How to Find a Qualified Remediation Contractor

Screen Shot 2014-11-04 at 8.48.20 PMBy 2016, more than $14 billion will be spent annually worldwide on cleaning up groundwater pollution, according to Site Remediation World Markets, a database published by the McIlvaine Company.

In U.S. metropolitan areas, that money is often spent to remediate property beneath dry cleaners, gas stations and other businesses. And, yes, parking lots are included because oil drippings and water runoff often contaminate groundwater beneath them.

So, what’s lurking under these sites? Nasty stuff such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), oil, gasoline and metals including arsenic, chromium, lead, zinc, nickel, and cadmium. Bacteria may also complete this unappetizing stew.

What does $14 billion buy? If applied by professionals, the money pays for reliable technologies including thermal, biological, chemical and physical remediation.

The result should be cleaner property that may continue to be used for commercial activity or be listed for sale.

In thinking about these possibilities, you may already be sensing a bigger drain on your company’s budget.

Here’s the problem: you may not know about groundwater pollution hiding under your property until a neighbor complains or you are cited by a local or state authority. And then it will be up to you to locate the problem and deal with it; or prove you are not the source.

Of course it’s best to plan ahead and remove any problem before you are cited or want to sell the property. But, either way, you need to find a qualified remediation contractor. Cleanup is never inexpensive — and be wary if it is — but your best shot at reducing or eliminating groundwater pollution and guarding yourself against further liability (for environmental damage or health issues arising for workers on your site) is to work with a qualified contractor.

Asking key questions of any potential contractors will help you evaluate who is best for your remediation job.

These questions should include:

  1. What type of remedial work has the company conquered (VOCs, metals, other chemicals of concern)?
  2. Have they actually implemented groundwater remedial efforts successfully, rather than simply designed and implemented failing approaches?
  3. How many regulatory closures have they procured on behalf of their clients? (Note: “closure” is a regulatory term. It means that the property requires no further remedial action and — with continued monitoring — may be made available for commercial activity or put up for sale.)
  4. In how many states has the chosen remedial technology been accepted or denied by state and local regulatory agencies, or by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency?
  5. Do they have any references of work or prior scenarios they are willing to share?
  6. How long have they been in the business?
  7. What are their core values/would you feel comfortable taking on a business relationship with them?
  8. Can the contractor help you locate and execute old insurance policies that may help pay remediation costs?

These are basic questions that should help you dig for the truth. If you get good answers, you may be confident that you are hiring a responsible and qualified team and avoiding opportunistic and unprofessional carpetbaggers.

About the Author

Steve Henshaw, P.G.
President & CEO


Steve Henshaw is certified as a professional geologist in several states and is President and CEO of Enviroforensics, an Indianapolis-based environmental engineering firm.

As President and CEO of EnviroForensics, Mr. Henshaw serves as a client and technical manager on projects associated with site characterization, remedial design, remedial implementation and operation, litigation support and insurance coverage matters. He has acted as Project Manager or Client Manager on several hundred projects, involving dry cleaners, manufacturers, landfills, refineries, foundries, metal plating shops, food processors, wood treating facilities, chemical blenders, and transportation facilities.

Mr. Henshaw has built a leading edge environmental engineering company that specializes in finding the funding to pay for environmental liabilities. By combining responsible party searches with insurance archeology investigations, EnviroForensics has been successful at remediating and closing sites for property owners and small business owners across the country, with minimal capital outlay from clients.

He is a regular contributing writer for several dry cleaning trade publications on environmental and regulatory issues and remains active with dry cleaning associations by providing insight on changes in law and policy.

Mercury Cleaners Are Environmental Stewards

Mercury CleanersMercury Cleaner chose to be environmental stewards and participate in the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) Voluntary Remediation Program (VRP) in an effort to clean up the environment.

Brett Dygert says, “With EnviroForensics help they were able to not only get the clean up started, but found the money to pay for it to let me stay in business.”

To accomplish environmental remediation (“cleanup” of contaminants in the ground), businesses work with geologists, scientists and engineers to characterize the extent of contamination so that the appropriate amount of remediation can be designed and implemented. Sometimes the removal of impacted material off-site is the best management practice. Other times remediation can be accomplished through an in-situ (in-place) remediation technology, which often leaves a smaller carbon footprint.

Stewarding the environment can protect our resources, and provide an improved and sustainable quality of life for communities.

To accomplish environmental remediation, businesses work with geologists, scientists and engineers to design an in-situ (in-place) remediation system that will clean the soil and groundwater in the area of the property. A simple graphic of the Soil Vapor Extraction system for your reference.

How It Works: The Soil Vapor Extraction “sparging” system shown on the infograph will inject compressed air approximately 45 feet into the ground to treat groundwater and remove the soil impacts with a heavy duty industrial vacuum (called Soil Vapor Extraction (SVE)). This method of treatment effectively cleans up the environment (soil, groundwater and air), reduces potential waste to landfills, and minimizes associated local concerns.

EnviroForensics is an environmental engineering firm specializing in soil and groundwater investigation and remediation and vapor intrusion assessment and mitigation. EnviroForensics® is the leading environmental engineering company in the country addressing environmental liabilities and finding funding by locating and bringing to your defense old insurance policies. EnviroForensics® has pioneered and perfected the utilization of Comprehensive General Liability insurance policies as a resource to pay for the high costs associated with soil and groundwater investigations, remediations, and legal defense.

Long-term Stewardship of Contaminated Sites, Vapor Intrusion Mitigation and Monitoring Fit the Requirements

Written by Stephen R. Henshaw, President & CEO, EnviroForensics

As seen in the December 2014 issue of Cleaner & Launderer

PDF Version

The latest wrinkle in the cleanup process of sites contaminated with chlorinated solvents (PCE and TCE) is in understanding how long the site, and those sites downgradient, will need to be monitored when complete contaminant removal is not possible and potential human exposure remains. Generally speaking, the more contamination left in place, the longer the site will need to be monitored. I want to tell you this because the cleanup costs that will be generated for your site, will be greatly affected by two things; 1) the removal of contaminated soil and groundwater in the source area and 2) the long-term monitoring requirements (how many locations need to be monitored and for how long). If you are not aware of these two big issues, you are not looking at the full picture and you could be unwittingly reviewing cleanup cost estimates that may have been prepared using the old “bait and switch”.

Let me make no bones about it, the environmental consulting industry is highly competitive and like many purchases consumers make, price is a large factor when you select a consultant to clean up environmental contamination. Nowhere is this price more susceptible to variation than in asking for the consultant to give a true site closure cost estimate. The most important thing to understand about what I am telling you is that you know to ask the hard questions about the provided cost to closure and don’t get caught up in hearing what you want to hear. Consultants don’t enjoy being the bearer of bad news and they realize that they might be competitively shopped, especially if the provided costs are higher than the party paying for the contamination expects. Consequently, the consultant may try to soft pedal the remediation costs. I refer to this as, “telling people what they want to hear”. I see this all the time, particularly when insurance companies are responsible for paying for the cleanup. Continue reading “Long-term Stewardship of Contaminated Sites, Vapor Intrusion Mitigation and Monitoring Fit the Requirements”