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.
For the first part of this story—it seems only logical to start at the first part—I began attending Rutgers University in (and it pains me to admit this) 1964. At this time environmental remediation services were few and far between.
When I went to college as an electrical engineering student, enrolled in the University’s ROTC program, I realized fairly quickly that electrical engineering wasn’t a good fit for me. Meteorology was an in-demand profession for the Air Force at the time, making it a good decision to pursue environmental sciences and a career as a military officer. I worked my way through college (yes, that was something you actually could do back then, don’t get smart about the whole age thing) with multiple jobs including bussing tables, pumping gas and working in Revlon’s mailroom and billing office. By my senior year of undergraduate studies I had saved enough money to finish school and moved on to an interim job as a shipping clerk while waiting to start my military time
In the midst of the Vietnam War and the Russian Space Race, I went on active duty at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio. During my time at Wright-Pat as the Technical Monitor for Pollution, I witnessed the passing of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in 1969, which led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, among other groups. My duties at Wright-Patterson were actually very much aligned with site remediation, as I was responsible for making safety recommendations on the use of potentially hazardous materials like jet fuel, solvents, construction debris and other general wastes on-base.
This work led to my peripheral involvement with the review and validation of the St. Louis Dispersion Study that sought to develop real-time data on meteorological phenomena. The study assessed if equations correctly predict the transport of atmospheric pollution… incredibly interesting stuff, I know. This also involved assessment of the efficacy of the Bible of Air Pollution predictions at the time, Turner’s Workbook of Atmospheric Dispersion Estimates. This experience was invaluable and correlates in an interesting fashion to compliance guidelines used throughout the DEP today when delineating environmental impacts.
After the completion of my Air Force tour of duty, there was the need for some decompression time, which I used to work as a semi-professional carpenter, following a long-standing passion for woodworking. My son assures me this is an interesting tidbit, although not extraordinarily pertinent. Shortly after my carpentry phase I went to work full-time for the NJDEP’s Bureau of Air Pollution Control. This is where we see a real concern for setting environmental safety standards. At the Bureau, we wrote an initial State Implementation Plan for monitoring and regulating air pollution. During this period, I earned my Master of Science degree in Environmental Sciences and was the on-air Broadcast Meteorologist on the New Jersey Public Television Network.
While doing the weather I was seen by a talent scout from the ABC affiliate network in Austin, Texas, KVUE…
– 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.
Here at PennJersey, we pride ourselves in the proper preparation, utilization and execution of site remediation to do our job properly. When your company’s senior staff, including three LSRPs and two Professional Geologists, has over fifteen decades of combined experience you’re bound to have learned a few things about site remediation. Experience breeds expertise, but a huge part of experience is getting the right advice. As such, we want to pass on a few of the things we’ve learned: here are the six do’s and don’ts of site remediation in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
Do identify, assess, and control. It sounds simple, but without a proper site history identifying the source and extent of the potential contamination, it is difficult, if not impossible, to manage the remediation. Some days we are industrial archeologists and forensic chemists, in addition to the more traditional environmental sciences. We need to understand the processes, chemicals used, and the wastes generated from the past to present day to answer the question: how did it get there and where is it going? You don’t know where you are going unless you know how you got there. Only when these questions are answered can we begin to develop a cost-effective and protective remedy. The use of professional judgment, including development of creative solutions, depends on a good conceptual site model.
Do carefully review all documents. We are often quoted saying, “It’s not rocket science, but there are lots and lots of details.” Reviewing the previous remediation documents can be time consuming, but is essential in determining that prior activities were conducted properly. In some cases, the prior No Further Action or Act 2 release of liability may not meet the current standards. They may not even be protective – these are only as good as the work that went into them. Details matter. It’s better to spend the upfront time reviewing documents to protect the client than try to figure it out on the backend. This is especially important for LSRPs who are permitted to act based on their professional opinion, at the risk of their own personal liability.
Do be as transparent as possible. Environmental investigation and remediation is often a complicated and costly endeavor. Sometimes the data are not good, or even discouraging. It is of the utmost importance to stay up-front and clear with the client about necessary costs, and to work with them to make a site compliant. Minimizing our clients’ potential liability and budget is always a top priority. When identification and assessment are done properly, we can all make the most informed decisions possible. By practicing open communication and fact-sharing with our clients, we can work together to meet their needs, while staying compliant and removing unnecessary liability.
Don’t guess or assume. The collection of environmental data is an iterative process. All possible contingencies cannot be anticipated within a reasonable budget. But our experience will point to a likely pathway. We develop a plan based on sound science and regulatory requirements. Then we document the process so that the data are defensible. A sound hypothesis is part of the scientific method, but, even then, the results are not always expected. Sometimes, the best approach is, “We don’t know yet, but here is how we get the answer.” Plans must adapt to the data. We all know what they say about assuming.
Do use training and experience. At PennJersey, our entire staff stays up to date with remediation best practices by attending continuing education courses and LSRPA stakeholder meetings. The science is ever changing, so our education never stops. Every site we see brings a new and exciting challenge. Through learning from each and every one, we have developed a vault of knowledge from which to pull. It proves invaluable, not only for evaluating impacts, but for advocating on behalf of our clients. The use of professional judgment based on sound science is at the core of New Jersey’s LSRP program and is expected in Pennsylvania’s Act 2 Land Recycling Program as well.
Don’t antagonize DEP, but don’t kowtow to them. Our number one responsibility is our client and their site. Providing the most effective avenue for cost-effective site compliance is in the best interest of all parties. Our team has cultivated relationships with key regulators during their careers. Whether we are dealing with New Jersey’s LSRP program or Pennsylvania’s Act 2 Land Recycling Program, we use the regulator as a valuable resource to get acceptance for creative solutions to our clients’ problems. At the same time, however, we are willing to go to the mat for our clients and argue their cause using professional judgment, data, guidance, and/or regulations support the argument. By maintaining smart, personable relationships, we increase the quality of work produced to get the approvals necessary to get the work done.
At PennJersey, it’s really just that simple. We get the results our clients need, honestly and ethically, the first time. Our mission is to advocate for the client to make their site compliant. More questions about what it is we do or how we might be able to help your business? Give us a call today.
– Rodger A. Ferguson, Jr., LSRP
PennJersey President Rodger Ferguson is an active member of the LSRPA Steering, Risk Management and Loss Prevention, and Regulatory Outreach Committees, and currently serves as the Treasurer of the organization and on its Board of Trustees. Mr. Ferguson is a key participant in NJDEP stakeholder groups established for the Technical Requirements for Site Remediation, Remediation Standards, and guidance documents, including the committees established to evaluate alternative and clean fill material protocols (as stakeholder co-chair) as well as the quality assurance and analytical laboratory methodologies required for the investigation of contaminated sites. Mr. Ferguson earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Analytical Chemistry from Ursinus College in 1983 and has 30+ years’ experience in the environmental field. When Mr. Ferguson isn’t at the helm steering PennJersey, he enjoys spending time with his family, rescuing old houses, coaching lacrosse, and suffering with Philadelphia’s professional sports’ teams.
• Licensed Site Remediation Professional 573794
• UST Closure and Subsurface Evaluator 455706