11 Things You Didn’t Know Were Under Your Feet


Unless you are a geotechnical or environmental engineer, or have similar reasons to be interested in such things, you tend not to think about what may be underground. You may know that sewers, pipes, and other utilities are down there. Underground oil storage tanks are also very common—sometimes undocumented and/or leaking. But what else might you find when you dig in the right (or wrong) place? Hart Crowser staff have been involved with projects where the following items were buried:

Cars. Squashed, in an old landfill.

Houses. Also squashed, with primarily the foundations and chimneys remaining.

Arsenic and lead from a historic glassworks factory. In the 1800s, toxic materials were used to color glass. The contaminants seeped into the soil, coloring it yellow, red, and black. This material was taken away so the property could be redeveloped.

Antique bottles and jars. Cold cream jars, cosmetic jars, medicine bottles, and others.

Burning coal. Thousands of underground coal fires are burning around the world right now. Since these fires can ignite spontaneously (by lightning) and burn for years, any exposed coal mine site is vulnerable.

Melted glass from the 1889 Great Seattle Fire. Fist-sized and iridescent, with impurities.

Skid Road Logs. In the 1800s, workers greased timber and slid it downhill to a sawmill in Seattle’s Pioneer Square. Some of these logs are in the fill in downtown Seattle.

A brick wall. While digging near Seattle’s Pike Place Market. The joke went:
“We hit a brick wall.”
“What’s wrong?”
“No, literally. We hit a brick wall.”

Golf balls. Found on the edges of a municipal waste landfill. One was a “gutta percha” ball dated just after the turn of the 20th century.

Petrified/fossilized wood. Found in a downtown Seattle excavation.

Medical waste. Needles, animal carcasses, and other appealing items found during a cleanup at a site on a river.

Raising Puppies for Guide Dogs for the Blind

Guide Dog Puppy

Paige, a Labrador retriever puppy from Guide Dogs for the Blind, and raiser Lou Travis.

Lou Travis, a Project Administrator in Hart Crowser’s Portland office, didn’t know what she was getting herself into when she signed up to be a Puppy Raiser for Guide Dogs for the Blind (GDB). She soon found out. Before getting the puppy, she completed an application, read a detailed manual, got a home visit, attended lots of little pup meetings and outings, and puppy sat. She also got permission from property managers and fellow employees to bring a puppy to work.

Finally, a cute little ball of fur named Paige became Lou’s new constant companion. The next 14 months were a constant stream of, “sit, wait, come, on your bed, down, stay, do your business, nice, kennel, stand, okay, let’s go, good girl, I’m sorry she’s working now but thank you for asking if you can pet her.”

Being a puppy raiser takes work and a great deal of patience, dedication, and love. There’s no pay (except puppy kisses). When the job is done it’s like sending a kid off to college. The adorable little ball of love has stolen your heart, but it’s time to send it off to someone who needs help getting somewhere safely, whether it’s by foot, bus, train, or plane.

Once the dog’s formal training is complete, GDB matches the dog with a handler to begin the final step of the training. Dogs that complete the training become working guides for blind or sight-impaired people, and career-changed dogs become therapy dogs or loving, well-trained pets. A select few become breeders (Paige is being considered for this).

It’s hard to give the pup back at the end. But according to Lou, “It’s an amazing and worthwhile experience that I’ll do again…absolutely! Try it…it will change your life!”