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Veteran’s Day Spotlight: John Conaway, PE

November 11, 2014
John Conaway - 1966

John Conaway – 1966

Terra-Petra’s Professional Engineer (PE Civil) and Vietnam Veteran, John R. Conaway has over 40 years of experience in project supervision, development, evaluation, training, and safety. He has earned a reputation for his expertise in design and inspection of methane mitigation systems and waterproofing for commercial and residential structures. John has worked with solid waste disposal, environmental engineering, managing road and facility maintenance and construction, permitting, project engineering and design in California, Nevada, and North Carolina.

This impressive and expansive career track started when John received a draft notice in late 1965, when the military presence started to increase in Viet Nam. On July 28, 1965, during a noontime press conference, President Johnson announced that he would send 44 additional combat battalions to Vietnam increasing the U.S. military presence to 125,000 men. Monthly draft calls were doubled from 17,000 to 35,000. “I have asked the commanding general, General Westmoreland, what more he needs to meet this mounting aggression,” Johnson said. “…we will meet his needs. We cannot be defeated by force of arms. We will stand in Vietnam.”

He further commented “…I do not find it easy to send the flower of our youth, our finest young men, into battle. I have spoken to you today of the divisions and the forces and the battalions and the units, but I know them all, every one. I have seen them in a thousand streets, of a hundred towns, in every state in this union-working and laughing and building, and filled with hope and life. I think I know, too, how their mothers weep and how their families sorrow.”

Instead of going into the army, as he had expected, John went into the US Marine Corps, and served from Jan. 1966 to Jan. 1968. He received his training at Camp Pendleton, California, and was later transferred to Camp Lejeune, NC. One of the highlights of his service was being selected to run the supply department on a 3-month “Caribbean cruise.” During the cruise, his ship broke down, allowing him to spend several weeks in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The photo,of John above was taken after during war games in November 1966 on the island of Vieques, Puerto Rico. He achieved the rank of sergeant in 18 months, which was a record time for getting to the rank of E-5.

Although he came close several times, John was able to avoid being sent to fight on the front lines in Vietnam, although he is still considered a Vietnam-era vet.


A Veteran’s Day Spotlight: Honoring Eduardo Rangel, Terra-Petra’s own Hero

November 11, 2014
Eduardo Rangel - Terra-Petra Deputy Methane Barrier Inspector

Eduardo Rangel – Terra-Petra Deputy Methane Barrier Inspector

Today, on this Veteran’s Day, November 11, 2014, we honor those who have served to protect our great nation. One of those happens to be Terra-Petra’s own Eduard Rangel, who joined the Terra-Petra team in February of 2013 as a registered Deputy Methane Barrier Inspectors (DMBI) in the City of Los Angeles. Eduardo obtained an Associate Degree in construction inspection at Mt. San Antonio College. He was previously enlisted in the U.S. Army for five years at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He is certified for the inspection of all LADBS approved methane/waterproofing barriers, including Tremco Paraseal GM/LG, Cetco Liquid Boot and Coreflex, Tremco Barrier Solutions VaporLock-M, Epro Ecoline-S, among others.

While we think Eduardo is pretty heroic in the world of methane mitigation and environmental engineering, we are even more proud to be working with one of our nation’s true heroes. He is someone who, quite literally, put his life on the line to serve and protect our great nation. Thus we are even more proud to report that In 2007 and 2010, Eduardo Rangel received two prestigious awards from the Army which highlighted his commitment to excellence and love of his country.

In 2007, SPC Eduardo Rangel received a wartime award for valor and heroism from the US Army for “exceptional veterans day spotlight terra-petrameritorious service while deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. SPC Rangel’s personal courage and commitment to mission accomplishment in a combat zone, under the most extreme circumstances, greatly contributed to the success of Operation Enduring Freedom. SPC Rangel’s performance reflects great credit upon him, combined task force fury, combined Joint Task Force-82 and the United States Central Command.”

Eduard’s superiors highlighted the fact that he exhibited “courage under fire” in Shavak Afghanistan, and in the Paktia, Poli-alarm, and Logar provinces of Afghanistan while conducting combat patrols. He laid down heavy suppressive fire for his platoon members engaging the enemy. As the enemy attacked several times via well-organized ambushes, SPC Rangel remained calm while taking commands and calling out enemy distance and description. He participated in over 100 combat mounted and dismounted patrol missions in these Paktia, Poli-alarm, and Logar provinces of Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom VIII. His tireless efforts, knowledge, and willingness to give resulted in accomplishment of all of his assigned missions covering thousands of miles of rugged terrain throughout all three provinces.

The second citation was awarded to Eduardo in 2010 for “meritorious service as a combat engineer while assigned to Eduardo Rangel - Terra-Petra Deputy Methane Barrier InspectorAlpha Company, 508th Special Troops Battalion from 04 March 2006 to 01, November 2010.” The citation goes on to state: “SPC Rangel’s technical and tactical competence, combined with his dedication to duty set the example for others to follow. His attention to detail and selfless service inspired every paratrooper to achieve success.  His performance reflects great credit upon himself, Alpha Company, 508th Special Troops Battalion, The 82nd Airborne Division, and the United States Army.

One of the achievements highlighted in the award document outlines how Specialist Rangel was deployed to West Point NY where he was assisted in the training of over 120 Cadets in Demolitions and Urban Breaching Techniques. He was also a part of two deployments to the Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC) at Fort Polk, LA. During the JRTC deployment, he was key to his Platoon’s ability to conduct Route Clearance and Sanitation Operations. He mentored and instructed the Platoon on numerous techniques, tactics and proceedures…often citing personal experiences.

One might agree, upon reading about Eduardo Rangel’s accomplishments with the U.S. Army, that he is a perfect fit for Terra-Petra and all that we do to help protect people from harmful environmental issues. As a combat engineer and team leader, Eduardo developed valuable skills in training and mentoring team members, which provide a tremendous amount of experience to Terra-Petra’s inspection team. We are honored to have this true hero on our team!

Happy Veteran’s Day to Eduardo Rangel and all men and women who have served and who continue to service the United States of America.

Still specializing in contaminated soil management… after all these years.

November 5, 2014

Terra-Petra is a full service environmental engineering firm that offers a variety of services. One service in particular that we have specialized in for over 15 years is contaminated soil management. We routinely conduct monitoring of soil during grading activities at construction sites in an effort to find any contamination that will need special handling. In our experience, this monitoring has become more commonplace in recent years. This phenomenon is due to several different contributing factors, one being the use of more conservative risk based assessment figures by governmental oversight agencies. Lowering the reporting limits/action levels for various VOC’s inversely increases the number of sites that are considered “contaminated.”

Soil monitoring is carried out in compliance with the Air Quality Management District’s (AQMD) Rule 1166 regulations.  This rule set as described by AQMD is to regulate the control of “Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) from excavating, grading, handling and treating VOC-contaminated soil as a result of leakage from storage or transfer operations, accidental spillage, or other deposition.”  VOC’s are “any volatile compound of carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, carbonic acid, metallic carbides or carbonates, ammonium carbonate, and exempt compounds”(AQMD).

Much of the contaminated soil monitoring that we conduct in the Southern California area is tied to the boom in oil well exploration around the turn of the century.   Using Los Angeles as an example you can see in the photo below how wooden oil derricks infested the landscape of the city. It was common for single family residences to have an oil derrick or two in their yards.  After this oil boom, derricks and oil wells were left abandoned with no regulations for how to properly plug and abandon the wells.  This in turn caused some VOC contamination in soil from the improper handling of oil, and petroleum reservoirs.

The Los Angeles City field east from the corner of First Street and Belmont Avenue, circa 1900 (Seaver Center). –Drilling Through Time

The Los Angeles City field east from the corner of First Street and Belmont Avenue, circa 1900 (Seaver Center). –Drilling Through Time

Terra-Petra’s certified inspectors conduct test methods using an organic vapor analyzer calibrated with hexane to test for toxic emissions. This test is done by placing a probe inlet at a distance no more than 3 inches from surface of excavated soil and moving the probe slowly across soil surface to find the maximum reading.  If maximum meter reading is above 50ppm, a soil mitigation plan is required to minimize VOC emissions to the atmosphere.  VOCs in excess of 50ppm are known to cause acute and chronic health effects in people. This is usually based on the level of exposure as well as length of time exposed to contaminated soil.

Any person having to grade soil that contains VOC will have to notify the Executive Officer at least 24 hours prior to excavating.  Monitoring will be done every 15 minutes commencing at the beginning of excavation or grading and recording of all VOC concentrations.  While handling VOC soil after excavating or grading at site shall segregate VOC contaminated soil from non-contaminated VOC.  For contaminated VOC soil, spray stockpiles with water or approved vapor suppressant and cover with plastic sheeting during any inactivity that last more than one hour.  This requires a daily inspection record for all covered VOC contaminated stockpiles. Any soil that has not been treated must be removed within 30 days from time of excavation.

If VOC concentrations are greater than 1000ppm, soil will have to be sprayed with water or a vapor suppressant.  If concentration reaches 1000ppm; place soil in sealed containers within 15 minutes. Person who treats VOC contaminated soil shall obtain a permit to operate treatment equipment’s. Any loading trucks that will transfer contaminated soil to the appropriate disposal facility must be clean of any soil in exterior and adequately tarp before leaving site to prevent soil spillage during transportation.  Typically, this is achieved by using rumble pads at all entries/exit locations and high-pressure hoses to wash the dirt and mud from trucks. This helps prevent any on or off-site VOC contaminated soil from spreading out into the open environment.

For further information about Terra-Petra’s contaminated soil management services, contact Justin Conaway at Terra-Petra – 213.458.0494.

Terra-Petra’s smoke-testing technique is a key component of any vapor intrusion mitigation system

November 3, 2014

An area of significant concern for Terra-Petra is in the quality assurance and quality control during installation of sub-slab membrane systems, a key part of any vapor intrusion mitigation system. Terra-Petra’s team of deputy inspectors ensure the quality of the mitigation system being installed by routinely checking for any leaks caused by tears or inadequate seals in membrane seams. “Smoke-testing” is a specific technique which Terra-Petra’s inspectors use to check for any deficiencies in a vapor barrier.

Smoke testing is routinely requested by developers, and even selectively opted for by contractors in order to make sure the quality of their membrane installations. Additionally, some governing agencies, including the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety (LADBS), the Huntington Beach Fire Department (HBFD), and the El Segundo Fire Department mandate smoke testing on 100% of projects within their jurisdiction based on the proven success of this method. The Terra-Petra inspection team is trained to do visual inspections of the membrane prior to smoke testing to check for any obvious breech or tears. This step, which is not typically performed in the industry, adds an extra level of quality control. Any deficiencies are marked for repair.

The membrane installer will then insert the ha key component of any vapor intrusion mitigation systemose of a smoke testing machine, typically attached to a fan or blower, either into the membrane through a small “coupon cut” or into a vent riser.

Coupon cuts are typically applied to spray-applied membranes every 500 square feet and serve a dual purpose of verifying membrane mil thickness and providing an opening for which to perform smoke testing. For sheet membranes, the hose is inserted into the vent riser of the mitigation system.

In both systems, all vent risers are temporarily capped to create pressure under the membrane as the smoke is pumped beneath the membrane. This pressure, which should ideally slightly lift the membrane, is maintained for 15 minutes by the smoke generator as inspectors thoroughly inspect for any leaks. These smoke leaks are indicative of tears in the membrane and are marked for repair then logged in inspection reports for quality control. Smoke testing is one of an inspector’s most important tools in checking the integrity of a vapor barrier system. However, it is important to remember that it is only one tool used to certify the proper sealing of a membrane.

Other important tools used to check for membrane deficiencies include dial calipers, depth gauges, spark testing, and the inspector’s own eyes and judgment. Smoke testing in particular is very effective in checking the seals at penetrations, terminations at footing, and overall coverage of the membrane being installed.


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