In honor of our 125th anniversary, we’re featuring Northland alumni throughout the year to showcase the rich and diverse lives they lead. We hope you find their stories and the work they do as inspiring as we do. Check back every few weeks for a new feature story–we’ll be archiving the stories as we go. You can find archived profiles here. And remember to keep in touch.
Raye Lahti ’74: Soil Remediation in war zones
Occupation: P. G. Geophysicist
Hometown: Cable, Wisconsin
Current location: Diamond Lake, Town of Grandview, Cable, Wisconsin
Occupation: Associate Geophysicist, Wood PLC, Amec Foster Wheeler E&IS
Major/Emphasis: BA in Environmental Studies with a Biophysical Emphasis ‘74
Additional Education: BS in Applied Geophysics, Michigan Technological University ‘84
Raye Lahti ‘74, a geophysicist with Wood PLC, Amec Foster Wheeler Environmental and Infrastructure Solutions, talked to students at Fall Festival in September, about his current work as a project management consultant for the remediation of Kuwait’s oil fields.
When Lahti first came to Northland College, he said his dream was to become a biology teacher and coach. “As the education evolved, I chose the newly developed environmental studies degree—and this lead to my work in mineral exploration geophysics and ultimately the applied geophysics degree for exploration, environmental investigations, water resources and remediation support of environmental sites,” he said.
When people think of careers in bioremediation, they may envision a postindustrial clean-up site or a toxic spill. However, in countries that have experienced war, bioremediation starts by identifying and disarming explosives, Lahti explained.
After the Gulf War, many of Kuwait’s oil wells were set on fire by Iraq forces, leaving expansive oil spills and damage to the environment on 114 square Kilometers of land. The first step in safety was to assure no Gulf War-related unexploded ordnance (UXO) were present under the contaminated areas. After detecting and removal of UXO, soil remediation work could begin.
For the past several years, Lahti has continued to support UXO detection and his Company teams and Contractors have been working to clean up these sites.
Judging from the maps Lahti pulled up as part of his presentation, he may well be one of Northland College’s most well-traveled alumni.
For the past thirty-three years, Lahti has worked as a consulting geophysicist with interests in mineral exploration, groundwater resource investigations, saltwater intrusion mapping and geophysics in support of environmental investigations and remediation.
Examples include working on water resources in Hawaii and Guam, with legacy military sites such as the Rocky Flats Nuclear Site, and under the US Environmental Protection Agency training program as a member of the contractor team for expedited site characterization technologies of contaminated sites. In addition to Kuwait, his work has taken him to Canada, Central America, South America, Africa, Atlantic, and Pacific Islands (The Azores, Hawaii and the Mariana Islands) and throughout the US.