In a highly specialized career spanning 35+ years, Rich Rago, Lead Scientist and Vapor Intrusion Practice Leader at Haley & Aldrich, Inc., still enjoys the thrill of discovering new methods and approaches to his work. He begins, “Over the last 30 years, I have been fortunate to lead research on topics that have meaningfully advanced the environmental practice.” Rago started his career with Haley & Aldrich in 1991. The company is a national environmental and geotechnical engineering firm, headquartered in Massachusetts. Upon joining the firm as Senior Scientist, he initially worked in all aspects of environmental consulting, including field planning and execution, data interpretation, report development, and regulatory negotiation. He also established and managed Haley & Aldrich’s in-house analytical laboratory, performing screening for volatile organic compounds (VOCs), PCBs, metals, and petroleum fingerprinting. His current responsibilities include working with clients in manufacturing, aerospace, utilities, institutions, and real estate development across a wide range of complex projects, providing high level strategy across their portfolio of sites in the U.S. and abroad. He earned a BS in Environmental Earth Science at Eastern Connecticut State University.
Rago first became interested in environmental remediation while working for a commercial clinical laboratory in the mid-1980’s where he first became involved in compliance with hazardous and radioactive waste regulations. He shares, “This was fairly early in terms of the environmental field. It was my first introduction to the environmental practice, and it was really exciting to get in at the beginning of what is now the environmental industry. The rest is history.”
Today, Rago routinely participates in training programs as a member of professional organizations in several states. In addition, he conducts classes along with other experts via the Wentworth Institute of Technology, Air & Waste Management Association, and for an array of professional organizations in several states. He continues, “I love this aspect of my job. I currently provide lectures for Princeton Groundwater’s Remediation Courses, and later in October I will be providing lectures for a class in Brazil.” When asked about the future goals of Haley & Aldrich, he feels the company is on target to position itself as a leader in integrating technology and human potential to tackle tough environmental issues facing the world. He shares, “The company is always looking forward, and we recognize the future will require nimble adaptation to meet our clients’ changing needs. Regardless of how we adapt, we’ll always stay focused on delivering an extraordinary client experience, while continuing to be a place where talented people want to work.”
When it comes to working with Land Science, Rago appreciates the staff’s high level of expertise and commitment. He shares, “With Land Science and REGENESIS, you get to consult with seasoned professionals. I appreciate that they are taking an active role in educating the practice on the advancements in barrier technologies.” As for specific product usage, he makes recommendations, depending on the unique situations dictated by each site. He continues, “Most all of my mitigation practices have been active and passive systems, and barriers are generally not products I use as a standalone solution. However, I recently recommended that a colleague consider Retro-Coat® for a project in the southwestern U.S., and I have specified MonoShield® and TerraShield® on previous efforts.”
When asked how he’s seen the industry evolve, he feels increased competition and tiered pricing have begun to shape the industry. He continues, “I have seen many firms fail over the years, and a lot of growth by acquisition. In my view, a commodity atmosphere has developed amongst some of our peers, with competition resulting in lower prices and lower quality. On the positive side, we all have brought our successes and failures to the table to better the practice. Some regulations have become more streamlined, flexible, and practical, and some states have gone on to develop successful privatized programs. Firms have also become more agile and specialized, which means I get to work with some very smart people.”
Residing in Glastonbury, CT with his wife, Rago finds time away from work to enjoy several outdoor activities. “I love skiing and managed to get in 50 ski days last year, which also included snowshoeing and skating. In other seasons, I enjoy biking, kayaking, boating, and hiking. I love being outdoors!” When asked what Haley & Aldrich has planned for the future, he says the firm is always working towards advancing the practice. He shares, “Haley & Aldrich is always looking to innovate in the field of science and engineering. In essence we’re always looking for approaches to apply advances in new ways to solve our clients’ emerging problems. We also want to make sure we continue to connect with what’s important to our staff so that we all feel engaged and energized by our work.” While he appreciates working on his own projects, he finds collaborating with others especially rewarding. “I enjoy working on teams, both internal and external. I love finding technical and practical solutions to complex problems.” And the most demanding part? “Working in consulting means sometimes giving it 100% and oftentimes going beyond 100% to meet the demands. For me, the biggest challenge is to do all of it – to be a leader and a mentor, to be a teacher, while constantly learning and looking for new ways to do the same things better. And, of course to make sure we are doing all the other things correctly.” And how would he encourage others to join in his field of study? He concludes, “I would encourage entry level practitioners and those thinking about a career in environmental sciences to get broad and comprehensive field experience. Good technical writing skills and data reduction skills are also a must. For the vapor intrusion practice, incorrect decision making can lead to potential inhalation exposures so it’s important to take this profession seriously.”
Land Science is proud to highlight Rich Rago’s work in the industry as Lead Scientist and Vapor Intrusion Practice Leader at Haley & Aldrich, Inc. As a valued client and partner in environmental remediation, Land Science appreciates his seasoned experience and leadership in providing successful remediation and mitigation outcomes for clients across the industry.
For Laurie Chilcote, a career in environmental remediation allows her to pursue several professional interests, and helped garner a diverse background. She begins, “I like variety, challenges, collaboration, and helping others. I am grateful for the opportunities my career has provided- meeting and working with so many people and organizations in the environmental industry from all over the world, and collaborating on how to protect the environment.” Chilcote admits to “wearing many hats” when describing her current position with Cox-Colvin & Associates, Inc., a leading environmental firm and valued Land Science® partner. She continues, “I have been working for Cox-Colvin & Associates, Inc. since 1995. Currently, I am the Director of Sales & Marketing and the Office Manager for Cox-Colvin & Associates, Inc. and the Vice President of Vapor Pin Enterprises, Inc., and Vapor Pin do Brasil. During my tenure, I’ve also served as HR Administrator, Business Development Manager, Sales & Marketing Director, AP/AR, and Data Management.” Suffice to say, her time at Cox-Colvin has helped develop a diverse, balanced background, yet one that includes several areas of specialization. Prior to joining Cox-Colvin, Chilcote served as a Regional Business Development Manager for a global design and engineering consultancy. Earlier, she completed course work at The Ohio State University, before initially starting out in the marketing side of environmental remediation.
In her day-to-day responsibilities, Chilcote manages analytical data and provides managerial and technical oversight on all marketing and sales for the Vapor Pin® product line, both within the USA and Internationally. She is also responsible for website development, webinar training, product development, distributor management, and customer relations. She continues, “I also educate the public on Vapor Pin® technology, implementation, and quality control. As part of that educational outreach, I make presentations to environmental firms, regulatory agencies, and developers throughout the US and internationally on a variety of Vapor Intrusion topics.” In addition, she has served on the Board of the American Association of Radon Scientists and Technologists (AARST), and is a founding member of the Association of Vapor Intrusion Professionals (AVIP). She shares, “AVIP’s purpose is to establish a community of Vapor Intrusion professionals who are dedicated to advancing the industry, exploring new technologies, and sharing knowledge and science related to Vapor Intrusion.” At Cox-Colvin & Associates, Chilcote appreciates and strives to assist the firm to achieve its long-term goals, which include the continued expansion of services and strong growth in its client base. One such example includes the recently added services of asbestos sampling and air monitoring. With regard to Vapor Pin Enterprises, she continues. “For Vapor Pin, we would like to expand our European and South American markets and distribution network. We also plan to continue the development of new products that will help environmental professionals do their work more effectively and efficiently.”
When it comes to working with Land Science, Chilcote appreciates their professionalism and commitment to achieving successful outcomes. She continues, “I enjoy working with Land Science because of the people and the company’s dedication to its work. Everyone is personable, competent, collaborative and dedicated to protecting the environment.” With regard to specific use of Land Science products and solutions, Chilcote feels two stand out in particular as complements to Cox-Colvin products. “Our Vapor Pin® Insert is used to facilitate the collection of soil gas samples and pressure measurements beneath engineered vapor intrusion barriers, such as Terra-Shield®, or vapor mitigation coatings, as with Retro-Coat®,” she says. “As a result, we have seen our inserts requested in many engineered drawings from Land Science clients. One example of the collaborative relationship we share is showcased by a white paper that Cox-Colvin developed in conjunction with Land Science and REGENESIS®. The project focused on Biostimulation and Bioaugmentation of Recalcitrant VOCs in Groundwater using HRC® and BDI® Plus for a site we worked on together.”
Residing in Ohio, where she has lived her entire life, Chilcote enjoys a variety of hobbies and activities outside of work. She shares, “Most importantly, it’s about spending time with my children, grandchildren, family and friends. I am also a big Disney fan. I have an Annual Pass for Walt Disney World and enjoy the RunDisney events with friends and family. One fun fact is that my daughters and I have matching Disney tattoos (their request!). When asked what she enjoys most about her work, she quickly points to the connection between humans and our environment. She shares, “I’m passionate about protecting people and the environment, and this career provides me with a platform to do more than just take up space on this earth- it enables me to make a difference on a larger scale and be involved.” And the most challenging aspect of her job? “Oh that’s an easy one…balancing life and work!” She also feels honored to be selected this year as an Ambassador for RemTech Europe. She continues, “RemTech Europe Ambassadors are environmental experts from Control Authority, universities, consultancies, and private companies that support RemTech Europe initiatives disseminating RemTech Europe scientific content.” And how would she encourage others to join in her field of study? She concludes, “Network, network, network. I would encourage others by getting involved with students through mentorships and internships, as well as conferences. We have also been fortunate to connect with students through organizations such as the American Institute of Professional Geologist (AIPG), the Ohio Environmental Services Industry (OESI), and many others.”
Land Science is proud to have Laurie Chilcote, Director of Sales & Marketing for Cox-Colvin & Associates, Inc. and the Vice President of Vapor Pin Enterprises, Inc., as a valued partner in environmental remediation, and appreciates her deep and diversified experience and commitment in providing successful remediation and mitigation outcomes.
With more than 35 years of experience in the vapor intrusion industry, Tom Hatton, Chief Executive Officer of Clean Vapor, LLC, an innovative mitigation technologies company and valued Land Science® client, has enjoyed great success, knowing the impact that vapor intrusion mitigation can have on the environment. He shares, “This work is my passion. Having the benefit of watching this industry grow — from its inception to its current state of critical importance — has been rewarding. For me, vapor intrusion is more than just environmental science and buildings- it’s a calling to protect human health by providing cleaner indoor air environments.” Hatton co-founded Clean Vapor and has led the N.J.-based firm for the past 15 years. Prior to forming the company, he spent 20 years developing and implementing vapor intrusion mitigation solutions for residential and commercial clients. His extensive experience includes work on over 11,000 sites in the US and abroad, and clearly positions him as an expert in his field. He continues, “One of the things I love most about the vapor intrusion (VI) industry is solving the problem at hand. Every building is different, and designing an effective VI system is as much an art as it is a science. Understanding all of the variables contributing to a VI problem, interpreting the data, and designing the most effective system possible for a specific site makes the work enjoyable.”
Hatton chose the VI field due to what he calls a “natural love” of the sciences, construction engineering, and problem solving, and feels vapor intrusion is the intersection of all three. “What makes it especially rewarding for me,” he says, “Is the outcome- which is the protection of human health. When I complete the design and installation of a vapor intrusion mitigation system (VIMS), along with the integration of the long-term monitoring program, I know the air in that building is healthier and better for the people who occupy that building each and every day.” Hatton’s interest in the environment and sciences began in his youth, and would lead to earning his Bachelor of Science (BS) in Natural Science (a major which combines physics and chemistry) from Bryan College, a private university located in Dayton, TN. He recalls how vapor intrusion was just beginning to emerge early on in his career, and how VI research projects provided an opportunity to creatively blend all three of his passions- chemistry, soil mechanics, and building construction, into one effort. He also discovered how much he enjoys the variety VI projects offered. He continues, “Every building is a unique challenge. Unraveling the mystery of a building leads to continuous learning opportunities, creative solutions for both existing buildings, new construction, and improving the electronic management of those systems. It really is all about enhanced sustainability and keeping future generations safe.”
Hatton enjoys working with Land Science, in part because of the company’s principles. “Land Science appreciates the value and importance of a job well-done. In an industry that affects human health, Land Science prioritizes quality and efficacy over cost and expediency.” He relates how a recent new construction project in a suburb of Charlotte, North Carolina required the use of an advanced engineered barrier. He continues, “As system designers, Clean Vapor knew that for this project, Land Science offered an ideal solution. By using Nitra-Seal the client was getting a superior value that will last the life of the building and provide decades of protection against vapor intrusion.” He notes that Nitra-Seal® and MonoShield® are used for a variety of applications because they offer the best combination of protective properties, ease of application, long-term durability, and cost. To stay current on new technologies and emerging industry trends, Hatton ensures Clean Vapor is continually engaged in on-going professional development by evaluating new technologies, materials, and products. He shares, “Our team does this on our own and in collaboration with others, in an effort to help us better understand construction practices and on-going process improvements.”
Hatton and his family reside in New Jersey, where he and his wife, have two grown children. His daughter also works in Clean Vapor’s marketing department as a project coordinator. In his free time, Hatton enjoys “anything with wings or motors”. He shares, “I am a pilot and enjoy flying recreationally. I also enjoy restoring antique cars, and convertibles…as long as they’re Fords. I also enjoy scuba diving, kayaking, and hiking.” When asked what he enjoys most about his work, he responds quickly, “Knowing that Clean Vapor has designed and installed over 11,000 mitigation systems and that our goal of producing results exceeds industry standards which has resulted in the improvement of human health and the saving of lives.” And the most challenging aspect? “I will say it is educating responsible parties about the value of investing in mitigation solutions and persuading them to take action to both protect the building occupants and reduce their long-term liability.”
When asked how he would encourage others to join his field, he points to his industry’s diversity and the multitude of opportunities. He concludes, “Vapor intrusion is a multi-faceted industry that is at the intersection of geology, lab science, consulting, construction, data analytics, electronics and the mechanical trades. There are many growth opportunities in each of these disciplines. The US EPA has characterized the current state of the industry as being in the ‘2nd inning of a nine-inning ball game’, and I would agree with that assessment. A young person could enter this industry right out of school and have an opportunity to shape not only their own career, but that of an industry still in its infancy. The global market is almost unending, which presents nearly endless opportunities for growth and fulfillment.”
Land Science is proud to have Tom Hatton, Chief Executive Officer of Clean Vapor, LLC, as a valued client and partner in environmental remediation, and appreciates his vast experience and exceptional leadership in providing successful remediation and mitigation outcomes for Land Science and its clients.
For Patrick Lowery, Sr. Environmental Manager with SUMMIT Engineering, Laboratory & Testing, Inc., a multi-disciplinary environmental consulting firm and valued Land Science® client, a career in environmental remediation was sparked by an interest in geology, a field his grandfather worked in. Lowery initially planned to follow his grandfather’s path and become a geologist, but then realized his true passion involved assisting in the cleanup of our planet. He shares, “My grandfather was a geologist for Shell Oil in the Permian Basin, near Midland Texas. Throughout college my focus was to work in the petroleum industry. I took a year off from school after earning my Bachelor of Science in Geology from the University of Alabama and was going to attend Colorado State University for my Masters in Geophysics, however, while working with a consulting geologist that year I found I enjoyed the environmental field.” The following year, Lowery relocated to South Carolina, where he continued to explore and gain experience in environmental remediation. He continues, “I obtained my Professional Geologist License in 2006-2007, and really enjoyed the evolution of the environmental industry, and the challenges each project presented.” One aspect of his environmental work he appreciates in particular is the collaboration. He shares, “In the environmental consulting industry, you are part of a team working towards a common goal, from property development to cleanup. Working through all of the logistics and problem solving to achieve a common goal is rewarding and provides excellent opportunities for professional growth.”
Throughout his nearly eight years at SUMMIT, Lowery’s role has focused primarily on due diligence investigation. He explains, “When a due diligence investigation identifies a need for further investigation, remediation and regulatory involvement (UST, Brownfields) I am generally looped into the project. I am able to communicate with clients on the risks associated with a property, the contamination or the regulatory routes, and help develop a plan for successfully guiding the client through the project. I then execute the plan and utilize my technical background to provide innovative solutions to complicated issues.” Prior to joining SUMMIT Lowery worked for another environmental engineering firm, first as an Environmental Operations Manager and then as its Chief Technical Officer. When asked what he sees the future holds for environmental remediation, he feels there is greater interest in treating sites due to the advancements in solutions and awareness. He shares, “When I started in the environmental industry, clients were hardly aware of environmental concerns as they related to property purchases and development. Throughout the years however, clients have become more aware and educated on environmental issues. I expect to see more complicated, environmentally impaired development in the future. Technologies, such as those offered by Land Science, coupled with knowledgeable clients, are making these types of projects more commonplace.”
When it comes to working with Land Science, Lowery points to several advantages in the areas of testing, support, and durability. He explains, “I appreciate that Land Science completes rigorous testing on their products to ensure the barrier products are protective for the constituents mitigated. I also like what I see in durability. The sub-slab components and vapor barrier products are very durable and withstand most construction traffic following installation, a common failure point in most systems. And Land Science fully supports and backs their vapor barrier products. It’s great to be able to speak with a Land Science technical representative when needed, and any installation issues are handled directly and quickly.” With regard to specific products, Nitra-Seal® and Terra-Vent® have both been used with success recently on a just completed, large multi-family apartment complex development in North Carolina. He shares, “VOCs and methane were the constituents mitigated. The use of TerraVent and Nitra-Seal was very successful for the sub-slab vapor mitigation systems. Using a continual monitoring system, the sub-slabs have shown uniform communication and extended areas of influence since installation.”
When asked what he likes most about his work, Lowery is quick to share how much he likes a challenge and seeing a project through to completion. “I enjoy that each project brings new challenges. This includes digging into a project and helping clients navigate and institute plans that are successful. It’s especially rewarding to complete a complicated project. Seeing the development or successful remediation through to the end is very satisfying.” And the most demanding aspect of his work? “Managing time expectations, because difficult and complicated projects take time and in most cases, require regulatory involvement. This is another reason Land Science products are a good tool, because they generally install quickly with limited development downtime.”
Married and the father of a 3-year old daughter, Lowery and his family live in Columbia, SC, where in his free time he enjoys playing golf and being a hands-on dad to their energetic daughter. “Not much time for any other hobbies at this point,” he says. “Although we do volunteer work for the Special Olympics of South Carolina, where my wife serves as Director of Communication.” When asked how he has seen the industry change over the years, he feels clients and lending institutions are more educated on environmental issues, and that many challenging projects can now be mitigated through the use of various tools, such as vapor barriers and regulatory programs. And how would he encourage others to join in his field of study? He concludes, “At SUMMIT we have provided summer internships in the environmental department for college and even high school aged students. I encourage students who have an interest in the environmental field to reach out to local engineering firms and inquire about internships or shadow programs. Since Environmental Consulting can span from wetlands to advanced remediations, there is a broad industry to explore.”
Land Science is proud to have Patrick Lowery, Senior Environmental Manager with SUMMIT Engineering, Laboratory & Testing, Inc., as a valued client and partner in environmental remediation, and appreciates his specialized background and commitment in providing successful remediation and mitigation outcomes for Land Science and its clients.
It’s not often Land Science® has the opportunity to work with a valued client whose background includes extensive experience with its parent company, REGENESIS. However, Suzi Rosen, PG, CHg, Principal and Technical Director for Partner Engineering & Science, Inc., is an exception. In addition to her experience in site assessment, remediation, and expert witness/litigation support at various consulting firms, Suzi also served with REGENESIS for 3 years as a Southwest District Technical Manager. She shares, “My experience at REGENESIS was very important in my career development, and together with my other experience, helped prepare me for my role with Partner. Currently, my day-to-day responsibilities include serving as a technical resource for projects throughout the country that require some type of regulatory agency interaction or remedial/mitigation action, as well as overseeing and managing projects.” One of the aspects of her work she enjoys most is helping her clients navigate complex environmental issues. She continues, “Many of my clients are developers, so I work on those projects from the early Phase I Environmental Site Assessment stage all the way through cleanup, soil management, vapor intrusion mitigation, and any regulatory closure that is required. Our group also works on a lot of Remedial Cost Estimates that are part of the various property transactions, of which I’m often involved. I also have the opportunity to perform third-party review and expert opinion work for litigation and cost recovery cases.” To prepare for a career in environmental remediation, Suzi earned her BS in Geology from California State University, Fullerton (CSUF) and also completed significant graduate course work at California State University Los Angeles (CSULA) and CSUF in geology and contaminate fate and transport.
Now completing her fifth year with Partner Engineering & Science, Suzi appreciates the company’s culture and emphasis on professional development, as well as their long-term growth objectives. She continues, “Partner has a corporate level goal to be the best home for talented professionals in our field. I can say for me personally, they’ve accomplished that. Partner continues to grow nationally and around the globe with a focus on providing technical services facilitating all aspects of a property transaction, from pre-acquisition to post-development operation and maintenance. We are also constantly developing new technologies and processes to increase our efficiency and technical excellence so we can serve our clients in a way that makes their lives easier.” To stay abreast of emerging trends and new technologies, Suzi attends industry-focused webinars and training classes- usually several times per month, which are often offered by industry groups like ITRC and various remediation vendors. She adds, “I participate regularly in technical conferences in California and the mid-west, either as a speaker, moderator, or attendee. Topics are usually around new sampling or assessment technologies, regulatory updates, or industry trends.”
With regard to working with Land Science, Suzi appreciates the company’s expertise and deep reservoir of technical expertise. She continues, “Land Science is a great resource and partner for vapor intrusion mitigation work. Their internal technical resources have been extremely helpful, and their network of certified applicators makes projects go smoothly. The last RetroCoat® project I did was for a warehouse in Los Angeles that was purchased by one of our celebrity clients. We had a very small window for getting in and installing RetroCoat before the warehouse contents were set to arrive. If we did not finish in time, they would have to pay for temporary storage, and it would have been a nightmare if the project was delayed. Nick Mjolsness with Land Science found one of their applicators and arranged for the site walk, bidding, product delivery, and installation within about a two-week time frame. When I was handed this project and told they needed a VI mitigation system put in place within about two weeks, I almost told the client it was impossible, and yet Nick and Jeff Andrews over at Pacific Coast Contracting (applicator) helped me pull it off. They made me and Partner look great, and the client even got to pick a specialized look for the floor coating.” When it comes to specific Land Science product usage, RetroCoat is used most often for existing structures requiring vapor intrusion mitigation. She adds that her team is still learning about the new barrier products being offered by Land Science.
When asked what she enjoys most about her work, Suzi values her role as a knowledgeable resource for her clients. She shares, “I love helping my clients navigate potential or actual environmental issues on a property they are going to redevelop or acquire. Helping them understand their risk in a way that makes sense to them, so they can make the best business decision, is a unique service and a talent I have cultivated over the years. When I can help their internal process go smoothly and minimize costs, I find that very rewarding.” And the most challenging aspect of her work? “Usually scheduling, since many of our projects are on a very tight timeline. Working within extremely tight time constraints is a regular occurrence and takes a lot of self-management to be able to meet deadlines without sacrificing your own well-being.” Established in both southern California and central Michigan, Suzi spends much of her free time as a teacher of Ishayas’ Ascension, which she refers to as “meditation for the modern-day world”. “I’ve been practicing Ascension for nearly 20 years now and can’t imagine life without it! I have a cat, Chloe, who keeps me company when I am working from home and should probably be called Shadow, since she is always by my side. I also like to stay active and love to lift weights, hike, kayak or Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP), ski, explore areas I have not seen before, and spend time with good friends.” She also finds time to volunteer for the Humane Animal Treatment Society (HATS). She shares, “I love dogs as well as cats, but I can’t really have a dog since I usually travel a fair amount for work. HATS gives me an opportunity to spend time helping animals and walking dogs that may otherwise not get any active time outside. The hardest part is having to take them back to the shelter.”
When asked how she’s seen the industry change over the years, she points to the increased number of women choosing this field. She concludes, “There are more and more women in the environmental industry now, and it is not viewed as much of an oddity as it was when I first started in the mid-1990s. It is a little bit less of an “old boy’s club” – particularly at a firm like Partner where there are so many women professionals, including at the leadership/executive level. For me, environmental remediation has been a great career choice and I look forward to what the future has in store.”
Land Science is proud to have Suzi Rosen, PG, CHg, Principal and Technical Director for Partner Engineering & Science, Inc., as a valued client and partner in environmental remediation, and appreciates her diversified experience and commitment in providing successful remediation and mitigation outcomes for Land Science and its clients.
For Steve Michelson, President of AWR Environmental, a leading west coast-based environmental and geotechnical services firm, and valued Land Science® client, overseeing a multitude of diverse responsibilities is a welcome aspect of his role, and is just one reason he enjoys his work. He begins, “We are a small boutique firm, and everyone wears a number of hats – except obviously, the principal roles. As both President and Principal, I’m responsible for the care of all our clients, and ensure we provide top-shelf technical solutions that are responsive to our client’s needs and constraints. In addition to directing the company, I strive to promote a corporate culture that emphasizes communication and creativity.” One element of the culture and work environment Michelson has fostered includes the encouragement of staff to respectfully challenge each other when reviewing nearly all written reports before submitting to the client- including his own. He continues, “The objective is to identify both supported and unsupported assumptions, with the goal of identifying our strengths and weaknesses in the analysis and technical solutions and strategies to resolve our clients’ challenges.”
Michelson founded AWR in 1997, after finding a way to combine his interest in the earth sciences and engineering with the emerging need to address the environmental contamination. He shares, “Initially, I had designs on becoming a petroleum exploration geologist and travelling the globe. However, when I graduated it was during one of the cyclical downturns in the petroleum industry, and luckily the early days of the environmental consulting marketplace. So now I still get to work for petroleum companies, but in a different capacity- solving their contamination problems.”
To prepare for a career that addressed his interest in both geology and the environment, he in essence created his own double major, earning BS degrees in Geology and Civil Engineering from Lehigh University. “I was actually the first to receive both degrees from Lehigh University. Upon beginning my studies, I found that civil engineering seemed too assured in having all the answers, and geology left way too many questions – so I ended up pursuing both. I eventually negotiated with several professors and department heads to develop what became a combined degree program upon my graduation. This academic background of geology and engineering has provided me with a good foundation for cleaning up the environment.” To remain current on new and emerging remediation technologies, and improvements to the implementation and operations of existing technologies, he is active in attending industry-related conferences and webinars. He adds, “Especially those oriented to leveraging the biological resources to degrade or fix the contaminant. I’m also diligent about staying current on trends in environmental science, especially improvements to site characterization and monitoring.” He feels his efforts, and those of his staff, will lead to additional growth, as AWR expands into the developer marketplace, where he feels clients will truly appreciate his firm’s responsiveness and the constructive relationships they have developed with regulators. He adds, “We are currently expanding into a market that provides services for dredging and beneficial reuse of dredged sediments in the San Francisco Bay and Delta, and also expanding into the cannabis marketplace.”
In working with Land Science, Michelson appreciates the company’s expertise and high service standards, and points to a recent project where significant vapor mitigation was required. He continues, “Land Science was extremely helpful to us in the design and implementation of mitigation measures at an 11-acre redevelopment in central Hayward, CA, where we’ve designed and constructed about 4 acres of vapor mitigation consisting of Nitra-Seal® and sub-slab ventilation and depressurization, coupled with 2,100 ft of soil vapor extraction.” In terms of specific product usage, in addition to Nitra-Seal®, TerraVent®, ORC®, and RegenOx® have been used. “All have proven very useful to mitigating risks and remediating contamination.” When not working out of the AWR Bay Area office, Michelson can be found enjoying the great outdoors- rock climbing. He also enjoys weightlifting, reading, gardening, and participating in martial arts.
When asked about the most demanding aspect of his work, Michelson says balancing the workload in the pipeline while avoiding overstaffing can be a challenge. He shares, “I’m rather dedicated to keeping staff engaged. Most staff have been with the company for over a decade and we all understand that one person’s success leads to success for everyone, and vice versa -all pulling in the same direction is critically important.” As one who has been working in the environmental field for over two decades, Michelson has had time to reflect on the past, with an eye toward the future of an ever-evolving industry. He continues, “For the future, the pendulum in California has clearly swung towards leaving more contaminants in the ground and mitigating the risks, rather than pursuing more thorough cleanup. While this may be a cost-effective approach for our clients, it is likely to pose challenges in the future when properties with residual contamination become available for sale and the pendulum swings back to seeking more cleanup. Some of our clients are sensitive to looking down the road and spending a bit more now to maximize future property values, while others less so.” And how would he encourage others to join in his field of study? He concludes, “ I would suggest those interested in helping to mitigate our environmental challenges obtain a technical yet multidisciplinary education that promotes an appreciation of complexities and the unknown, that fosters development of conceptual models to explain what can’t be seen, that acknowledges the vulnerabilities posed by unverified or unrecognized assumptions, that encourages respectful and professional discussion especially during disagreement, that teaches listening and speaking and writing skills as fundamental elements of communication, that emphasizes comprehension of the why as the basis for the how, and that rewards creativity.”
Land Science is proud to have Steve Michelson, President and Principal of AWR Environmental, as a valued client and partner in environmental remediation, and appreciates his wealth of experience and leadership in providing successful remediation and mitigation outcomes for Land Science and its clients.
When Travis Coburn, Senior Engineer for Ninyo & Moore, set his sights on a career in environmental remediation, the diverse range of responsibilities he would assume became a pleasant surprise. He begins, “As an environmental engineer, my emphasis has been on environmental compliance, but it allows me to enjoy a variety of different aspects within my field. These include contaminated site investigation, remedial system design and installation, treatment system startup, and operation and maintenance.” In addition to these specific responsibilities at Ninyo & Moore, a leading geotechnical and environmental sciences consulting firm and valued Land Science® client, he works on a variety of projects as well. He continues, “I am involved in a wide range of complex and interesting projects that include school, railroad, air and sea ports, military, oil and gas, brownfields, construction, and waste disposal sites. In addition to providing technical consulting services, I manage contracts and projects, and mentor our younger staff.” Coburn joined Ninyo & Moore seven and a half years ago as a Project Manager/Engineer, and was quickly promoted to Senior Project Manager/Engineer, before being named to his current position. Prior to Ninyo & Moore, he served as a Senior Staff Engineer and as a Senior Environmental Engineer at other civil and environmental engineering firms. To prepare for a career in environmental sciences he earned a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Engineering from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
Coburn’s interest in environmental remediation began during his freshman year at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. “I always wanted to do something that would help ‘clean’ the planet,” he says, “and I felt my strengths in math and science, along with my urge to solve problems and puzzles, would be well-suited for a career as an environmental engineer.” His interest in remediation was piqued early on in his career while working on a challenging project, which served to provide both inspiration and confirmation he had chosen the right career path. He continues, “Early in my career I was involved in a site assessment and remediation project in a small town heavily impacted by 100 years of industrial rail operations. It was the first project where I saw first-hand how devastating groundwater contamination can be to a community and ecosystem. It definitely inspired me to be part of the solution and help provide a solution to ensure residents felt safe.” When asked what he enjoys most about his job, he quickly points to the diverse nature of his work. “I really enjoy the variety of projects and challenges they present. I’ve also enjoyed the travel and places some of my projects have taken me, including Montana, Washington, Hawaii, and the Marshall Islands.”
When it comes to working with Land Science, Coburn appreciates their quick response and knowledge base. He shares, “The people I’ve interacted with at Land Science have always been friendly and responsive. I’ve reached out to Land Science on several soil gas intrusion mitigation designs I’ve prepared and they’ve always helped me identify the right product for the job, which oftentimes leads to large cost-savings for construction.” With regard to specific Land Science products, Nitra-Seal® is used frequently, due to its effectiveness and versatility. He continues, “Land Science’s spray-applied barriers have a lot of advantages- especially in parts of California, where we often have sites that have the potential for methane, petroleum, and VOC intrusion. It’s great to have a barrier that is both effective and resistant to them all.” The success using products such as Nitra-Seal complements the future goals of Ninyo & Moore. “Our team has a wide range of talents and services, so we want to maximize our offerings and services to our existing clients, and develop new client relationships.” To stay abreast of current industry trends and evolving technology, Coburn regularly attends industry related webinars and presentations, as his schedule allows, which unfortunately isn’t as many as he would like. “REGENESIS and Land Science offer several of these throughout the year, which have proven to be very informative and helpful.”
Living in Orange County, CA with his wife and daughter, (and a new son on the way), Coburn enjoys several hobbies and activities in his spare time, such as camping, running, cooking, and playing the guitar. He shares, “I love camping in Big Sur, which usually includes stopping by some Paso Robles wineries along the way. I grew up camping in Yosemite and the Sierra Nevada range can get pretty crowded, so I prefer backpacking when up there. I’ve run a few marathons, and the Big Sur race is my favorite. For the guitar, I enjoy playing the blues, especially Lightnin’ Hopkins, 90’s alternative, and the occasional Led Zeppelin tune. I was in a punk band in my early teen years but after a two-decade hiatus, I had the urge to pick up the guitar again just for fun.” He also finds time to perform volunteer work for Habit for Humanity and the Natural Resources Defense Council. When asked what he sees the future holds for environmental remediation, he feels the industry will continue to emphasize understanding the extent of emerging contaminants, such as PFAS. He adds, “We want to continue helping our clients navigate how to best respond to evolving regulations. I also expect to see an increase in Brownfields redevelopment to meet population growth and the demands of our challenging California housing market.” Asked how he’s seen the industry change, Coburn feels regulations have become a key factor. “When I started, I saw a lot of resistance to environmental regulations, but now many of our clients want to work with regulators to ensure they are doing everything they can to address and mitigate environmental concerns.” And how would he encourage others to join his field of study? He concludes, “I’ve talked to quite a few students considering this field and I always tell them it’s a rewarding career that offers you whatever career path you’re looking for. Plus, you won’t always be stuck behind a desk!”
Land Science is proud to have Travis Coburn, Senior Engineer for Ninyo & Moore, as a valued client and partner in environmental remediation, and appreciates his wealth of experience and leadership in providing successful remediation and mitigation outcomes for Land Science and its clients.
For working professionals who aspire to raise a family, staying on a chosen career path can be especially challenging. But when one gets back on track, it is worth the effort. Just ask Maura Pliska, Project Environmental Engineer for TriMedia Environmental & Engineering Services, LLC, a leading environmental and engineering firm and valued Land Science® client. She begins, “Initially, I worked for Waste Management and their associated entities in the Chicago area for approximately ten years after graduating from college with an engineering degree. I then stayed home to raise my children for approximately 13 years. When it came time for me to return to the work force, my work experience in the waste and environmental industry lined up well with TriMedia, an established environmental consulting firm located in Marquette, Michigan where we were raising our family. I was excited to return to work in my field of choice and have really enjoyed the opportunities TriMedia provides me so I can continue learning and developing additional technical skills.” In her role with TriMedia, where she has worked the past 11 years, Pliska’s responsibilities include environmental due diligence on Phase I and Phase II Environmental Assessments of commercial and industrial properties, and managing environmental regulatory compliance, including the development of various compliance plans and reporting required under state and federal regulations. She also works on Brownfield redevelopment, investigation and remediation of contaminated sites, accidental spill reporting, and air permitting.
To prepare for a career in environmental engineering, Pliska graduated from the University of Illinois, Champaign, with a BS in General Engineering. She continues, “The General Engineering program at U of I provided a solid technical overview of the various engineering disciplines, in addition to a business and communication core curriculum. After earning my degree, my initial work with Waste Management and their various entities allowed me to gain valuable experience in designing and permitting solid waste facilities. I also developed operating, closure and construction plans, and participated in quality assurance during the construction phase.” In addition, Pliska has completed the Land Science training, which qualifies her as a certified inspector. When asked what she enjoys about working with Land Science, she points to a recent project that involved significant construction on a prior industrial site. “I had the opportunity to work with Land Science during the Lake Superior State University/Center for Freshwater Research and Education project. This was new construction on a former industrial site. Portions of the project were funded through an approved Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) Brownfield Redevelopment Grant and Loan, which provided additional new experience for me. Land Science was great to work with throughout this project, providing both expertise and excellent service. It was through this LSSU-CFRE project that I became familiar with the Land Science TerraShield® vapor barrier system.” As she continues to gain experience in her field, Pliska looks forward to strengthening her technical knowledge and enhancing her project management capabilities. With regard to TriMedia, she admires the company’s diverse business model, which includes providing industrial hygiene, GIS, health and safety, and land surveying services. She shares, “The opportunity to be involved in variety of projects is a big part of what makes TriMedia a great company to work for. For example, projects include industrial facility demolitions, mine safety oversight, river recovery projects, drinking water surveys, and utility locating services.”
Recently relocated to Grand Rapids, MI, where she lives with her husband, Pliska enjoys a variety of activities outside of work, with hiking and kayaking as favorites. “A favorite hiking spot was Harlow Lake in Marquette, MI and our favorite kayaking was East Bass Lake in Gwinn, MI. There are so many beautiful spots in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula – you really can’t go wrong. We look forward to finding new spots in Southwest Michigan!” She also enjoys cooking, reading and the movies. She shares, “ I like making comfort food in the winter like a beef stew or Guinness shepherd’s pie. I recently made Ina Garten’s Tuscan turkey roulade that was a hit with the family!” When asked what she enjoys most about her work, she emphasizes how much she appreciates the opportunity to see a project through from concept through construction. And the most demanding aspect? “Keeping up with the ever-changing rules and regulations. Environmental regulations in this industry continue to increase in complexity, so this is an area I need to continually focus on.” She also feels vapor intrusion continues to evolve. She continues, “The increasing data and knowledge concerning per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (“PFAS”) will undoubtedly have an impact on trends in environmental remediation.” When asked how she would encourage others to join her field of study, she underscores the need for a younger generation to explore the many choices that are available. She concludes, “My daughter is a college student in engineering, and that is certainly a good start. I would definitely recommend young people pursue internships in this field to ensure that environmental work is what they think it is. We can certainly use bright and curious minds going forward!”
Land Science is proud to have Maura Pliska, Project Environmental Engineer for TriMedia Environmental & Engineering Services, LLC, as a valued client and partner in environmental remediation, and appreciates her highly specialized background and commitment in providing successful remediation and mitigation outcomes for Land Science and its clients.
With a career in environmental remediation that spans nearly 35 years, Paul French, Senior Project Manager/Hydrogeologist with Envirologic Technologies, Inc., a full service environmental consulting and services firm and valued Land Science® client, has seen first-hand how the industry has evolved from an emphasis on groundwater and cleanup to a vapor intrusion focus. He begins, “When I started in this industry, the primary focus was groundwater and cleanup to specific criteria. However, with the advent of the Risk Based Corrective Action process in 1994, the site investigations and closure fittingly moved toward elimination of an exposure pathway. Since most exposure pathways can be eliminated with institutional and/or engineering controls, vapor intrusion has become the primary driving factor for a good portion of our work.” As one might expect, French has also experienced how evolving technology continues to impact the industry. He continues, “The changes in technology have been immense. Computers were rare in my early years, and report were done by hand and submitted to clerical staff to decipher. Today, reports and communications are submitted digitally instead of printed and mailed. Information searches that used to take weeks to receive can now be completed and reviewed in a matter of minutes, and remote data recording and wireless transmission are now becoming the mainstay for monitoring of mitigation systems.” As a 28-year veteran with Envirologic, French finds himself utilizing much of today’s evolving technology as he fulfills a role as the company’s in-house specialist for vapor intrusion, which includes responsibilities involving the design, installation, and operation of vapor mitigation systems for Envirologic and its clients.
French joined Envirologic as a Project Manager/Hydrogeologist, prior to his promotion to his current position. In addition to his vapor intrusion responsibilities, he oversees all aspects of remedial investigations and cleanup at underground storage tanks and industrial and brownfield sites, while also serving as client, local, state, and federal regulatory agency liaison. Additionally, he manages proposal and work plan preparation, coordination of field staff and subcontractors, data assessment, reporting, budget tracking, and coordination of funding programs. In addition, his experience includes design, construction, operation, and maintenance of remedial systems, including groundwater pump and treat, NAPL recovery, soil vapor extraction, sub-slab vapor mitigation, and enhanced bioremediation. Although he has a vast and diverse range of responsibilities, more than anything it’s the hands-on approach to his work that he enjoys most. He continues, “In my current role I really enjoy the freedom to break away from office duties periodically to actually build the remedial systems that I design.”
To prepare for a career in environmental remediation, French earned his BS in Geology from Murray State University, in his home state of Kentucky, and has since taken graduate level courses in Hydrogeology from Western Michigan University. To stay abreast of evolving trends and the latest technology in vapor intrusion, he regularly attends workshops, webinars, and regional training events. His expertise, culled through 3+ decades, no doubt helps in his efforts to achieve Envirologic’s goals, as outlined recently by CEO/Co-owner Jeff Hawkins. French continues, “While filming our recent 30th Anniversary video, Mr. Hawkins stressed that Envirologic has always been a boutique firm, rather than a subset of another company or another core business. He stated that this is our core business: environmental consulting. He and our leadership envision over the next five to ten years that we are likely to remain a consistent, nimble, customer-oriented company with some modest growth, adding team members who fit well with our organization and who can provide the integrity and level of service that we are known for. He closed by saying while growth is important, it is not our intent to ‘conquer the world’ with respect to the work that we do.”
When it comes to working with Land Science, French appreciates the company’s expertise and product knowledge. He shares, “Everyone I have dealt with at Land Science has an excellent working knowledge of their products and great insight on how their products can be best applied to my given issue. I appreciate that Land Science has always been willing to defend their products and our remedial goals with our state’s regulatory bodies.” With regard to using specific Land Science products and solutions for vapor mitigation barriers and venting systems, TerraShield®, Retro-Coat™, and TerraVent™ are often used with significant success. Residing in Kalamazoo, MI, He continues, “My projects have taken me throughout nearly all of lower Michigan. I have also spent a considerable amount of time in the Marquette, Houghton, and Calumet areas in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.” Outside of work, he enjoys household remodeling projects and yardwork, “which helps to keep my wife happy — and me healthy.” He continues, “Keeping her projects up to date helps me to bank time for my real hobby of the last few years- motorcycling.” He also finds time to remain an active member and officer in an organization at his church that raises money for numerous causes, and for several years he has volunteered to provide a monthly meal and friendship at a home for recently released state prisoners.
When asked about the most challenging aspect of his work, he is quick to emphasize the impact of prioritization. “We all experience clients needing their projects completed ‘yesterday.’ Thus, there never seems to be enough time in a day to manage the current workload and address new projects and deadlines. It’s probably a combination of both, but if my white hair wasn’t hereditary, I’d blame it on my job.” He also feels it is a constant challenge to navigate inconsistency within various regulatory agencies and keep a project on schedule. He continues, “It is understood vapor intrusion pathway understanding is evolving, and to its credit, our state has come a long way in recent years in specifying how to evaluate the pathway. Currently however, there is no consistent process in the review of design specifications for a mitigation system or for performance monitoring. While Envirologic is competent in the design and installation of mitigation systems and conducting performance monitoring in accordance with industry standards, the inconsistency comes to light when state review and approval of a design, performance monitoring plan, or other document is necessary to satisfy the requirements of a financial institution or brownfield authority. The inconsistency typically results in the desire for additional data and/or multiple redesigns and nearly always results in the delay of a development, and in Michigan, for the most part, a delay means next year.” And how would French encourage others to join in his field of study? He concludes, “I would encourage others to develop an appreciation of science, since many of those disciplines can be adapted to this industry. I would also encourage anyone who wants to get ahead in this field, or any field for that matter, to become comfortable speaking in public. Overcoming that fear will bring about opportunities.”
Land Science is proud to have Paul French, Senior Project Manager/Hydrogeologist with Envirologic Technologies, Inc., as a valued client and partner in environmental remediation, and appreciates his diverse background and thorough approach in providing successful remediation and mitigation outcomes for Land Science and its clients.
When Torin Snyder isn’t swimming or being dance-dad extraordinaire, he can be found pursuing another lifelong passion – finding effective, creative solutions to complex environmental issues. Snyder is a principal at Rincon Consultants, Inc., a leading California-based environmental consulting firm and valued Land Science client. His career path was no surprise to him, as Snyder recalls his interest in the environmental sciences blossoming during his university days. When he began to explore the field as a potential career path, he soon realized environmental site assessment and remediation would provide the ideal avenue to satisfy his curiosity.
“I have always been fascinated in environmental sciences, but I found early on, and still find, that environmental remediation is especially interesting because it is always evolving with emerging chemicals, new clean-up goals, and new technologies,” Snyder says of the field. “This industry offers an opportunity to introduce innovative options to clients, enabling them to achieve their overall project goals and expectations, and it lets me learn and think outside the box.” Snyder joined Rincon in 2010 as a senior hydrogeologist and was promoted to principal in 2018. Prior to joining Rincon, he served as a project manager in the hydrogeology department for an environmental planning company.
To prepare for his career in environmental remediation, in 1999 Snyder earned his BS in Soil Science, with a Hydrology concentration, from California Polytechnic State University, in San Luis Obispo. “After-graduation, I focused on getting the certifications and licenses relevant to the environmental consulting industry. First, I became a Certified Professional Soil Scientist, then a Registered Environmental Assessor, then a Deputy Methane Building Inspector for the City of Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety. Later, I became a Professional Geologist, Qualified SWPPP Developer/Practitioner, Certified Hydrogeologist, and finally a Trainer of Record for the Qualified SWPPP Developer/Practitioner program. Sometimes people tease me for having so many initials behind my name.”
As a Principal for Rincon’s statewide Environmental Site Assessment and Remediation practice, Snyder is responsible for business development, client management, technical and quality control, and staff mentoring and development. He says of his many roles at the firm, “I provide leadership for the Environmental Site Assessment and Remediation group, and I support the Environmental Sciences and Land Use Planning group and Natural and Cultural Resource team at Rincon. The diverse clients and projects keep me engaged, while giving me new challenges to meet, which I enjoy very much.”
To stay abreast of new technologies and emerging trends, Snyder keeps up with seminars, conferences, and training programs for the field. “Our industry is always evolving,” he says. “So, education and training are critical to remain current with new solutions our clients expect and deserve. It seems there’s always a new or better way to complete a project.” With his diverse background, responsibilities and commitment to staying current in the industry, Snyder does his part to help Rincon achieve its long-term goal of “offering clients the best services, best products, and best people in our field.”
When it comes to working with Land Science, Snyder appreciates the company’s wide range of technologies. “Land Science has done a good job providing alternative products to solve vapor intrusion challenges. There are many solutions available, but few are as effective as those Land Science offers.” He goes on to say that “finding a product that is cost-competitive and that protects the occupants of the building is the most important consideration. Land Science offers multiple products for different applications, which is critical. For example, our clients like the protection that MonoShield™ offers for low-risk vapor intrusion sites and they appreciate that the product is cost-effective compared to most other vapor barriers.” Recently, Snyder has recommended MonoShield™ for a number of projects Rincon has tackled that included low-risk vapor intrusion concerns for low-income housing projects.
Residing in Carlsbad, California with his wife and two daughters, Snyder works out of the Rincon office there. In his free time, he enjoys the outdoors, with mountain biking, open-water swimming, and off-road triathlons (Xterra) topping his list of favorite activities. He likes them so much he participates in mountain bike and open water swim racing. “I’m a fairly competitive guy so I love to sign up for races,” he shares. “One of my favorite race experiences was when I competed in the Xterra Off-Road World Championship in Maui in 2018.” He also finds time to volunteer as an Advisory Council Member for the Natural Resource and Environmental Sciences Department at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo.
When asked what he enjoys most about his job, he points to the collaborative nature of working with co-workers and clients. “I also take satisfaction in providing a client an out-of-the- box solution for their specific problem.” And the most demanding aspect of his job? “Right now, the COVID-19 pandemic. This has changed our day to day routine and requires us to be nimble and adaptive to the new norm.” He also feels the trend of emerging chemicals, evolving clean-up goals, and discovering new solutions to help solve remedial challenges is here to stay- at least for some time. He continues, “As regulations become tighter, consultants will be forced to reconsider how a project is scoped and completed. For example, as clean up goals become more conservative, it may not be economically feasible to remediate a site the same way we did 10 years ago. Therefore, interim mitigation measures, like vapor barriers, sealing concrete floors, and HVAC modifications, need to be considered to reduce the time a building may sit unoccupied during remedial activities when there are indoor air concerns.”
And how would he encourage others to join his field of study? He concludes, “I would not necessarily use the word “encourage.” Finding your passion is the most important aspect to a rewarding, challenging, and successful career. So, I feel it’s critical for people who might be interested in this field to first understand their own passion- what makes them tick. Once this is understood, the path to a fulfilling and successful career path can be tailored to an individual.”
Land Science is proud to have Torin Snyder, Principal at Rincon Consultants, Inc., as a valued client and partner in environmental remediation, and appreciates his highly diverse background and approach in providing successful remediation outcomes for Land Science and its clients.