"After 27 years, I was honored to finally meet Charles R. Livingston face to face on August 28th, 2014."

"After 27 years, I was honored to finally meet Charles R. Livingston face-to-face on August 28th, 2014."

I first heard of Charles R. Livingston – a man who at the time had 35+ years experience in geology, geotechnical and environmental projects throughout the U.S. – through the Association of Environmental & Engineering Geologists (AEG) in 1987. I was a 30 year old Project Hydrogeologist and Environmental Department Manager for Law Engineering Inc. (LAW) in Greenville, South Carolina.

I was getting ready to go before the Principal Board within LAW to become a Principal Hydrogeologist, one of only three in the company of about 5000 employees.  To be designated Principal you had to own company stock, have liability\loss prevention training including contract review, 7 plus years of experience in your field, professional registration and pass a grueling (hazing) interrogation by other experts in the field (internal and external) at the corporate office. Many did not make it through the Principal Board review and typically quit or did not try again if they did not pass.

In the summer of that year, my wife Denise received a call on a Sunday afternoon from a fellow AEG member (Charles R. Livingston) whose daughter was headed home from College and had car trouble.  His daughter’s car was at a gas station in a not-so-good part of town near Spartanburg, South Carolina.  It was getting late in the day and he was very worried for his daughters safety.  With repair shops closed because it was Sunday in the Bible Belt, and not knowing anyone in the area, and being four hours away himself, Charles decided to look for AEG members in the area and found my name in the AEG directory as I lived about 30 miles from Spartanburg.

When Charles called my house Denise answered the phone and told him that I was at the store, but would return shortly.  He just wanted to know if we knew of any auto repair shops open on a Sunday evening.  She told him no, but not to worry.  I was a pretty good mechanic and she knew I wouldn’t mind looking at his daughter’s car and\or help her get to a safe area until the repair shops opened on Monday morning.  So when I returned, off I went to Spartanburg with my car loaded with tools.  I found his daughter and was able to repair her car and get her on her way.  She called her Dad and let him know she was on her way home. I was a road warrior in those days, so I left for a job site that Sunday night and didn’t give it any more thought.

About a week later Denise told me that a beautiful flower arrangement arrived at our house with a card from Charles thanking us for our assistance.  I thought that was a nice gesture on his part but little did I know what he was really going to do.

A few weeks later the annual AEG (national) meeting was held in Atlanta, Georgia and it turned out Charles was an officer in the association and addressed the large crowd.  I was not in attendance but several high ranking officers in LAW were there.  Charles proceeded to talk about the “brotherhood of the AEG” and included the above story as an example of this brotherhood.  He also said that I was a great example of the caliber of the professionals at LAW.

I was not aware of what Charles had done until several weeks later when I was at the corporate office for my Principal “hazing”.  I was a nervous wreck!  My testing/review board consisted of internal experts in my field, an attorney, and a Georgia Tech Professor of Engineering Hydrology.  Also on the board was the CEO of LAW who had happened to hear what Charles said at the AEG meeting.  I was very surprised when the CEO introduced me to the board by standing behind my chair with his hands squeezing my shoulders as he told the story of how I had helped Charles Livingston’s daughter.  He went on to enthusiastically retell the positive things Charles had said about the professionals at LAW.

The board went on to grill me for hours over many different topics, but I was much more relaxed and clearheaded following that glowing introduction.

Needless to say, after all that I became a believer in karma and, yes, I passed my Principal Board Review.

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NECSelling remediation equipment is not like selling donuts, but both can give you a stomach ache at times. On occasion we receive really good bid documents and drawings, other times it might be a phone call and a sketch. In either case, we can’t just take the bid request at face value and give them what they ask for when we often find critical mistakes in their design.

In the past two decades a lot of the remediation projects out for bid were being funded by STATE UST trust funds with getting things done “for cheap” being the main focus. In addition, it appears that consulting companies are spending a lot less time and money training young engineers and scientists on how to properly design a remediation system from pilot test results (if one is performed). The States have created reasonable rate documents that dictate how much they will pay for certain tasks no matter what it costs to do it correctly. Unfortunately, this leads to a lot of cut and paste designs to keep costs down, creating a lot of critical mistakes. It is not unusual for us to see equipment or controls listed in the bid document that have been discontinued for 5 to 10 years. We also see incorrectly sized blowers or compressors and motors specified that will not operate on the power available at the project site.

Recently, we had a quote request for a soil vapor extraction and air sparging system. The customer mentioned that it was a UST site, and that gasoline vapors should not be present in the vented container, just in the vapor conveyance piping and liquid separation tank. They did not believe it was necessary to include an explosion proof (XP) design (Class 1 Division 2 Group D) in their specifications. The system was designed to be in a single room trailer with all the components and wire non-XP.

A portion of the email from our Division manager to the engineer explaining exactly why his design should be revised is presented below. Information pertaining directly to this situation has been made bold:

I have to respectfully disagree. We’ve built countless SVE systems such as this and even have them inspected by a third party laboratory for NEC/UL/NFPA codes and this system absolutely would be a Class 1 Div 2 Group D location.

Just because the vapors SHOULD be contained in the piping, doesn’t mean if a leak occurs they will stay there. In normal conditions they won’t be present. In abnormal conditions, there’s a possibility they will be. Therefore it’s a Class 1, Div 2, Group D location.

Source: https://www.osha.gov/doc/outreachtraining/htmlfiles/hazloc.html

Hazardous Location Conditions

In addition to the types of hazardous locations, the National Electrical Code also concerns itself with the kinds of conditions under which these hazards are present. The Code specifies that hazardous material may exist in several different kinds of conditions which, for simplicity, can be described as, first, normal conditions, and, second, abnormal conditions.

In the normal condition, the hazard would be expected to be present in everyday production operations or during frequent repair and maintenance activity.

When the hazardous material is expected to be confined within closed containers or closed systems and will be present only through accidental rupture, breakage or unusual faulty operation, the situation could be called “abnormal.”

The Code writers have designated these two kinds of conditions very simply, as Division 1 – normal and Division 2 – abnormal. Class I, Class II and Class III hazardous locations can be either Division 1 or Division 2.

Good examples of Class I, Division 1 locations would be the areas near open dome loading facilities or adjacent to relief valves in a petroleum refinery, because the hazardous material would be present during normal plant operations.

Closed storage drums containing flammable liquids in an inside storage room would not normally allow the hazardous vapors to escape into the atmosphere. But, what happens if one of the containers is leaking? You’ve got a Division 2 -abnormal – condition . . . a Class I, Division 2 hazardous location.

So far we’ve covered the three types of hazardous locations:

Class I – gas or vapor
Class II – dust, and
Class III – fibers and flyings

And secondly, kinds of conditions:

Division 1 – normal conditions, and
Division 2 – abnormal conditions

Summary of Class I, II, III Hazardous Locations
Classes
Groups
Divisions
1
2
I Gases, Vapors, and Liquids (Art. 501) A: Acetylene

B: Hydrogen, etc.

C: Ether, etc.

D: Hydrocarbons, fuels, solvents, etc.

Normally explosive and hazardous Not normally present in an explosive concentration (but may accidentally exist)

The best way to go about this is to install the SVE equipment in a separate room from the air sparge equipment. We could build a vapor barrier wall inside of the container. That way the air sparge equipment and control panel won’t have to be XP (saves money).

This manager was able to convince the engineer and the specs were changed and sent to us and our competition for bids. We don’t know who won the bid yet or if any of the other bidders noticed the errors.

You could say that these were simple mistakes and have nothing to do with State government control on the purse strings. I have been in the industry for 34 years and would have to disagree. The “LOW BID GETS IT” approach has caused a drastic decrease in quality of work.

Brian E Chew Sr. P.G.
Principal Hydrogeologist

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