CDIM Update - California’s Infrastructure Report Card

CDIM Update - California’s Infrastructure Report Card

Dear Friends, Family, Colleagues, and Clients:

I write now to provide an update on CDIM’s technical work over the past year supporting the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) in its effort to prepare its recently released California Infrastructure Report Card. I served as the hazardous waste subcommittee chair for the 2019 report card and, along with other CDIM staff, wrote the hazardous waste section of the report.

As part of ASCE’s volunteer team, CDIM dedicated time to researching California’s infrastructure, including its condition and the economics of operation, maintenance, and capital improvement.  We then assigned a grade to the infrastructure and made concrete recommendations to improve the grade.  

Below I give a detailed description of our findings for the hazardous waste infrastructure (spoiler: C-) and then summarize the overall findings of the report card. I am available to discuss any aspect of the report, and I would love to talk ad nauseum with you about the hazardous waste section!


INFRASTRUCTURE REPORT CARD—HAZARDOUS WASTE SECTION

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The report categorized hazardous waste (HW) infrastructure into two primary elements: HW disposal and site cleanup. Overall, we graded California’s HW infrastructure as a C-. The main reason for the low grade is that California sends around half the hazardous waste it generates to other states (or Mexico) where the waste is placed at a lower cost into non-hazardous landfills with less protective design standards (see graphic below). Another key factor for the grade is that California is not systematically evaluating the effects of sea level changes on contaminated sites that have been closed.  In many of these sites, the contamination remains in place in coastal areas where both the sea level and groundwater levels are rising.   

The report notes that California has developed exemplary digital tools for tracking state-wide waste disposal and cleanup (see Haz. Waste Tracking SystemCalEnviroScreenGeotrackerand Envirostor). It also notes that “Cradle to Grave” regulations for HW, and strong laws for responsible party liability in site cleanup are effective overarching frameworks that help to maintain the infrastructure and to protect California’s environment and the health of its residents.

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To improve the grade, we recommend increasing funding and incentives for contaminated site cleanup (by including incentives for infill development and coastal vulnerability assessment of HW sites in a state-wide infrastructure spending plan);  revamping certain programs (e.g. CLRRA, SCAP and CLEAN programs) that cause delays, confusion and poor allocation of resources; and, re-evaluating California’s HW characteristic standards, minimization programs, and landfill capacity to develop an integrated and rational statewide management strategy that prevents unnecessary disposal of waste in out-of-state/country non-HW landfills.


INFRASTRUCTURE REPORT CARD—ENTIRE REPORT CARD

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It’s rare for the public to notice a well-functioning infrastructure, until something goes wrong like the Aliso Canyon gas leak or the Orville Dam spillway emergency.  Only when a populated area is threatened or evacuated does the public become aware of the infrastructure's importance.

Other challenges, like bringing safe drinking water to California’s rural communities, are rarely discussed except by those who live there. In some communities, arsenic, chromium or nitrates have rendered the water unsafe and requiring treatment.  And retrofitting of coastal structures for sea level rise resilience is another important part of our infrastructure that may not appear urgent in Sacramento’s myopic budget cycle.  Even road improvements, which have readily visible economic benefits such as reducing vehicle wear-and-tear and increasing fuel efficiency are neglected because of inefficient resource allocation. 

To assess the condition of California’s infrastructure, ASCE divided the infrastructure into 17 categories (e.g., dams, drinking water, ports, schools) and assigned a subcommittee to each category.  The subcommittee did the technical research and assigned a grade. The individual category grades were then averaged by ASCE to determine the overall state grade.

The team gave the highest grades to aviation (C+), ports (C+), and wastewater (C+) and the lowest grades to energy (D-), inland waterways (D), levees (D), and roads (D). 

To raise the grades, ASCE recommends that California decision-makers: 1) promote effective and collaborative leadership, 2) develop intelligent plans to better identify funding needs, 3) increase state and local funding, and 4) inform the public and raise overall awareness about infrastructure issues.


CONCLUSION

ASCE found the condition of California’s infrastructure to be inadequate. Our subcommittee found hazardous waste infrastructure to be functioning but in need of improvement, especially as relates to in-state landfill utilization, planning for more e-waste, and sea-level rise planning for contaminated sites. Because infrastructure is critical to maintaining a vital environment for citizens, business and government to function within, ASCE prepared the Report Card to raise awareness about the issue with California decision-makers and included thoughtful policy suggestions for how to make improvements. We hope that government at local, state and federal levels will take the recommendations and work to improve the grade!

Our Team is Expanding!

Our Team is Expanding!

CDIM is pleased to announce the hiring of Bryan Starks, CAC. Bryan obtained an engineering degree from the University of Hawaii and has over seven years’ environmental consulting experience.  He is a California Division of Occupational Safety and Health Certified Asbestos Consultant (#17-5914).  Prior to joining CDIM, Bryan worked at multiple environmental engineering firms in Hawaii and California providing project-level environmental investigation, remediation and construction management services. Bryan will lead CDIM’s field services group and provide technical support to CDIM’s clients in the areas of hazardous materials assessment, soil and groundwater testing, and site cleanup and remediation.

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Giving Back

Giving Back

CDIM ended 2017 grateful to all its Clients and partner firms for the opportunity to execute technically challenging engineering and environmental projects that affect San Francisco Bay communities. To express our gratitude, CDIM and its employees engage (volunteer or donation) with three local charitable organizations.

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Downtown Streets Team: San Francisco DST works collaboratively with homeless and low-income men and women on street beautification projects that empower individuals and acts as a stepping stone into employment, housing, and a better life. SF DST provides its volunteers with a non-cash stipend to help cover their basic needs, and case management and employment services to find housing and a job. SF DST works in the Civic Center neighborhood where CDIM is located.

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SF Court Appointed Special Advocates: San Francisco CASA transforms the lives of abused and neglected foster youth by providing one consistent, caring volunteer advocate, trained to address each child’s needs in the court and the community.  SF CASA has 286 volunteers who have provided services to 300 court-dependent children and adolescents in the past year, which represents nearly 30% of the total number of youth in San Francisco foster services.

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Bay Area Rescue: The Richmond Rescue Mission helps meet the basic needs of homeless men, women, and children in the Bay Area with food and a clean, safe place to sleep. Homelessness in Contra Costa County increased by 33% in 2016 and Richmond Police estimate that up to 800 people sleep unsheltered on any given night. Confronting this problem in 2016, the Rescue Mission provided more than 77,000 nights of shelter and more than 788,000 meals.

End of Summer Update

End of Summer Update

Dear Friends, Family, Colleagues and Clients (Once and Future),

I hope this email finds you all with spirit buoyed by a summer of family, friends and vacations.  I write now to provide a long overdue update on recent goings-on at CDIM Engineering: our first year's operation, recent hires, and new business credentials.


ONE YEAR DOWN!

We made it through our first year of business, and thrived! Over the first year, we solidified many of our business processes (project accounting, technology systems, employee benefit plans, safety program, risk management). We were fortunate enough to provide environmental engineering services to clients from a wide range of California’s economy, including: ports, light and heavy industry, property developers, law firms, municipalities, a railroad, one university and a national laboratory. Our work focused on civil engineering, soil / groundwater / sediment remediation, regulatory compliance, and storm water management. We are grateful for the growth opportunities our clients have afforded us, and hope for another year of good work and modest growth.


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OUR TEAM HAS EXPANDED!

I am pleased to announce that Lishan Zhu has joined CDIM as a staff engineer.  Lishan recently graduated from Cornell and has spent the past year as a graduate intern with the Santa Clara Valley Water District.  She will support me and my partner Mary Cunningham in all of our projects. We are also joined by Anne Ritcey, who will provide part-time GIS and data processing support.  Anne is an experienced data scientist who spent ten years supporting Lawrence Livermore National Labs environmental restoration program.  We also continue to expand our network of partner professionals, field staff, and specialty contractors to seamlessly support client projects.


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WE'VE OBTAINED NEW CREDENTIALS 

CDIM obtained a Class A General Engineering Contractors License with Hazardous Substance Removal Certificate from California Contractors State Licensing Board (# 1020239 A HAZ). The contractor’s license allows us to provide specialized construction services for trusted clients and commensurate with our engineering skill set (remediation, water treatment).

We also became certified as a Local Business Enterprise (LBE) through the City of San Francisco Contract Monitoring Division (#CMD082017244—enter "CDIM" in search bar). With our LBE certification, we hope to again provide environmental engineering services to various San Francisco agencies. CDIM is certified for the civil engineering, hazardous waste and remediation and environmental advisory categories.


We are very fortunate to have started CDIM at a time of economic growth, and we remain grateful to all the clients and partner firms that have trusted us this past year.  

Thank you,

Scott Bourne, PE
Principal