News and Events

Unexpected Discoveries: Adding Value Beyond the Contract

posted 11.20.2014

Main_photo1_CFIt’s not uncommon to find old bottles, ceramics, and old kitchen utensils on a site during excavation activities, be it for environmental or geotechnical purposes. In fact, during excavations, field staff expects to discover something on a site. The question is, when something is uncovered, how is the artifact handled? And to what lengths will a professional go to ensure the artifact is treated with care and the proper steps are taken to ensure the artifact has a proper resting place?

I found something. These are words that will strike fear into the heart of any environmental project manager when they send their field staff to a site. When I worked in the Detroit area, it seemed that every few months a body was discovered at an old gas station. The fear was that one of the environmental professionals would arrive at a gas station for regularly scheduled monitoring activities and would discover one of those bodies. Terracon had an unusually exciting discovery on a recent project site in St. Louis, Mo.

There is heightened concern at an excavation site, as environmental professionals have discovered bodies while performing quarterly monitoring events. Recently, a forgotten cemetery was re-discovered during a large construction project in St. Louis.

Terracon was performing additional environmental assessment by removal of an underground storage tank (UST) identified via ground penetrating radar (GPR) during a prior limited subsurface investigation. Both the GPR survey and the protruding fill port confirmed the suspicion that there was still an UST present at this long-abandoned corner gas station in the Shaw Neighborhood under revitalization in south St. Louis City (part of a Brownfields project).Photo4_CF

The subcontracted backhoe operator removed about 3 feet of soil, exposing the top of the first tank, and also found a box buried near the fill pipe to the tank. Inside the box, was a plastic bag tightly bound with electrical tape. What was inside the bag came as quite the surprise: stacks of 100-dollar bills. They were muddy and soggy, but they appeared to be genuine, and to the naked eye, dated early 1980s. It was estimated the money totaled upwards of $120,000 in value.

Terracon contacted the property owner’s representative. They asked the police to meet our professionals at the site to review the findings and determine the next steps. The police officers were just as surprised by the discovery. The property owner handed the money over to the police department to ascertain if it may have been part of a bank heist or local mafia activity.

It was determined by local and federal authorities that the money was not knowingly ill-gotten; therefore, it was returned to the property owner, a neighborhood revitalization coalition.

As sensational as it would have been to have had an exciting story accompany such an unusual find, Terracon’s promise of responsiveness, resourcefulness, and reliability extending beyond the contract is priceless. So, what is the most interesting thing you have found at a jobsite? What was the end result? Tell us your story below.