Tuesday, October 7, 2008

A day in the life of an environmental scientist...

I've been working for almost two months now... sheesh, how time flies. There hasn't been much "planning" work yet, but the more "sciencey" stuff I'm doing is pretty cool... lots of variety and learning new things every day, which I like. It's mainly a desk job, but I have been out in the field a couple of times, which is nice (especially when it's sunny every day!).
Last week we had a "tank pull"... digging up an old underground fuel tank, and all the associated hoo-hah that you have to do around it. This is a pretty rare occurrence in California these days... most of the old underground tanks got pulled up in the mid-90s when new legislation came out, but this one has been unused for more than 50 years... since the area was farmed (it's now just south of downtown San Jose & is fully residential), so it got missed first time around.
The property it was on was pretty "interesting"... the guy had lived there more than 50 years, and I don't think he'd taken out the trash since moving there! I was more scared for my health from the trash and goodness knows what else laying around the property, than I was from any chemicals that might have leaked out of the old tank! Plus the mangy looking cats roaming around!
Because the tank was so old, and it was leaded gasoline, the contractors that were doing the excavation had to get suited up in hazmat suits & respirators... total overkill, but that's what their bosses said they had to do. It did feel a bit weird though... with us standing less than 20 metres away, wearing no protective gear! But the detectors weren't picking up any chemicals where we were, so I guess it was safe.

Basically, my job was to stand around watching the contractors dig up the tank (and take lots of photos), tell the driller where to drill, log the soil cores from the boreholes, take soil and groundwater samples from the holes and also some surface soil samples, and now I get to write a report about it all (once the samples come back from the lab).
We have some more fieldwork coming up soon too... groundwater monitoring at a property that's used for munitions and armory testing. Apparently if I didn't have a green card, I wouldn't be allowed on the property, cos it's all top-secret military stuff... crazy!


Anonymous said...

Wow! That sounds like loads of fun, but a bit disgusting as well!
You've helped me a lot, by writing this report, since I want to become an environmental scientist when I grow up. I have to this project on it for school and this is exactly what I've been looking for!
Thanks a billion!