With a career in environmental mitigation 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 mitigation, 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, and appreciates his diverse background and thorough approach in providing successful vapor intrusion mitigation outcomes for Land Science and its clients.