When the U.S. oil industry collapsed in the mid-1980s, Benjamin Alter, at the time an Exploration Geophysicist with Chevron, was prepared to rebound. He quickly leveraged his passion for the earth’s sciences into a second career in environmental remediation. Now a Senior Vice President and Principal of GZA GeoEnvironmental, Inc., a leading environmental engineering and consulting services firm, Alter has amassed a deep reservoir of applied experience, which includes serving 22 years at GZA alone, as well as authoring a book, Environmental Consulting Fundamentals. Alter is in many ways contributing to help sustain our environment, while also impacting the future success of GZA. He continues, “My general role at GZA is what I refer to as a “Seller-Doer,” which means that I’m responsible for bringing clients and projects to GZA and then managing them. Each project typically has a Project Manager who reports directly to me, and other staff that reports to the project manager. I’m also responsible for limiting GZA’s liability on a given project, project invoicing, and collections.” In addition to his role as principal, he is also co-chair of GZA’s Environmental Site Investigation technical practice. In this capacity he oversees the integrity of the practice and ensures that GZA practitioners are properly trained and equipped.
To prepare for a career in earth sciences, Alter earned his BS from State University New York/Albany (SUNY), where he double-majored in Geology and Mathematics. He followed that with an MS in Geophysics from Cornell University, and later earned an MBA from Columbia University. To stay abreast of industry trends and evolving technology, he completes required coursework, as mandated by the state of New Jersey. He continues, “As a Licensed Site Remediation Professional (LSRP) I’m required to take 36 credits of continuing education courses over a 3-year cycle. These courses must contain a mix of technical and regulatory oriented courses as well as an ethics course.” In addition, he teaches two continuing education courses, one regarding environmental due diligence in New Jersey and one on technical writing.
Through the years, he’s noticed how the industry has evolved, from a focus on legacy sites (those properties that had become contaminated before the advent of environmental regulations) to Brownfields. He shares, “When I initially started environmental consulting, most of my work involved cleaning up legacy sites and environmental compliance work for industries. However, because of the de-industrialization of the greater New York City area, I now do very little work for industrial clients. While there are still plenty of legacy sites to clean up, more and more of my work is focused on redevelopment of inner-city properties, such as Brownfields.” When asked what he enjoys most about working with REGENESIS, he feels they offer a strong combination of service, product, and value. “I’ve worked on several projects with REGENESIS,” he says. “Their products are effective and competitively priced and their staff is consistently very helpful. As for specific product usage, I’ve used ORC® Advanced on sites, and GZA as a company has used a wide range of REGENESIS’ products over the years.”
Alter works out of GZA’s northern New Jersey office in Fairfield, a short 10-minute drive from home. In his free time he sings in two choirs and is the piano accompanist for a variety group called “The Loose Canons” (theloosecanons.org). “I also write parodies and arrange songs, and write my synagogue’s annual play. In addition, I’m an avid cyclist, hiker, and racquetball player.” To give back to the community, he sits on the Board of Trustees of the LSRP Association and chairs its College Outreach Committee. He continues, “I’m also a board member and founder of the LSRPA Foundation, which provides scholarships to students and grants to environmental organizations. Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of handing out $25,000 in checks to nine young people with terrific futures in environmental remediation.” When asked what he likes most about his work, the human aspect quickly comes to mind. He shares, “My favorite part of my job is the people – my co-workers especially. GZA nurtures a great family vibe – people really care about each other. It’s a demanding job, so having the support of your colleagues helps everyone get through the day. As one of the senior people in the office, I particularly enjoy mentoring the younger staff and watching them grow as professionals.” In his leadership role, he is also able to play a key role in the overall success of the company. He shares, “Our objective is to grow organically and by acquisition, focusing on increasing our geographical coverage, expanding our technical services, and bringing in expertise to augment our existing technical services.”
When asked how he’s seen the industry evolve over the years, he points to how the consulting aspect has matured, with numerous high quality, seasoned competitors, and how the LSRP program brought about change. He continues, “The LSRP program in New Jersey, which began in 2009, was a paradigm shift, since it allowed licensed people like me to investigate, remediate, and close spill cases with minimal involvement from the regulatory agencies.” And how would he encourage others to join his field of study? He concludes, “The LSRPA College Outreach Committee encourages students to pursue careers in environmental consulting by offering a variety of services that include on-campus presentations, webinars on resume building and job interview skills, and managing a resume portal where students can post their resumes for LSRPA members to access. And of course, the scholarships I mentioned earlier are a terrific benefit as well. I would suggest if someone is interested in this field, they take advantage of as many resources as possible.”
REGENESIS is proud to have Benjamin Alter, Senior Vice President and Principal of GZA GeoEnvironmental, Inc., as a valued client and partner in environmental remediation, and appreciates his exceptional experience and dedication in providing successful remediation outcomes for REGENESIS and its clients.