SoundEarth Conducts Waterway Cleanup at Scenic Lake Union in Seattle


SoundEarth principals and staff recently removed several empty houseboat flotation drums from scenic Lake Union in Seattle.

Houseboat flotation drums often break free of their moorings during stormy weather. SoundEarth’s main office, located on the banks of Lake Union in Seattle, seems to be a favorite landing place for these loose drums. We remove the drums from the water, test any contents to be sure the drums are safe to handle, and recycle them, helping to keep the shores of Lake Union free of debris.

SoundEarth Participates in Weed Cleanup with Seattle Parks Department


In conjunction with the Seattle Parks Department, SoundEarth staff removed several hundred pounds of noxious weeds from the shore of Lake Union in observation of Earth Day 2016. It is all part of our commitment to the environment. Noxious weeds choke out native plant life. Working with the Seattle Parks Department and the local neighborhood gardeners, we do our part to keep Lake Union a more natural environment in the heart of Seattle.

Pam Xander, Environmental Science Manager and Principal, SoundEarth Strategies, Inc. NEBC Olympic Luncheon speaker, March 2rd in Seattle

The Changing Regulatory Landscape for Development

Pam Xander, Environmental Science Manager and Principal, SoundEarth Strategies, Inc. will be a featured speaker at the March 2rd NEBC Olympic luncheon in Seattle. She and the other guest speakers will speak on how developers working in Seattle and King County encounter simple to complex environmental review and permitting processes during the purchase, sale, and development of properties. Pam will focus on changes in State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) review. Other speakers will discuss changes and initiatives within the City of Seattle and changes in the state Hydraulic Project Approval (HPA) and Corps of Engineers permitting.

– Nathan Torgelson, Director, Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections
– Katie Walter, Natural Resources Manager and Vice President, Shannon & Wilson, Inc.
– Pam Xander, Environmental Science Manager and Principal, SoundEarth Strategies, Inc.

11:30 – 1:00 
McCormick & Schmick’s
1200 Westlake Ave. N
Seattle, WA 98109

To register, go to

Audrie Starsy, SoundEarth Strategies Project Scientist will present at the NEBC Managing Stormwater in WA event, March 9th in Tacoma


Audrie will present how SoundEarth Strategies designed and installed a Grattix Box Treatment System at a Seattle Industrial Fabrication Shop.

SoundEarth designed and installed a pump vault and Grattix box treatment system as a Level 3 Corrective Action at an industrial facility in 2015. Learn about the treatment system design: its implementation, benefits , challenges, cost, and effectiveness to treat metals and sediments on an industrial site. Presented by Audrie Starsy, SoundEarth Strategies, Inc. Ms. Starsy is stormwater scientist and project manager, focused on GSI systems as well as NPDES compliance and adaptive stormwater management for industrial, municipal, and construction stormwater projects.

James P. Bryson named Principal Geologist of SoundEarth Strategies

JPB Headshot3SoundEarth Strategies Inc. is pleased to announce the addition of James P. Bryson, PG, as Principal Geologist, to our growing California practice. James is a licensed California Professional Geologist with more than 25 years of experience directing characterization and remediation efforts at a variety of commercial, industrial, and Federal sites throughout the United States.

Mr. Bryson’s focus is on partnering with clients to create positive business outcomes and solutions for capital investment assurance, business risk mitigation, and transactional deal assurance to facilitate real estate transactions and gain regulatory closure. Mr. Bryson’s experience also includes expert witness testimony and litigation support services related to environmental liability claims. We are very pleased to welcome James to SoundEarth Strategies. We know he will provide our clients with the ability to make informed decisions regarding complex environmental issues.

Pam Xander Named Principal at SoundEarth Strategies, Inc.

SoundEarth Strategies, Inc., a leading West Coast-based environmental consulting firm, is pleased to announce that Pam Xander has been named Principal in our Seattle office. Pam manages our northwest team of environmental review and permitting specialists and has a thorough understanding of environmental conditions and agency requirements to help clients plan, design, permit, and implement their planning and development projects.

Pam specializes in preparing State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) documentation of proposed land development for industrial and public works projects. She has more than 25 years of experience planning, conducting, and preparing environmental studies and has worked with public agencies and private developers on over 150 SEPA/NEPA projects. Ms. Xander’s experience also includes strategizing and assessing upland and in-water permitting requirements related to local, state, and federal issues.

Jennifer Grant Brings Real Estate and Land Use Permitting Experience to SoundEarth

SoundEarth Strategies, Inc. has hired Jennifer Grant as a Due Diligence Associate in our Seattle office. Ms. Grant specializes in working with developers, ports and public agencies to secure, track, and comply with complex development approvals. Jennifer brings 15 years of experience from her former position with a Seattle law firm where she worked as a paralegal in the real estate and land use practice area. She has extensive knowledge of development regulations, permits, and entitlements, and her training and knowledge of regulatory requirements will help SoundEarth clients with due diligence and permitting needs. We are very pleased to welcome Jennifer to SoundEarth. We know she will provide our clients with the ability to make informed decisions regarding the acquisition and development of properties.

What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You

The Ins & Outs Of Site Inspection In A New Era

Clean sampling procedures are crucial to any stormwater program, as demonstrated by Robert Brunnette of Eurofins

Clean sampling procedures are crucial to any stormwater program, as demonstrated by Robert Brunnette of Eurofins.

As NPDES permits strive to improve storm water runoff, site inspections and monitoring put an increasing demand on businesses and municipalities to evaluate and report their program performance. One of the primary goals of the permits is to gather additional data through site monitoring. The permits now are requiring sites to be monitored for additional pollutants, often to lower levels than historically have been measured. This increases the demand on the inspectors, laboratories and storm water managers to accurately determine pollutant types and sources so that appropriate, effective BMPs can be implemented. Inspections no longer involve just walking around the site looking for obvious infractions, but rather trying to identify where the parts-per-billion levels of certain contaminants could be coming from.

Inspections are a required element of any storm water permit. Storm water field monitoring is the baseline from which all storm water program decisions are made. Each permit type might have slightly different emphasis points that are being monitored, yet they share common points of evaluation. As permit benchmarks are being driven to ever lower levels, more attention must be paid to how sites are being inspected and how samples are being collected. Field staff and laboratories must employ clean techniques and sample analysis equipment to accurately interpret the water quality of the discharge. In many cases, sampling equipment used by laboratories measures only to the parts-per-million level and then estimates to the parts-per-billion level required by many permits. If samples are sent to laboratories that are using analytical instruments that do not have quantitation limits that can accurately and consistently measure the pollutant parameter, the entire storm water program could be built on a foundation of false information. Without accurate sample data, it is difficult to make the most cost-effective decisions on BMPs. Worse yet, if the sampler and laboratory do not adhere to clean practices in the sampling process, contaminants not related to the sampled discharge might create a trigger of corrective actions due to benchmark exceedance. Antiquated methodologies and laboratory equipment that measured storm water pollutant levels 10 years ago often are not sophisticated enough to measure to the levels of today’s benchmark standards.

It is crucial for sampling locations to accurately represent the drainage in question. Oftentimes commingled sources of runoff are represented in the discharge, and corrective actions may be applied inaccurately and may not truly represent the discharge in question. Old infrastructure, run-on (runoff that flows from another property onto a site), groundwater intrusions, and discharges to larger water bodies or impoundments create a challenge in determining a sample point that best represents the surface water runoff of many locations.

Construction Inspections

Pollutants from construction activity are identified either as “smoke signal” particles being thrown in the air due to dust, or “chocolate milk” running off the property visibly. Undesired inspections on poorly managed construction activity can easily happen in a drive-by fashion and are easy targets for enforcement or litigious action. Understanding how to prevent this type of situation requires a better understanding of BMPs and more diligent onsite inspections. Inspectors on construction sites should not only walk around the perimeter of the project, but also evaluate where risk from erosion or pollutants could occur from operations inside the project area of disturbance. Evaluating where run-on could affect the project and where downstream sensitivities may play a part also are good ideas.

Most permits now use electronic submissions for reporting to governing agencies. Likewise, many inspection reports now are done on an electronic platform. Inspectors are using tablets and other smart devices to document site performance. These devices have features such as photos, video and GPS data that can be directly imported into reports. No matter whether inspections are done electronically or on paper, rain will be the proof of whether the site is properly prepared for erosion and sediment control. All BMPs are tools, but not everyone knows how to use them appropriately. Inspecting BMPs before a rain event should be the No. 1 priority, as trying to control highly turbid runoff from discharging off the site is much more challenging.

Industrial Inspections

For some industries, the source of pollutants can be readily determined, but for others it might not be directly related to the industrial practice, such as the buildings or fencing on a site. Without a clear understanding of the source of the pollutants, control measures and BMPs are minimally effective for reaching benchmark standards.

Industrial storm water monitoring often focuses on contaminants such as total suspended solids and metals. Many BMPs are capable of reducing these contaminants in industrial discharge, yet they do not all work the same. Selecting the most effective BMPs for a site often requires determining the nature of the contaminant—dissolved or solid, large or small particles, etc.—by first determining the sources of the contaminant and understanding the true nature of the pollutant. Then BMPs can be selected that will specifically reduce and remove the pollutant of concern rather than guessing with a “fix-all” solution at the end of the pipe.

Municipal Inspections

More is being asked of municipalities regarding performance of their storm water programs, in addition to inspections of permitted sites within their jurisdictions. Public works directors and city engineers are under pressure to increase field staff training and knowledge and still have the ability to maintain their budgets, especially when it comes to low-impact development (LID).

As more rain gardens, bioswales and permeable surfaces are installed, municipalities are faced with the ongoing maintenance of these features to sustain their performance. Municipal inspectors investigating the performance of bioswales or rain gardens are not just looking for erosion or trash and debris buildup within the feature, but they also have to determine whether the features are infiltrating as designed, and if the plants are healthy, or if invasive species are taking up residence within the feature. When inspectors look at erosion and sediment control on construction sites, they also have to evaluate whether the infiltration pond and permeable driveways are being adequately protected and will function appropriately in a post-construction environment. It is a new day for municipal crews with respect to storm water inspections on both public and private facilities.


The bottom line is this: As permits require lower benchmarks, more sophisticated inspections and monitoring are going to be necessary in order for management to make the most effective and efficient decisions. Inspectors need to continue their education and expand their experience. Storm water monitoring and inspections have changed dramatically from 10 years ago when we were looking for dirty water and rainbow sheen. Now we are evaluating BMP performance and plant health in LID structures, and sampling storm water contaminants in parts per billion. The success and compliance of our storm water programs are directly related to how well we understand and can communicate inspections from the field to make good BMP decisions.

Nathan Hardebeck, Sound Earth Strategies, Inc. For more information please email Solutions, December 02, 2014.


Ayn Generes Presenting at the Mid-Willamette Summit

Ayn Generes, Regional Stormwater Manager, is a featured speaker at the Mid-Willamette Erosion Control and Stormwater Management Summit, January 27 at the Keizer Civic Center in Keizer, Oregon.

Ayn’s session, Stormwater Management and Erosion Control Case Studies, will detail various successful methods of controlling erosion on construction projects along with assorted stormwater management BMPs.

If you are in need of continuing education or erosion prevention and sediment control training, then this is the perfect one-day event for you – earn up to 6 hours of CEU credits.  The summit is a training resource for home builders, developers, engineers, architects, landscapers, construction contractors, and municipal staff and crews. Registration and more information about the event can be found at

Washington State Department of Ecology Issues Industrial Stormwater General Permit

On December 3, the Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology) issued the revised Industrial Stormwater General Permit (ISGP). The permit is effective January 2, 2015 through December 31, 2019. Approximately 1,100 industrial facilities are covered by the permit throughout the state; 70 percent of the permittees are in the Puget Sound region.

Ecology reports, “With the updates to the permit, certain facilities near cleanup sites around Puget Sound have additional pollution-prevention requirements. Examples include some sites in the Lower Duwamish Waterway in Seattle and some in the Thea Foss Waterway in Commencement Bay in Tacoma.

In addition, the permit incorporates new federal regulations for airport de-icing at facilities with 1,000 or more annual jet departures. It streamlines engineering reports when stormwater treatment systems are needed. And the permit requires electronic reporting, except in limited circumstances.”

Daniel Lipinski, SoundEarth Strategies stormwater project manager advises clients that the most significant change to the new permit is in Section 6 Discharges to Impaired Waters. There are additional sampling requirements and effluent limits for discharge to impaired waterbodies, specifically affecting the Lower Duwamish Watershed. “If an outfall is subject to an impaired waterbody effluent limit (Condition S6.C) for a parameter that also has a benchmark (Condition S5), the effluent limit supersedes the benchmark.”  Facilities in the Lower Duwamish who were not previously required to sample total suspended solids (TSS) are now required to sample and report TSS at each outfall starting January 2, 2015. However, for these facilities the TSS limit does not go into effect until January 1, 2017.

A summary of the changes can be downloaded here. The full Washington Industrial Stormwater General Permit can be downloaded here or found on Ecology’s website,