Rags to Remediation is a content series written by PennJersey founder Richard J. Katz, LSRP, who brings forty-seven years of professional environmental services experience, outlining the rich history of PennJersey Environmental Consulting’s influence in the creation of environmental remediation services as they have come to be known today.
So, when we last left off, I was doing the weather on New Jersey Public Television when a scout from the ABC network affiliate in Austin, Texas 0 KVUE-TV – saw me. The scout called to set up an interview and I decided to take a chance. Lo and behold, I was offered the job and moved to sunny Austin, Texas as the meteorologist and science reporter for a major network. Although it was short-lived, being a weatherman was a pretty cool job. However, no matter how interesting, the notoriety never sat particularly well with me. After a year of being a local celebrity it was time to move on again.
The wonderful thing about having your relative youth is the ability to move when and where you please. I took a job offer from a meteorological consulting company in Chicago called MesoMet. My duties there included client support for airports, golf courses, and general businesses, with daily forecasts on specific meteorological effects influencing their activities. I also assisted at WLS-TV, another ABC affiliate- giving local weather presentations. This accounts for the next year of my professional life.
Then it was back to the NJDEP for the next seven years. I returned to New Jersey, working in the Program for Environmental Cancer and Toxic Substances; later renamed the Office of Cancer and Toxic Substances Research, which now exists as the Division of Science and Research. During this stint at the DEP, I was tasked with the oversight of department-supported investigations into volatile organics and polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons in the atmosphere throughout NJ (fancy, I know). Upon the creation of the Division of Hazard Management, I was brought into the program as Assistant to the Director, supporting remediation activities throughout the department.
In 1980, the Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA, or Superfund) was created and I had the “honor” of being appointed Chairman of the Superfund Applications Task Force. This task force put 85 NJ sites on the initial National Priorities List for cleanup using federal funds including Chemical Control, which exploded on Earth Day of 1980. The “cowboys” of Hazard Management had just finished cleaning out a bunch of picric acid drums from the attic when the site blew up. Picric acid (properly known as di-nitrotoluene) is the little brother to TNT. While, obviously, not what we would call a great thing, the explosion could have been much worse had we not gotten there prior. For a fun fact, we took a lot of grief over the disappearance of 22 respirators that night but got most of them back from the reporters we’d handed them out to when Duane Marine blew up two months later.
Some other notables: I helped develop the original Hazardous Sites Master List (compilation of all sites known to the department that involved the presence of hazardous materials) that has evolved into the Known Contaminated Sites List. After this the DEP morphed my role, due to my legendary people skills (cough, cough) and need for the spice of life that is variety, into a type of departmental startup specialist. I went from burgeoning department to burgeoning department, setting in place necessary guidelines and plans for functionality. As the department’s startup guy, I also worked in the Bureau of Engineering Review and Permitting, which would lead to my next semi-great adventure into the field of environmental remediation.
– Richard J. Katz, LSRP
Mr. Katz has a Master of Science in Environmental Science from Rutgers University and over 40 years of experience in the environmental field, acquired in the governmental, consulting and private sectors. Before that, however, he was an Air Force Officer, professional carpenter, and yes, even a weatherman in Austin, Texas. His accomplishments in the environmental field, however, outreach those by hundreds of miles. Under Mr. Katz, PennJersey was a charter member of the LSP Coalition that participated in crafting the Site Remediation Reform Act (SRRA). Mr. Katz was in the first group to be certified as a Licensed Site Remediation Professional and served on the Executive Committee of the LSRP Association Board of Trustees as the Board Secretary. Mr. Katz is now semi-retired, but is available to consult on matters as needed.