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Monday, June 12, 2017

Personal Safety

Posted by: Jennifer Doyle on Monday, June 12, 2017 at 12:00:00 am

It’s hard to believe a year has passed since I wrote my first safety blog.  As some of you may remember, June is National Safety Month so it’s only fitting that I write about safety this month. 

I’ve been thinking a lot in terms of personal safety.  At Wilcox, our employees are required to complete safety training on a range of topics.  This holds true for our geologists, field scientists, marketing manager, and the executive team.  It doesn’t matter what your position is, you are required to participate in certain training topics.   

The last training conducted was electrical awareness.  I opened the training by stating this would not pertain to everyone in regards to on-the-job situations, but most of what I was about to teach could be applied at home, outside of work.   

It’s important to remember that taking responsibility for your personal safety doesn’t just take place on the job or inside the four walls of our office building, but responsibility for your safety should never end.  You are the only one who can guarantee your safety.  There may be others looking out for your safety throughout your life, but ultimately the onus is on you. 

This is why I have such a hard time when I see people committing unsafe acts.  I truly believe that each person knows what is safe, but personally makes a decision to act unsafely.  It’s in our nature to want to survive and strive, so overriding the urge to be unsafe should be an easy decision.   

I’ve been impressed with the number of employees recognizing unsafe acts and situations during the work day.  I would ask that you keep your safety eyes open and identify, correct, and eliminate unsafe hazards outside of work as well.  If we all commit to doing this for June and beyond, we can make our world that much more safe. Happy National Safety Month!   

Friday, June 2, 2017

Our Favorite Things about Being Part of the Speedway Community in the Month of May!

Posted by: Holly Cooper on Friday, June 2, 2017 at 12:00:00 am

Our first official race season in Speedway is behind us.  It has been an exciting and entertaining experience, to say the least!  Between our ribbon cutting, our open house, and all the hoopla on Main Street during race week; we’re not sure we can wait another year to do this all over.  Luckily, there are so many great things happening on Main Street in Speedway throughout the summer, we’re never short on entertainment.

Here are our favorite things about our FIRST Month of May in Speedway!

“Hearing the Indy cars on the track while working… nostalgic is a good word to describe it.” – Leanne Brooks, Human Resources

“Underlying sense of excitement surrounding our open house and the big race.” – John Love, Consulting Services Director

“All the fantastic restaurants and shops opening up on Main Street and the surrounding area!” – Holly Cooper, Marketing Manager

“I'm blown away by the immediate acceptance of the local community.  Everyone we run into seems grateful that we are here and part of the revitalization of Main Street and Speedway!” – Mel Wilcox, Office Manager/Owner

“Street signs named after drivers, the Wilcox building (and others) sporting the 500 logo, the checkered flag flying from car windows and from nearly every front porch, welcome race fans signs everywhere, lemonade shake-ups.” – Jeremy Kinman, Senior PM/Geologist

“Listening to the cars go around the track while working is pretty cool.” – Jennifer Doyle, Health & Safety Director

“The month of May is the best, it’s like Christmas for Hoosiers.  With all the different activities going on around the city, the Tom Petty (40th anniversary) concert, Carb Day, and the 500 highlighted my month!” – Dave Hughes, Senior CAD & Environmental Specialist/IT Coordinator

“Hearing the cars practice every day, attending Town of Speedway events, connecting with neighbors, and showing off our new office has made for a very memorable experience that I’m proud to be a part of.” – Megan Martz, Senior PM/Geologist

“We have had a number of visitors over the last few months and I’ve had the pleasure of giving quite a few tours to some of our guests. What seems to be a common theme in the comments that I’ve heard is how lucky we are to have such a great new digs and such a great location to work. I’m not usually short on words, but typically just responded with something like, “Yeah, it really is pretty cool.” In retrospect, I wish I would have said, “Welcome to the greatest spectacle in consulting!”” – Scott Connors, Senior PM/Geologist

“Watching Blackhawk helicopters swooping into the track to hearing daily practice runs from my desk, there is nothing like working in Speedway, Indiana during the month of May!” – Kyle Amberger, Project Geologist


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Chlorinated Solvents and Sinking Plumes

Posted by: James King, Ph.D., LPG - Vice President of Operations on Wednesday, May 24, 2017 at 12:00:00 am

In their pure form, chlorinated solvents are dense non-aqueous phase liquids (DNAPLs) that are, by definition, heavier than water. So, plumes of chlorinated solvents dissolved in groundwater must sink, right? I’ve had many conversations over the years where this claim was made, and I always inwardly cringed a bit. Let’s take a closer look at it.

The density of water is a function of its temperature and the amount of dissolved matter it contains.  The presence of dissolved substances in groundwater can increase its density under certain conditions. For our discussion, we’ll assume the temperature of shallow groundwater varies seasonally within a narrow range, which allows us to focus on density differences related only to the dissolved load in groundwater.

Laboratories report analytical results in either milligrams per liter (mg/L - the mass of solute per 1 liter of water) or parts per million (ppm - the mass of solute per the mass of 1 liter of water). These same relationships hold for micrograms per liter (µg/L) and parts per billion (ppb). We typically assume the two sets of units are equivalent, which is true for the range of concentrations we usually see during environmental investigations. However, the equivalency between these two unit sets is based on the assumption that 1 liter of water weighs 1 kilogram (K), or unit density. For you geeks, this assumption is strictly true only for pure water at 3.89ºC, but ignoring this level of scientific “purity” doesn’t affect our discussion.

The error introduced by assuming unit density isn’t greater than any other type of analytical errors until the concentration of dissolved matter in water exceeds about 7,000 mg/L1 (for comparison, the dissolved load of naturally occurring inorganic salts in groundwater in Indiana is usually 500 to 1,000 mg/L). For concentrations greater than 7,000 mg/L, density starts becoming a factor, and a correction for density should be applied when converting from mg/L to ppm, or vice versa. We can extend this thought to state that the amount of dissolved matter in a plume of contaminated groundwater must be at least, and probably greater than, 7,000 mg/L before the density contrast between the body of contaminated groundwater (a “plume”) and the surrounding groundwater is sufficient to create a density gradient that could cause the plume to sink or “dive” within the flow system.

Let’s consider the aqueous solubilities (the maximum amount of a substance that can be dissolved in water) of the common chlorinated compounds we deal with every day – tetrachloroethene (PCE), 206 mg/L; trichloroethene (TCE), 1,280 mg/L; and 1,1,1-trichloroethane (TCA), 1,290 mg/L.2 I think you see where this is going. Based on these solubility limits, not enough of any of these compounds can dissolve from a pure-phase product source into groundwater to create a plume that is denser than the surrounding groundwater. Nor does the fact that the solute is derived from a dense chlorinated compound make any difference.  To claim otherwise is to believe, for example, that 10 mg of TCE dissolved in 1 liter of groundwater (10 mg/L) is denser than 10 mg of sulfate (or any other solute) dissolved in a liter of groundwater – 10 mg is 10 mg, regardless of the substance.

So, how did groundwater 60 feet directly beneath my dry cleaner site become contaminated with PCE, you may ask? Only a few explanations are plausible. Unless a nearby pumping well has drawn the PCE downward within the flow system, the most likely cause is that PCE in pure-phase product (DNAPL) form has moved downward beneath the site and created a vertical source column that has dissolved into the groundwater. Vertical dispersion may also occur as a plume moves away from a source, and a plume may “dive” when vertical recharge from overlying soils or strata pushes it deeper into the flow system, but these are typically shallow phenomena, neither is related to plume density, and both would affect plumes of any dissolved substance.

So, with a little basic physics and chemistry, we’ve debunked the misconception that plumes of dissolved chlorinated compounds in groundwater dive or sink as a result of their perceived greater density.  Unless the laws of physics are repealed, we have to rely on them to explain what we observe – part of the process of developing conceptual site models that assist us in accurately characterizing and remediating contaminated sites.

1Hem, J.D., 1985, Study and Interpretation of the Chemical Characteristics of Natural Water, US Geological Survey Water-Supply Paper 2254, 3rd Ed. (

2US EPA, 2016, Regional Screening Level (RSL) Chemical-specific Parameters Supporting Table May 2016. (

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Top 10 Reasons Why Wilcox is the Best Place to Work!

Posted by: Holly Cooper on Wednesday, April 26, 2017 at 12:00:00 am

Wilcox is in the midst of one of the most exciting times in our history. After more than 20 years of continued growth, in offices we had vastly outgrown, we decided to move to a brand new state of the art facility in downtown Speedway, right across from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS).  

We have long been a part of the revitalization of Speedway, which is continuing to grow and bringing in exciting new businesses that are strengthening the area and making it one of the best neighborhoods in Marion County.

The transformation should be exciting to watch, and is certainly a big step in our continuing growth. We are excited to have an office that measures up to the talent at Wilcox, which sets the stage for our future. I highly recommend you take some time to check out this up and coming neighborhood.

Now…in light of our recent move, check out the top ten reasons why Wilcox is the best place to work!

1. Our beautiful new office… everything is shiny and new!


2. We have an amazing view of IMS. Even if you’re not a race fan, you can’t help but marvel at the view.

3. We’re just steps away from several great lunch spots! Dawson’s, Bourbon & BBQ and Big Woods, and coming soon… Tacos & Tequila and O’Reilly’s Irish Pub!

4. Having access to nearby walking trails and an employee discount to the Speedway Walking and Running Club. Employee wellness is important to Wilcox. Our healthcare is great too!

5. The open/collaborative office environment. However, we have several private rooms if you need some quiet time to work alone.

6. Being a part of Speedway’s redevelopment efforts and getting to see the area transform. We’ve been working with Speedway for many years to improve the area, so moving here was a perfect fit for us.

7.  A front row seat and excellent parking for all of the events on Main Street. Speedway has a lot more to offer than just the IMS! There are monthly concerts and events right here on Main Street throughout the year!

8. Our AWESOME employee lounge which showcases restored original hardwood flooring, indoor and outdoor seating for 50 people, full kitchen, bar, media/gaming area and free gourmet coffee. I’m not sure how any of us will get any actual work done!


9. Our employee gatherings and events are a blast! Picnics, theme parties, holiday parties, team building, after-hours hangouts, and monthly birthday celebrations are some of the fun things we do throughout the year.

10. US! We have an amazingly talented and fun, diverse group of people…

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

New IDEM 2017 Screening Level Tables

Posted by: Scott Stoldt, CPG, LPG, PG on Tuesday, March 7, 2017 at 12:00:00 am

On an annual basis, IDEM compares its risk-based screening levels against the most recent updates the U.S. EPA applies to its own regional levels. Changes to state and federal screening and closure levels can affect environmental liabilities for companies across Indiana with respect to how the primary risk driving chemicals, specific industries or ongoing site characterizations could be affected, positively or negatively. Certain changes sometimes have significant ramifications. For 2017, however, most of the changes are relatively minor.

IDEM’s 2017 Screening Level Tables (Table A-6 and A-7), effective March 6, 2017, are now available on IDEM’s Screening and Closure Levels web page located at It is notable that updated Table A-6 include the same list of chemicals shown in the 2016 Table. In addition, updated Table A-6 also shows new screening levels for the following 4 chemicals: thallium selenite, toluene-2,4-diisocyanate, toluene-2,6-diisocyanate, and o-toluidine (also known as 2-methylaniline). Table A-7 (Recreational Soil Direct Contact Screening Levels) remain unchanged.

As with prior changes, there is a 6-month transition period, which ends this year on September 6, 2017. Per IDEM’s Remediation Closure Guide, however, 2016 screening and closure levels remain applicable if a remediation or corrective action work plan is submitted by a responsible party during the transition period. After the transition period has ended, 2017 screening and closure levels become enforced.

Wilcox Environmental Engineering continually monitors ever-changing regulations at both the state and federal levels. Prompt awareness permits us to analyze changes for our clients and thus maximize the benefits of positive change, or conversely, minimize the impact of negative change to their specific environmental liabilities.