Environmental Geologist, Kevin McAndrews @kevincobarno: A Day in the GeoLife Series

environmental geologist

Kevin McAndrews, Project Manager and Environmental Geologist. Photo credit: Kevin McAndrews

NAME:  Kevin McAndrews

CURRENT TITLE:  Project Manager and Environmental Geologist

AREA OF EXPERTISE:  Environmental consulting, contaminate remediation, hydrogeology, and vapor intrusion

YEARS OF EXPERIENCE:  5 years at a small environmental consulting firm

EDUCATION:  Bachelors of Science in Geological Sciences, Salem State University, Salem, Massachusetts, United States

WEBSITE:  www.cleansoils.com

TWITTER:  www.twitter.com/kevincobarno

What’s your job like?

My job consists of both managing projects from the office and conducting environmental fieldwork which typically averages a 50/50 split. The scope of work for each project varies depending upon the degree of contamination; however, a significant amount of my work consists of providing oversight, sampling, and closure report writing for sudden oil and hazardous material spill site cleanups. Other projects revolve around property transaction due diligence, where I evaluate the site history, direct test boring and groundwater monitoring well installations, observe test pit excavations, install sub-slab soil gas probes, and sample various media including soil, groundwater, sediment, soil gas, and indoor air for potential contamination. At properties where historic contamination is identified, I conduct subsurface nature and extent delineation studies, prepare hydrogeologic contaminant plume migration models, develop remedial action plans, and implement the actual cleanup which ranges from excavating and dewatering a site to injecting remedial additives for in-situ contaminant degradation. Following the cleanup, I prepare closure reports which involve data analysis and risk assessment.

tank closure

Underground Storage Tank Closure and Removal. Photo credit: Kevin McAndrews

What’s a typical day like?

A typical day in the office consists of arriving early and meeting with my team to go over the ongoing projects and delegate the daily tasks. Some mornings will involve a conference call with a client regarding the status of an ongoing project or with a state regulator for additional approvals at a cleanup site. Answering project inquiries and preparing cost proposals is very common. Some office days, I will see 2 or 3 cost proposals leave my desk. The remainder of my office work is tied to preparing reports of varying complexities, ranging from Limited Environmental Reviews and Phase I Environmental Site Assessments for property transactions, all the way to state-required Permanent Solution Reports for cleanups. Such cleanup reports involve drafting site plan figures, tabulating analytical data, and developing conceptual site models in order to assess the environmental risk associated with residual contamination left in place. These reports are then sent to the Licensed Site Professional (LSP) for final review before being submitted to the state Department of Environmental Protection for closure.

A typical field day of drilling involves preparing a sampling plan, directing the driller to the correct location and depth, observing the soil boring cores retrieved and preparing logs based upon lithology, preparing soil core samples to be field screened via photoionization detector (PID) for total organic vapors, and submitting select samples to be laboratory analyzed for the contaminants of concern.

Photoionization Detector

Field Screening Contaminated Soil via Photoionization Detector (PID). Photo credit: Kevin McAndrews

soil sample collection

Preparing Soil Samples for Laboratory Analysis. Photo credit: Kevin McAndrews

Following the soil boring core samples, the driller will install a groundwater monitoring well within the boring.

Direct Push Technology

Limited Access Soil Boring Advancement via Direct Push Technology. Photo credit: Kevin McAndrews

Hollow Stem Auger

Deep Soil Boring Advancement via Hollow Stem Auger Technology. Photo credit: Kevin McAndrews

The well is gauged, developed, purged, and sampled for similar contaminants of concern.

environmental sampling

Groundwater Quality Monitoring and Environmental Sampling. Photo credit: Kevin McAndrews

Most sites will require a potentiometric map to be developed by conducting an elevation survey of all the wellheads.

well elevation survey

Conducting a Well Elevation Survey for a Potentiometric Surface Map. Photo Credit: Kevin McAndrews

Other field work consists of directing cleanup crews during active excavation work to remove contaminated soil, most often related to a tractor trailer crash that released diesel fuel oil to the roadway shoulder soil.

soil excavation

Roadway Diesel Spill Cleanup Via Excavator. Photo credit: Kevin McAndrews

In some limited access locations, we will bring in a high-powered vacuum truck to remove the contaminated soil.

vacuum truck

Roadway Diesel Spill Cleanup Via Vacuum Truck. Photo credit: Kevin McAndrews

The dirty dirt is then brought to an approved facility for recycling. Most often, the oil-affected soil is sent for thermal desorption into a usable material such as roadway base. Lastly, I conduct vapor intrusion assessments to determine whether off-gassing from contaminated sites is affecting the breathable air of a building. For these studies, I install sub-slab soil gas probes beneath the basement concrete slab in order to test the soil gas air beneath a building as well as collect ambient indoor air samples.

What’s fun?

The best part about being an environmental consultant is that I’m literally a contamination detective. I have to research the history of a property and the surrounding area which usually turns up some interesting historical facts. This research ranges from visiting local libraries and local government offices, to reviewing historic Sanborn fire insurance maps, aerial photographs, city directories, and conducting interviews with anyone who will talk to me. Once all that information is compiled, I conduct a site visit in order to confirm the findings and observe for any further areas of likely contamination. The clues from potential contamination can range from something as innocuous as an old floor drain in a former dry cleaner to a large oil stain on soil beneath an old tractor. If the presence or likely presence of contamination is identified, the next step is to collect analytical data in order to confirm or dismiss the contamination. More often than not, I run into sites with historic contamination in-place where further assessment is necessary and eventually remediated. The investigation portion of my job collides with my love for geology where going into the ground to collect samples reveals the glacial and post-glacial history of the New England region where I work. A majority of the soil boring cores I collect consist primarily of glaciofluvial deposits, marine clays, and anthropogenic fill. The remnants left in the ground following the industrial revolution and subsequent developments provide an intriguing look into how businesses such as manufactured gas plants, textile mills, auto service stations, and dry cleaners operated prior to the hazardous waste regulations put in place during the mid-1980s.

soil boring cores

Soil Boring Cores with Visible Staining From Former Auto Service Station. Photo credit: Kevin McAndrews

What’s challenging?

The most challenging aspect of my job is the client interface when presenting unfavorable findings and recommendations. As a scientist, presenting data in an easy-to-understand way is important for helping the client make informed decisions regarding the environmental conditions of a property.  Also, as an environmental advocate, it is difficult to stand by as the decision to leave contamination in place is made. I have dealt with several properties where the current owner had inherited the property, we identified a high level of contamination, and they decided to leave the property vacant instead of cleaning it up during a redevelopment.

What’s your advice for students?

field geologist

Fieldwork Fun! Photo credit: Kevin McAndrews

My advice to students is to network as much as possible. You never know who might have a job opening or know someone who is looking for an immediate hire. A significant amount of my colleagues have been in the right place at the right time to land a job due to an immediate opening after someone had left the company. No matter what position you start out with, stay with it for at least 1 year in order to build up your experience and try to learn everything you can. Have a positive attitude and take every opportunity to build your skill set. Learning what you don’t like about a job or industry will help guide you in a better direction in the future.

Riverbank Hydrochemistry, Dasapta Erwin Irawan @dasaptaerwin: GeoProject Series

NAME:  Dasapta Erwin Irawan

BIO: Dasapta Erwin Irawan was born and completed his whole education in Indonesia. He finished his PhD about hydrochemistry in the volcanic area in 2009. He works at Institut Teknologi Bandung. His research interests are: hydrochemistry and multivariate analysis. He loves to learn open source apps and how scientific people interact with each other and share their work. For more contribution to open science, he is serving as ORCID and Center for Open Science ambassador.

PROJECT SUMMARY: My current research is focusing in Cikapundung riverbank, the main river stream that flows across Bandung City (West Java, Indonesia). Using multivariate statistics, I try to classify the water samples based on the hydrochemical properties and to identify interaction between groundwater and river water along this riverbank. I use several statistical approaches with R software as the main tool. This project started in 1997 using the manual analogue mapping technique. After a long hiatus, I started the project again intensely in 2013. In 2014, I went to the University of Sydney (Faculty of Agriculture and Environment) under the supervision of Dr. Willem Vervoort to apply some statistical approach in the model, using open source software “R”. The additional skill is very useful in my line of work, and I have used it in every project that I have worked on since.

LINKEDIN: Dasapta Erwin Irawan

TWITTER: @dasaptaerwin





What’s the purpose of your project?

The purpose of the project is to identify: (1) the interaction between groundwater and river water along the riverbank; (2) the possible contamination sources; and (3) the interaction between physical and ecological parameters with the status of public health, using the number of diarrhea cases in the community health centers (Puskesmas, Indonesia).

Cikapundung Riverbank, Indonesia. Photo copyright: Dasapta Erwin Irawan


Cikapundung Riverbank, Indonesia. Photo copyright: Dasapta Erwin Irawan

How are you setting up and testing your project?

I manage a flowing team of students, consisting of undergraduate and master students. We visit the same well point three times a year to take samples and take notes of the changes that occur around the well point. We measure the baseline condition of uncontaminated groundwater in the upstream and compare it with more water quality data in the downstream.

Any results yet?

Yes. The research is going as we have planned. Our preliminary results are: (1) we can identify the close connection between groundwater and river water; (2) more industries located along the riverbank have led to contamination. We need to be careful with such conditions; and (3) the state of contamination is getting worse without any precautions taken by the authorities.

What has been the most interesting/challenging?

The most interesting and challenging aspects of this research was the dissemination of the results to the community. We had to find more simpler ways to report the results.

How will this project help society?

This project has been presented in several community health centers along the river stream. Some posters and leaflets were also printed and given away to some kelurahans (Indonesian villages) in the area. With the intensive dissemination, hopefully we can add some information and understanding with the locals of carrier problems. This will increase awareness of the condition and understanding of the criteria of healthy water sources and unhealthy ones.

PhD Student, Volcanology, Kerry Reid @Kerry_Reid21: A Day in the GeoLife Series


Volcanology PhD Student, Kerry Reid

NAME:  Kerry Reid


AREA OF EXPERTISE:  Volcanic degassing, lava lakes

YEARS OF EXPERIENCE:  2 years of PhD research

EDUCATION:  PhD in Volcanology (The Open University); MSc in Volcanology (University of Bristol, United Kingdom); BSc (Hons) in Physical Geography

WEBSITE:  http://www.open.ac.uk/people/kr6473

TWITTER:  @Kerry_Reid21

What’s your job like?

My PhD is awesome. Climbing up volcanoes and peering into lava lakes — what’s not to love?! For my PhD, I am working on the Masaya Volcano in Nicaragua. It is an active volcano which is almost constantly churning out a cocktail of toxic gases. In the past, the degassing has reached crisis levels leaving the people that live downwind from the volcano vulnerable to crop failures, water contamination and health implications. My research is to monitor the degassing levels and figure out the different factors which contribute to the rate of degassing.


Degassing at Masaya Volcano. Photo copyright: Kerry Reid

lava lake

Masaya Volcano Lava Lake. Photo copyright: Kerry Reid

What’s a typical day like?

If you ask any PhD students, they will most likely agree that days can be fairly variable, which I think is one of the best parts of a PhD! Earlier on in my PhD, I spent most of my time familiarising myself with the literature. Now that I am entering my third year, I have reached the exciting/scary phase — writing up! So the vast majority of days involve a combination of plotting up data (also known as shouting at ArcGIS and pieces of code!) and starting to interpret my data. I also have a few conferences coming up, so I have been working on presentations for them.

What’s fun?


Photo copyright: Kerry Reid

Definitely the best part of being a PhD student is your fieldwork! The feeling of exhaustion/relief/happiness after a hard days graft in the field collecting data is great — mainly because of the cold beer reward! I also love the freedom and flexibility of a PhD, because you never know what avenue it is going to take you down next!

What’s challenging?

If there is one thing I have learnt about research, it’s that it’s never going to be smooth. I have had my fair share of bumps along this PhD journey. Field work can be challenging. For example, one day I was pulled over by the Nicaraguan police, as they believed I was part of some sort of elaborate drug smuggling scheme and my spectrometers were full of cocaine … that was awkward and soon made me realise I needed to improve on my Spanish skills! Oh, and not to forget, the zopilotes (vultures) — it turns out that they are quite fond of stealing my kit and dropping my diffusion tubes into the crater. I think in all seriousness, the most difficult part of a PhD is the self management. Setting your own deadlines and managing your time efficiently can be really daunting at first.


The guilty zopilote! Photo copyright: Kerry Reid

What’s your advice to students?

A PhD will be the greatest and most challenging thing you will do. I, at times, have found it pretty brutal, but I think it’s all about making the most of your experiences. Try not to get caught up on the negatives and grab onto every opportunity you get, whether that is training sessions, conferences, field work or networking opportunities. It’s quite easy to get wrapped up in your little research bubble, but you need to get yourself out there and make sure you are employable at the end of it!

Chief Specialist, Contamination, Krister Honkonen @KHonkonen: A Day in the GeoLife Series

Krister Honkonen

Krister Honkonen standing in an old landfill. Photo credit: Krister Honkonen

NAME:  Krister Honkonen

CURRENT TITLE:  Chief Specialist

AREA OF EXPERTISE:  Contaminated soil, sediment, groundwater and hazardous building materials

YEARS OF EXPERIENCE:  I have been working with contaminated sites for almost 20 years, basically since I finished my education.
Currently, I work as a consultant at COWI Sweden.

EDUCATION:  I studied at Gothenburg University, Sweden where I completed a M.Sc. in Quaternary and Marine Geology, finishing up with a Master’s thesis about heavy metal pollution in marine sediments. My aim was to work within marine geology, but life turned out another way. I kind of stumbled into the field of contaminated soil at a stage when it became a new field for many geologists in Sweden. Combining geology and environmental issues was great, but I kind of ended up stuck on land and have not worked a lot with marine geology apart from contaminated sediments, of course.

What’s your job like?

I work with a combination of field work including soil and groundwater sampling and quite a lot of office work with risk assessment and evaluation of sites. In my role as project manager, I write a lot of tender offers and administrate projects, where my colleagues often do the field work. I try to take part of field investigations every now and then to get outdoors a few times a month, mostly working with some of our auger drill rigs.

auger rig

Auger drilling rig. Photo credit: Krister Honkonen

What’s a typical day like?

A typical day at work often consists of writing reports, talking to clients, and discussing current projects with team members and coordinating their field work. On a good day, the sun is shining, it´s warm outside, and I get to go out myself to collect soil and water samples on some old industrial site. A nice part, although not geology, is the investigation of hazardous building materials like asbestos, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and others. That is something I have been working with for the last 4-5 years to expand my area of expertise.

What’s fun?

One of the fun parts is to do the background research of a site. It provides the possibility to dig into old archives and learn about the history of an often neglected place. You have to find out everything about the geology to evaluate how it affects the potential spreading of contaminants both in the soil and in the groundwater. At the same time, you have to make some qualified guessing of where to look for contaminants to be able to place the sampling points right. It feels great when you have managed to get everything right, and the customer is satisfied with the outcome, both technically, environmentally and economically.


Chemicals left at a site. Photo credit: Krister Honkonen

What’s challenging?

Since I do a lot of the assessment of sites based on a limited number of soil samples, it is always a challenge to draw the right conclusions from what you know. Balancing the cost of investigations with the cost of remediation of a contaminated site is important. There are a lot of examples of projects that keep expanding with gigantic costs for the customer. I take pride in trying to get it as close to the truth right from the start. With 20 years of experience in evaluating costs for remediation, I´m getting pretty good at it.


Oil and paint in ground. Photo credit: Krister Honkonen

What’s your advice to students?

Although I did not end up with marine geology, I feel I have always worked with something that interested me a lot. My advice is to listen to your heart and not always go for the money in your professional career. Another good advice is to build your network. Be generous in sharing your knowledge and experience, and you will get a lot more back from the people around you.

Geo-Environmental Consultant, Jack Townsend @Townsend_ilb: A Day in the GeoLife Series

Jack Townsend

Jack Townsend, Geo-Environmental Consultant

NAME:  Jack Townsend

CURRENT TITLE:  Geo-Environmental Consultant

AREA OF EXPERTISE:  Geotechnical and environmental engineering

YEARS OF EXPERIENCE:  Nearly two years of industry experience

EDUCATION:  BSc in Geology and MSc in Engineering Geology and Geotechnics both from the University of Portsmouth, United Kingdom (UK)

What’s your job like?

My job is currently approximately 70% fieldwork predominately undertaking ground investigations across the UK to assess the geotechnical and environmental properties of the ground.The remaining 30% is in the office collating data gathered from fieldwork and production of reports to send off to various clients.

What’s a typical day like?

A typical day usually consists of a long drive to the site. Upon arrival, a quick site reconnaissance is required to determine locations of exploratory holes. I am a liaison with drillers and excavation operatives to discuss health and safety and potential challenges that may be present throughout the day. A series of ground intrusive techniques are used, enabling samples to be extracted and logged for environmental and geotechnical purposes that will be tested to enhance our understanding of the ground conditions, thus providing a safe, economic and efficient foundation for engineering whatever the development may be. The day will end with a debrief, tidy up and possibly installation of monitoring pipes. Samples will then be carted off to be scheduled and tested and subsequent results of fieldwork, lab results and observations will be reported for the client.

What’s fun?

No two days are the same. The industry provides numerous opportunities to specialize in a variety of aspects of engineering from foundation design to remediation of contaminated soils. Opportunity to work outdoors, travel and involvement of large civil engineering projects is always a bonus.

What’s challenging?

It can be challenging to work long hours away from home, work during the night and meet tight deadlines whilst maintaining the high quality the industry expects of you.

What’s your advice to students?

It was only a couple of years ago that I was a student myself, so without sounding patronizing I would say the skills you gain from things outside of earth sciences such as communication and leadership through sports and bar work for example can be vital when entering industry and progressing your career.