of influence in the academic and scientific communities.

The Gifford Pinchot Forest Protection Idea

Gifford Pinchot was a former US Forest Service chief and governor of the State of Pennsylvania. Muir’s views on wildlife conservation clashed with the Gifford Pinchot’s “Forest Protection Idea.” Pinchot was a political proponent of the efficient use of our nation’s natural resources, for the benefit of mankind. To simplify, this means implementing and enforcing conservation laws on the natural reserves, but with the exception of certain productions which provide more value and profit to the nation. Muir, on the other hand, was a firm believer that the forests and parks should be unconditionally protected.

The Sierra Club

John Muir also founded the Sierra Club in 1892, which is an organization with goals to safeguard the environment. He was its first chairman and was a helping hand to create early awareness about the need to protect the environment. This was one of the first environmental protection organizations to practice political movement and promotion. In fact, the club today boasts numerous political and financial sponsors. Today, the club is a proponent of various environmental policies and programs. For example: renewable energy; environmental engineering for sustainability; global warming; wildlife protection; and more.

John Muir & His Gift to America

John Muir was a strong advocate for the environmental preservation of the United States, as well as the general topic of wildlife conservation. His theories about the rightful preservation of nature were not a common concern for Americans at that time. In fact, there was very little awareness about the conservation of natural resources during the 1800s (especially comparing to today). Muir’s writings were about plants, animals and various landscapes during rural explorations across America. And his writings helped others to appreciate nature, and preserve it.

Influencing American People to Upkeep Nature

John Muir’s writings about nature conservation were entertaining to read by people of his generation, as well as those afterwards. Thus, it caught the attention of the masses. As a result, many of his readers and followers began to grow similar interests, and eventually shape the perspective of environmental conservation that America has today. Many also believe that our nation’s natural landscapes aren’t likely to exist today, if it were not for his influence. For instance, Yosemite National Park, Joshua Tree National Park, Olympic National Park, Zion and more, are all amongst America’s favorites.

A Literary Influencer of Politicians

It’s safe to say that John Muir’s most successful influential platform was his writing. His articles, books and journals were also highly regarded by other influential writers and philosophers, such as Ralph Waldo Emerson. Additionally, many politicians have also shown appreciation for his work. For instance, in 1903, former president and lover of nature, Theodore Roosevelt, reportedly met with John Muir for a camping experience under the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoia, in Yosemite. In fact, President Roosevelt established the Muir Woods National Monument, in Marin County, California, in honor of Muir’s cause. Today, this site remains to be a national historic site, and national park.

National Park Preservation

National Park Preservation

John Muir is the Father of National Parks

The efforts of John Muir have put up countless political fights to safeguard national parks. With twelve books and over 300 articles that continue to inspire over two million members of the Sierra Club (as well as other nature supporters with political influence), interest groups defend Muir’s cause for environmental protectionism. And these fights have been apparent in almost every administration in the United States since the late 1800s.

Later Life & Legacy

Muir passed away in 1914. But his theories of environmental conservation and preservation have far-reaching effects, even after his passing. And his books are now an inextricable component of America’s natural history. For example: The Mountains of California (1894); Our National Parks (1901); The Yosemite (1912); Travels in Alaska (1915); A Thousand-Mile Walk (1916); and The Cruise of the Corwin: Journal of the Arctic Expedition of 1881 in Search of De Long and the Jeannette (1917).

By sharing his beliefs and values of nature in the form of art and education, he has inspired generations of people to safeguard the American landscapes, as a personal interest. In fact, one can reasonably argue an evolution in American industrialism, due to this national interest. Not to mention the enhancements to American culture and priorities. Joshua Tree National Park John Muir Joshua Tree National Park John Muir

Pollution to the Environment

It’s no mystery at this point in human existence, that industrial activities are affecting the earth’s environment. At this moment, geologists firmly believe the planet is about 4.6 billion years of age, and comprises a history with numerous generations of elite micro- and bio-organisms, prior to human existence. Various time frames of earth’s history are represented by “eras,” “periods,” “epochs” and “ages” in a geologic timescale. And these divisions are representative of significant natural geological and biological occurrences. In fact, of all the geologic periods which make up the 4.6 billion years, geologists now dedicate a new geologic segment (officially the Meghalayan Age) to represent the environmental impact to earth by humans.

Ocean Pollution

Oceanic pollution, and the contamination of freshwater and seawater wildlife is a growing concern in the biological and geological science communities. Modern research indicates industrial chemicals (such as polychlorinated biphenyls) exist within the bodies of various sturgeon, stingrays, crabs and other bottom dwelling fish. Naturally, the apex predictors are the endpoint for these contaminants. For instance, dolphins and orcas are the final receivers of these pollutants in the bio-magnification process. And similarly, other contaminants are impacting the wildlife. For example, petroleum products, pesticides, herbicides, metals and more. Researches understand that the build-up of these carcinogens in whales and dolphins, are resulting in deformities, early deaths and birthing complications. 

Bodies of Water

Modern research shows there is a growing concentration of industrial chemical substances in land-base freshwater bodies throughout the world today. Although now illegal, many industrial sites still illicitly dispose of chemical waste into water, lakes and rivers, without permit. It is not uncommon for these freshwater bodies to ultimately lead to the ocean. And as plants and animals live and feed within these bodies of water, they unknowingly intake the pollution, and undergo health and birthing defects.

Soil and Groundwater Contamination

Human activities can also result in the contamination of soil and groundwater. For instance, factories, manufacturing plants and gasoline stations are known to release chemicals into the ground overtime. And these contaminants migrate through soil layers, into groundwater aquifers. Although John Muir is recorded in history as an advocate for national parks, he was also supporter of our environment. The impact industrialism has on our subsurface is damaging to the nature of earth. However, the effects of subsurface pollution reflect on the health and well being of the humans above it.

Health Effects

Toxic chemicals in groundwater are dangerous to humans and the surrounding wildlife. Contamination plumes in groundwater can intercept municipal supply wells, which are drinking water sources for humans. Moreover, natural springs, basins and lake beds are places where groundwater pollution can flow into free-standing water. At which point marine and land animals are exposed to toxins. Soil contamination also affects the well being of people living above contamination plumes. To illustrate, liquid phase contamination evaporates underground, into vapor phase. And during this process, the toxic vapors migrate upwards, into the breathing spaces of humans. Because most of these chemicals loose their color and smell during the evaporation process, humans inhale them over a lifetime without knowing. The effects can cause terminal illness and disease.

Air Pollution

At this point in human history, Americans are well aware that the exposure of harmful airborne substances are impacting plants, humans and other living species. It is one of the biggest challenges the leading nations of the world are grappling with. This issue was expressed by John Muir, as it became a serous and increasing threat to the environment during the industrial revolution. Today, air pollution continues from the massive use of automobiles and factories, as well as construction sites.

Cutting Down of Trees

Muir reportedly had a strong interest in protecting the trees in America’s forests. In fact, prior to the establishment of Yosemite National Park, a tunnel was cut through the Wawona Tree of Miraposa Grove. The cut took place in 1881, for the transport of stage coaches and carts, prior to the area having any protection by the National Parks program. Muir disagreed with this event, as well as the overall concept of cutting trees for industrial purposes. Theories suggest actions such as these degrade air quality and contribute to increasing carbon dioxide levels.

Environmental Engineering

John Muir’s legacies enhanced the world’s knowledge and interests about environmental protection. In fact, Environmental Protection Agencies are in place in many of today’s leading nations to enforce the prevention of pollution, and clean-up policies. As a result, we are at a point in history where the leading governments of the modern world are working to safeguard the planet and wildlife from ruin. The environmental engineering industry and government clean-up programs are some of today’s best human-progression strategies for this cause.

Sustainability & Environmental Quality

The environmental engineering industry is an increasingly valued branch of engineering. The field focuses on the protection of people and other living organisms, against the pollution of air, soil, groundwater, lakes, rivers and oceans. Today, scientists and engineers study our natural resources and surroundings for potential contamination. If contamination is discovered, scientists perform various phases of testing to assess the extent of pollution, and determine it’s impact to humans and/or wildlife. Subsequently, engineers and scientists design and implement remedial actions, in order to mitigate and eliminate the impacts of pollution.

Environmental Plans

Today the environmental industries are focusing on restoring earth from human damages (as best as possible) and preserving it, without compromising the motivations of human development and growth. In general, the industries are in the works for sustainable plans to:

  • Assess industrial and commercial sites to determine their impact on the environment.
  • Study the impacts and long-term evolutionary effects of pollution to plants, animals and humans.
  • Clean up the existing impacts to the environment.
  • Advise and support government agencies and policymakers on environmental issues.
  • Create Eco friendly manufacturing blueprints for companies to follow moving forward.
  • Audit commercial/industrial businesses for the prevention of future environmental issues.
  • Establish comprehensive waste treatment plans for all runoff systems that lead into the environment from developed areas.
  • Ensure that companies and stakeholders are complying with future guidelines.

Enforcing the Plans of John Muir

It’s no mystery today, that the world is facing environmental challenges as a result of human activities. Looking back at John Muir’s advocacy for wildlife and nature conservation, the foundational elements for environmental protection and consciousness are already in place. And what his legacies have born in the modern world, shall be seen proper to enforce, indefinitely .

Forward-Thinking Geologists, Engineers & Contractors!

Is the Earth Around Millennium Tower Sinking

Is the Earth Around Millennium Tower Sinking?

Is the earth around the Millennium Tower sinking? Built-in 2008, the Millennium Tower in San Francisco has reportedly sunken about 17 inches into the ground surface. This subsidence is a consequence of improper geotechnical engineering design, and potential changes in the hydrogeological setting. Moreover, surveyors indicate the structure is tilting, with a difference of approximately 3 inches from side to side. At the moment, the local building and safety department states the structure is safe for continuous living. However, the rate of subsidence isn’t likely to change or stop anytime soon. Thus, expert geotechnical engineers are handling this corrective action project, and believe the foundation can be salvaged with a final solution. At this time, cost estimations for this mitigation effort range between $300,000,000 and $500,000,000. Updated October 20, 2019.

Is the Earth Around Millennium Tower Sinking?

Is the Earth Around Millennium Tower Sinking?

The Solution to the Millennium Tower Sinking

After years of testing, analysis, and surveying, geologists and engineers are now proposing an updated mitigation plan. This corrective action proposal comprises a series of retrofit piles which aim to counterbalance the sinking foundation. As a result, the geologists and drillers plan to supersede the depths of the bay area mud underlying the building, and securely tap the new piles into the underlying bedrock. Ultimately, these devices intend to stabilize the downward sinking side of the existing high rise structure. Whereas the opposite end would temporarily continue to sink. And theoretically, the tilting building should reach an equilibrium, and straighten itself within equal or lesser time.

According to an article, the executive partners at O’Melveny & Myers (Millennium Tower resident legal representation) state the geotechnical engineers are confident the latest corrective action plan will stabilize the building over time.

Demonstration cross-section of micro pile system to uplift sinking Millennium Tower

Micro Pile (Photo Cred: Vision Winter / O’Melveny & Myers +

The Geology of San Francisco

The geology of the San Francisco bay area is complex. Much like other areas, this introduces an abundance of complications and liabilities with land development projects. Bay mud is a common sedimentary deposit comprising of sand, silt, and clay. Generally, these sediments contain shallow static groundwater levels, which also keep the soil in a consistent state of saturation. As a result, bay muds have high porosity (retaining water) and low permeability (movement of water within). Furthermore, bay muds have high compression factors and low shear strength, making it hazardous for structural development. Especially within the seismically active and fault ridden area of San Francisco, California.

Subsidence and liquefaction are the typical geological hazards in association with bay mud. And static groundwater levels fluctuate as a result of precipitation, periods of drought, water pumping and de-watering activities at nearby construction sites. Consequently, the soil-characteristics of the bay mud are subject to change, when soil zones go from wet to dry. For instance, subsidence can occur when groundwater levels decline. On the other hand, liquefaction can occur when groundwater levels rise.

Bedrock underlying the Millennium Tower is approximately 200 feet below the ground surface. The corrective action proposal entails drilling and installing a series of piles into the bedrock underlying the bay mud. Moreover, these piles are likely to base another 100 to 150 feet within the bedrock it’self. As a result, drilling requirements may require approximately 350 feet of total depth at each pile location.

The Importance of a Proper Geological Assessment

The earth around the Millennium Tower sinking is a subject that truly highlights the importance of a proper geological assessment. Cutting costs on any geological engineering service can backfire greatly.

Los Angeles County Well Permit and Drilling Permit

Los Angeles County Well Permit and Drilling Permit

Per the Department of Public Health Drinking Water Program, a Los Angeles County Well Permit and Drilling Permit is mandatory for most environmental, geotechnical and hydro-geological projects in LA County. As of August 2018, the County of LA enforces a new set of stricter well permit guidelines. The new standards require oversight for soil sampling boreholes deeper than 10 feet. Additionally, permits are necessary for any borehole that encounters groundwater. Lastly, a C-57 Licensed Driller is mandatory for this process. There are various drilling service categories under the purview of a Los Angeles County Well Permit and Drilling Permit. And various forms of supporting documents are essential to the application process. Updated December 10, 2018.

Los Angeles County Well Permit and Drilling Permit

Los Angeles County Well Permit and Drilling Permit

Los Angeles County Exclusions

Most Phase 2 Environmental Site Assessment and remediation projects will require a Los Angeles County Well Permit and Drilling Permit. However, a Well Permit and Drilling Permit are not necessary for soil gas probe boreholes without soil sampling. Moreover, the Environmental Protection Agency exempts the requirement of a drilling permit for Superfund CERCLA sites. Although, to qualify for this exemption, there may be additional forms to provide Los Angeles County.

Some cities within Los Angeles County, such as the City of Pasadena, Long Beach, Vernon and more, have their own Health Departments which require Well Permits and Drilling Permits. In such a case, other permits may be required in addition to the Los Angeles County Well Permit and Drilling Permit.

Environmental Projects with Well Permit and Drilling Permits

Environmental Site Assessments and geological investigations within Los Angeles County boundaries are subject to a variety of permits, depending upon the nature of the sampling. Notably, for locations within the unincorporated County limits, and within certain city jurisdictions, the Department of Public Health (LADPH) requires an approved Los Angeles County Well Permit and Drilling Permit to advance soil borings and groundwater monitoring wells. Additionally, permit fees apply for each sampling event from existing groundwater monitoring wells may apply.

Typically, environmental soil borings and groundwater monitoring wells assist in researching contamination conditions and concentrations at specific locations. For example, subsurface investigations help to identify the source of an environmental release. Furthermore, deep soil borings aim to define the width and depth of a plume. Moreover, exploratory boreholes identify a site’s geology and soil characteristics. Groundwater monitoring wells are devices which aid in identifying hydro-geologic and environmental conditions, as well as the the lateral and vertical extent of aquifer contamination. Using this information, geologists can also define contamination migration pathways. Groundwater monitoring wells are also usable for remediation purposes.

Approval for Los Angeles County Well Permit & Drilling Permit

Approval for Los Angeles County Well Permit and Drilling Permit ©remg

Exploration Projects with Well Permits and Drilling Permits

Los Angeles County Well Permit and Drilling Permit is also necessary for “Exploration Hole” purposes. Typically, these boreholes explore subsurface and hydro-geological conditions at a property. For instance, any soil sampling boring, hydropunch boring and Cone Penetrometer Test (CPT) will require oversight. Furthermore, any soil sampling boreholes with depths exceeding 10 feet into the vadose zone, and any borehole or CPT encountering groundwater will require oversight by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (LADPH).

Prior to commencing work, consultants must submit a work plan and well permit application to the Drinking Water Program within the LADPH. The investigative work may only commence after the County’s approval of the well permit and drilling permit.

Soil Vapor Probe Investigations and LA County Permitting

The vadose zone is a area represented by dry soil, above the groundwater table. Generally, soil gas probe boreholes only (within the vadose zone) do not require an LADPH Well Permit and Drilling Permit. In fact, if a CPT or soil boring does not extend beyond 10 feet below grade, it will also be exempt from a Los Angeles County Well Permit and Drilling Permit.

However, if any probe or borings extends into a groundwater zone during installation, a permit will become necessary. Similarly, if an investigation involves the installation of a groundwater monitoring well, groundwater production well, piezometer, injection well, extraction well, sparge well, CPT boreole into groundwater, or a HydroPunch temporary well, a Los Angeles County Well Permit and Drilling Permit is mandatory. As with the soil boring permits, applicants must provide a comprehensive work plan and application to the Drinking Water Program. And the package must disclose the professional C57 contractors and geologists overseeing the job.

Methane Soil Gas Survey Probe Set

Permanent Methane Testing Probe Set

Although groundwater depths are variable in Los Angeles County, some areas have water tables shallower than 10 feet. In fact, some beach areas have reported first-encountered groundwater as shallow as 2 feet below grade. For instance, Santa Monica, Venice Beach and Long Beach area are generally known to have shallow groundwater. As as result, a well permit and drilling permit will be required, even for boreholes less than 10 feet.

Groundwater Monitoring Well to Test Groundwater for Possible Contamination during Environmental Site Assessments

Groundwater Monitoring Well to Test Groundwater for Possible Contamination during Environmental Site Assessments

Well Permit & Drilling Permit Service Categories 

Additional well service categories that require a permit from the LADPH include irrigation, production and geothermal heat exchange wells. And the Los Angeles County Well Permit and Drilling Permit application also includes services such as well decommissioning, rehabilitation and renovation of existing wells. Moreover, some procedures to service existing water supply wells are likely to require oversight. For example, yield evaluations, yield enhancement procedures, performance tests, in situ water treatment and more.

In the same way, permit approval may be required for periodic sampling of commercial food service facility water, for United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) certification.

The LADPH turnaround time for processing these permits is approximately 10 business days. The processing time commences upon receipt of the application and payment of fees. And work plan modifications or design amendments might be mandatory to achieve approval by the LADPH.

Properties undergoing soil or groundwater assessment within Los Angeles County are more than likely in need of a Well Permit and Drilling Permit, as well as a work plan prepared by a Professional Geologist. Contact Geo Forward for more information, or to determine if your project requires a Los Angeles County Well Permit and Drilling Permit.

Contaminated Soil Excavation & AQMD Rule 1166

Contaminated Soil Excavation & AQMD Rule 1166

AQMD Rule 1166 applies to Southern California construction sites undergoing contaminated soil excavation. To start, AQMD Rule 1166 requires a mitigation plan.  Moreover, this report is also goes by the title “Contaminated Soil Excavation Plan.” Additionally, the rule requires air quality testing during excavation. The primary oversight agency is the Air Quality Management District (also referred to as the AQMD or SCAQMD in the South Coast). Updated February 19, 2019.

Contaminated Soil Excavation and AQMD Rule 1166 ©Dmitry_Kalinovsky

Contaminated Soil Excavation and AQMD Rule 1166 ©Dmitry_Kalinovsky

Discovering Contaminated Soil Excavation Issues

Unless a Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment or Phase 2 Subsurface Investigation calls it out, you may be surprised to find contaminated soil at a job site. It happens from time to time. As a result, there are legal requirements for disposal and monitoring. Consequently, an environmental engineering firm should be retained to achieve proper contaminated soil excavation and AQMD Rule 1166 compliance.

In the first place, the process starts with soil sampling by an environmental consultant. Next, the consultant will prepare a waste profile and manifest. At this point, the engineering firm should also complete a mitigation plan. Some mitigation plans are site-specific. Others are for various locations. Lastly, the SCAQMD will need to approve the mitigation plan, and issue a permit to dig.

Tasks that require AQMD Rule 1166 Compliance

Per the rule, compliance is necessary for each of the following activities:

  • Removal of any underground storage tank (UST) or associated product piping.
  • Contaminated soil excavation.
  • Stockpiling and movement of contaminated soil.
  • The treatment of contaminated soil at a disposal facility.

Accordingly, there is a need to monitor disturbed soil via an organic vapor analyzer (OVA). Often times a photo-ionization detector (PID) is exemplary. Other times a flame-ionization detector (FID) may be more ideal.

Costs for Contaminated Soil Excavation

Unfortunately, we are unable to provide any general cost estimates via the internet. There are just too many variables in each project. A custom price quote is a requirement for each specific project.  However, you can expect to pay for the following items for an AQMD Rule 1166 compliant contaminated soil excavation:

  • Soil sample laboratory analysis.
  • AQMD Rule 1166 permit application.
  • Mitigation Plan preparation.
  • Contaminated soil excavation air monitoring labor.
  • Permit closure process.
Finish the Job Right and Save Money

AQMD Rule 1166 compliance is a requirement for contaminated soil excavation. Although this process is costly, the fines and penalties for violating them are more. Thus, its best to consult an proper environmental engineering firm. Moreover, a Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment at the purchase stage is the best recommendation for staying one step ahead. If contaminated soil becomes apparent during the assessment, a proper budget can be set.


Can You Retest Methane Test of Soil?

Can You Retest Methane Test of Soil?

Is it worthwhile to get a retest methane test of soil: Generally Not. Sometimes a methane test will show high results of the hazardous soil-gas on a property. And developers will try a retest methane test to get “favorable results.” Regardless, there is a general legal requirement to still submit the original test data (whether it has higher or lower methane levels). This is a public health code concern governed by law, and delves into the matter of developer ethics. The rule is to submit the original report with the retest methane test report for the agency to review. And even when multiple reports indicate conflicting data; more than likely the agency will use the highest overall results. Thus, retesting in hopes of “favorable results” can be pointless and a waste of money. Updated July 31, 2019.

The City of Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety (also known as the LADBS agency) has distinguished methane zones and methane buffer zones. Additionally, the Los Angeles Fire Department (also known as the LAFD agency) has oversight. As a result, methane mitigation standards apply. And therefore, a methane test becomes necessary.  Other cities and counties also administer the same methane test policies. Cities like Huntington Beach have their own standards, while others may reference the LADBS policies and guidelines directly.

Retest Methane Test of Soil - Oil Fields

Retest Methane Test of Soil – Oil Fields


Interest to Retest a Methane Test

Building Safety Codes base the standard on the highest overall test results. Consequently, the LADBS and LAFD typically select a Level per the highest overall result. For Example, consider a scenario with two methane test reports by different companies. The first methane test reports Level 5, and the retest methane test reports Level 4. In this case, the agency is likely to use the highest methane test, which is the Level 5.

The Legal Requirement to Report all Methane Test Data

High levels of methane soil gas become a matter of public health concern. Anyone that has discovered high levels of methane test results, is required to obey the California Health and Safety Code and report results to LADBS and LAFD. In other jurisdictions, all potential public health hazards should also be reported to the appropriate agency for proper evaluation.

Thus, the policy entails the appropriate agency receive a copy of each methane test report, including the original and retest methane test.

What will the Agencies Decide?

Only the appropriate oversight-agency has the authority to decide what methane level a property is. One cannot guarantee whether the agency decides to accept the original report or retest methane test. For instance, in the scenario above, the decision in the matter is entirely up to the City of Los Angeles.

Methane Test Results for Properties with Oil Wells

Developers must acknowledge that properties including (or within proximity to) oil wells typically result in high-level methane mitigation systems. Thus, it is common that a Level 5 mitigation system has an appropriate level of building safety components. Accordingly, the higher results between a methane test and a retest methane test are likely to prevail. Building an appropriate level mitigation system is not just about construction costs. Its about the health safety of those who will use the building.

For more information about the inquiry and your specific property, call (888) 930-6604 and request a free consultation today.

Additional Information & Sources: 

DTSC Reporting Nonemergency Hazardous Substance Releases

EPA Groundwater & Drinking Water

EPA Risk Assessment


U.S. EPA Guidance for CH4 Landfill Gas Sampling & Testing

City of Los Angeles, Department of Building & Safety

The CH4 Zone – The Land Developer’s Guide