Wednesday, February 22, 2017

not atwitter

People have been announcing the death of the blog and the great migration to twitter for a while now. A good example is here at Dynamic Ecology.

I have zero interest in twitter. I'm not really a 140-character person. Blogging is more my pace because I like to let my posts gestate for a while, and then write up exactly how much I feel works for a particular subject.

I also don't care to follow my scientist friends on a real-time basis. When I'm at work, I work. When I'm at home, sometimes I sit back with a glass of wine and relax on the couch with a book. Perhaps I'm inherently antisocial, but I'm not interested in the back and forth of discussion on twitter - or other platforms. It's not a surprise that I'm not a terribly active facebook user either.

 For me, blogging is a way for me to build up a repository of opinions experiences that I can share for anyone who's interested in the environmental biz or geology or working outside for a living. I'd like to be somewhat relevant, but I'd prefer to have more freedom with what I write than to be timely.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

administrative record fail

Many federal cleanup sites (and a large number of state cleanup sites) have publicly available administrative records. Depending on the agency involved, this may include just the legal records and the major reports used to document completion of the cleanup, or may include just about every piece of correspondence written along the way.

I've reviewed my fair share of administrative records. Most of the time, I can get what I need online and don't need to trek to a records facility or local library.

I was reviewing one administrative record online, however, and apparently some additional documents got shuffled in accidentally. The EPA technical lead's performance review (for his annual review for his job) was attached to the end of a very long, very dry technical report.

I'm happy to report that Mr. EPA technical lead was considered to be generally competent, and his peer reviewers had only positive things to say. That's nice, since his review is permanently enshrined online.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

fun stuff to drill through (4)

This post a while back on water handling reminded me of another geologic feature that's a pain to drill through: faults. (see my last post on this topic and some links to older posts here).

Now, I haven't overseen drilling into any spectacular or famous faults, per se. But I have very rarely drilled into faults of at least local significance - local enough to be mapped and named, anyway.

Drilling into faults or fault zones at any depth of significance (say, more than 50 feet or so) leads to two major issues: water production and borehole instability.

Larger scale faults tend to be more than just a single fracture in the bedrock. They may include a fault zone, where the rock for a certain distance is much more fractured and may possibly have a different structure than the parent rock. This may hold a lot of water. And if you're flying along, doing some sort of fast, aggressive drilling such as air-rotary, and creating a borehole with a reasonably wide diameter, you may end up tapping into a lot more water than expected. And depending on the air pressure the driller's using, the drilling rate, and the structure of the rock, the water flow may not just stop once the driller turns off the air pressure. Nothing like watching your frac tanks fill up with contaminated water while you wait for the water to stop pouring out of the borehole!

So, water production is a thing that you can deal with. You get the frac tanks on-line, make sure that you have pumps capable of moving a lot of water, and maybe stop drilling for a bit every once in a while to see how much water you're getting back. Borehole instability is another problem.

Once we install a borehole, we usually like to do a bunch of testing, which involves lowering instruments down there to collect samples and geophysical measurements, installing packers to seal off certain zones for testing, and maybe putting in a permanent system with multiple sample ports. If you have a fracture zone that's at a reasonably steep angle, and bedrock that is not super hard (like a siltstone or sandstone) you may find that the walls of the borehole pinch back in almost immediately. This makes it hard to fish the drill rods out of the borehole, let alone any $10,000 geophysical tooling you'd like to use. You can always try and bang in some steel casing past the obstruction, but at that point you may have shrunk the effective size of the borehole so you can't get the other stuff you need down there, and then you've shut off the rest of the bedrock from evaluation. And multiple boreholes get expensive fast. Another option is to be a lot more cautious up front, and do all your sampling/testing in 10-foot intervals as you drill (with casing above the interval in question), but that does slow the drilling process down and requires much more coordination between multiple contractors, all of whom are being paid for their standby time.

Intercepting a fault/fault zone actually can tell us quite a bit about the regional geology and the structure of the bedrock. We just have to be able to get a borehole in there long enough to do the evaluation.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Bloom County and the EPA, part 3

Here's the last bit regarding the EPA. The previous installments are here and here.

I just finished the new Bloom County book yesterday - highly recommend!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

bloom county and the EPA, part 2

This is the 2nd day of my week of old Bloom County comic strips from the early 1980s. See my last post for the first installment.

Reading these old strips, its amazing how little has changed. Final installment later this week...

Monday, January 16, 2017

Bloom County and the EPA

I happen to be a huge fan of Berkeley Breathed's... whatever cartoon series he's working on.

I was going through an Bloom County book (publication year: 1984) that I've had forever, and I found a series that I thought you'd appreciate. This is a scanned copy of my old book, and the picture is lousy (sorry). Rather than add everything at once, I figured that I would make this the week of Bloom County's EPA circa 1982-ish.

Friday, January 13, 2017

fantasy comment response

"This comment is so totally wrong on so many levels that it would be best to take your comments back, think about them, and send another try."

Unfortunately, I don't have the cojones to actually send this back to the reviewing authority.

Instead, we engage in a very polite back-and-forth whereby we keep batting down side issues and non sequiturs, and by the time the comment back and forth is done, the problem with the original document has been lost and nobody is satisfied.