The Art Inventory

Kane Environmental, Fremont’s Soil Sleuths

by Kirby Lindsay Laney, posted 19 May 2015


One of the gold sponsors of the Neighborhood Expo on May 22nd, Kane Environmental

One of the gold sponsors of the Neighborhood Expo on May 22nd, Kane Environmental

The Neighborhood Expo takes place May 22nd from 4:30p – 7:30p at Fremont Studios.  This large scale fair of vendors, causes and services will give attendees a chance to connect with a broad variety of providers from all over our area.

One of the major sponsors of this outreach event, and a locally based business, Kane Environmental, won’t have a table in the hall.  When asked about his sponsorship, John Kane explained, “We want to give back to a community that has given so much to us.”

Site Assessments, & Remediation

Kane started this business in mid-2000, in office space he co-owned in Fremont.  While still headquartered here, Kane Environmental provides services nationwide and keeps offices also in Oregon, California, Mississippi and Maryland.  Still, rather than staff a table at the Neighborhood Expo, last year Kane asked the Expo organizers to acknowledge a local non-profit in need of exposure, and he hopes they will do that again for 2015.

His business, Kane acknowledged, “is a specialty.  95% of people don’t know what a geologist does.  It’s a very, very specialized industry.”  For its clients, Kane Environmental does testing and treating of soils and groundwater, researching sites, analyzing geologic hazards, excavation of underground storage tanks, regulatory reporting, and a long list of other environmental reviews and remediation.  For property owners – nearly all commercial and industrial – Kane Environmental does site assessments that can help explain what might be in the dirt under their feet, and what they can do if it needs to be cleaned up.

“Usually,” Kane explained, the property owner, “is looking to do something,” such as build or buy a property.  Kane Environmental provides research for bank loans or development plans to answer questions about what is in the ground.  As part of due diligence, owners will find out what lay underneath their property – either from their use or centuries of previous users.  Many property owners may know the history of their land, but Kane Environmental can provide proof of that history.

Phase one is a paper study, Kane explained, as they search historical records, Sanborn Fire Insurance maps from the late 1800s to early 1900s, and aerial photos.  Research can show what the property was used for in the past, and what may have been spilled, poured and/or allowed to seep into the ground, and the water.

Former gas station sites may leave tanks in the ground.  Many such tanks have been properly emptied, and secured.  Property owners still may be surprised to find out about a previously unknown tank, perhaps installed by a former tenant, and it could leak gasoline or diesel, or other chemicals, into the soil.

At the start of the 1900s, dry cleaners located in a variety of buildings throughout the city.  These businesses used many chemicals, such as perchloroethylene (or PERC).  Perc can actually leach through concrete into the ground, and ground water beneath that, but it can also be addressed, and cleaned-up, once discovered.

Options For Clean Up

Phase two of work done by Kane Environmental is when crews go out to do soil samples.  Armed with knowledge of underground geology, and history of the property, the crews take 2 – 3 inch in diameter samples around the property.  “It could be 10 feet,” Kane said of samples, “or 100 feet.  It depends on what you are finding.”  It also depends on the contamination being found.  “Once you hit groundwater,” Kane explained, “generally the contamination ends.”  Although, again, it depends on what kind of contamination the samples reveal.

Contamination is determined by State standards, and Kane Environmental does sampling and reporting on what they find.  Some properties will get a clean bill of health right off, or will have contamination that can be removed during excavation as part of a development project.  Sites intended for development that require a deep foundation, or floors of underground parking, “those kinds of sites are pretty simple,” Kane said about remediation of contamination.  The dirt can be cleaned or disposed of in sites set up for that use.

Other sites, where the dirt may be needed to stay in place, require different approaches such as:

  • soil vapor extraction – where a kind of vacuum is put in the subsoil (or near the contamination) to suck out the soil vapor without removing the dirt
  • sparging – by bubbling the groundwater, the contaminated vapor can be forced into an extractor
  • bio-remediation – chemicals and/or bacteria can be added to soil or groundwater to slowly devour the contaminates (such as for motor oil)

‘A Vast Universe’

In addition to Kane Environmental, Kane has his Kane Remediation Technologies, a contracting company for excavating contaminated soils and cleaning up sites for clients who want the work done by trusted experts.

Standards for soil, and contaminates, have changed over the last decades, as we become more aware of what poisons placed in our soil can mean for the health of our communities.  Yet, as the rules have changed, Kane pointed out, so has the technology available for companies like Kane Environmental to identify and remove the contaminants.

According to Kane, who has 28 years of experience in this industry, there are quite a few companies that do what his does, “especially in the Seattle market.”  As he joked, “tell people to stop using my competition.”

“It’s like a micro-niche,” Kane said of this industry, but “inside that box, it can be a vast universe,” of companies, all providing clients with their own specialty.  Yet, this industry remains unknown.  “When you see a new building go up, you may know who is the architect, the builder, and the developer, but not who did the environmental work…”

“People don’t know,” Kane explained, “and developers don’t want you to know.  They want to clean up the site, but they don’t want people to know,” about contaminants that may or may not be there, even after they get cleaned up.  As Kane observed, “frankly, it just worries people.”

No worries in Fremont, where Kane Environmental knows what is beneath our soil.  The company may not be at the Neighborhood Expo on May 22nd, from 4:30p – 7:30p, at Fremont Studios, but Kane Environmental will likely be out, researching and sampling, to find out what is in our dirt, and the most effective way to clean it up.



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©2015 Kirby Lindsay.  This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws.  Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.

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