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September 27, 2012

Surveys 2012: HWA GeoSciences

Photo courtesy of HWA GeoSciences [enlarge]
HWA GeoSciences is assessing groundwater contamination for highway improvements in Bothell.

Specialties: Geotechnical engineering, pavement engineering, hazardous waste assessment, hydrogeology

Management: Arnie Sugar, president

Founded: 1978

Headquarters: Bothell

2011 revenues: $4 million

2012 projected revenues: $4 million

The current economy may not be anything to get excited about, but at HWA GeoSciences a steady flow of work keeps the firm’s 28 employees busy around the world.

Arnie Sugar, a geologist and president of HWA GeoSciences, said that while he’s not an expert on economic matters, we’re “in for a long, slow recovery of more modest rates of growth.”

Sugar said his goal is to focus on the firm’s core strengths and “hunker down to do real quality work and stay close with our client base.”

International reach

The firm’s work stretches from Bothell to Afghanistan. HWA GeoSciences is working for the city of Bothell on transportation improvements for the intersection of state routes 522 and 527. Its role is to help with environmental permitting and to assess groundwater contamination.

“We’re providing construction monitoring and dealing with ongoing environmental contamination issues,” said Sugar. “The project is part of a larger downtown redevelopment plan the city is implementing.”

In Kabul, Afghanistan, HWA GeoSciences is providing geotechnical engineering for a new U.S. embassy. “It’s kind of a niche market we’ve developed,” said Sugar, whose firm has worked with the State Department on other embassies in Africa, Mexico and Europe.

“Most of the sites had limited environmental issues,” he said. “The fascinating part for us is, when we go to Africa or Asia it really tests our high-level soil experts.”

Expanded materials lab

Sugar said he is particularly proud of HWA GeoSciences’ materials testing lab, in which the firm has invested heavily in the last five years. “It’s been part of the core of who we are,” he said about the lab, which tests soils from around the world. “Other geotechnical firms in the area use us for their non-standard soils tests.”

Another distinction for the firm is that it owns a falling weight deflectometer for use in testing pavement quality.

“It’s a device we tow around and which bangs on the street and measures responses electronically, and from that we can determine the properties of the pavement,” he said. The deflectometer can save governments money by determining when a road needs maintenance, he said.

Having a diverse selection of work has helped HWA weather the tough times in the last few years. Although public agencies are strapped for cash, Sugar predicted that as the economy picks up momentum will “roll into the public sector and things will slowly pick back up.”


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