The environmental industry has evolved significantly over the last 30 years, with jobs in the field running the gamut from scientists, geologists, project managers and civil engineers to biologists and other science/engineering disciplines. Since the inception of the Site Remediation Reform Act (SRRA) in 2009 the number of private sector Licensed Site Remediation Professional (LSRPs) also is growing at a significant pace. With nearly 700 LSRPs in the Garden State, the role of these professionals is expanding along with the skills required to perform this job.
Atlantic Environmental Solutions Inc. (AESI) has created a collaborative business environment where both established and next-generation LSRPs can grow and thrive. In the following interview, Vice-President Jeffrey Anderson, Senior Manager Pischa Wanaratna, P.E., Ph.D., and Project Manager Chris Rotondi discuss the evolving opportunities in this field and the expertise and knowledge required to be successful, as well as how AESI’s unique corporate culture ensures all team members have the support and flexibility they need to be effective business leaders.
Q: Beyond taking and passing a rigorous licensing exam, what are the eligibility requirements to become an LSRP in New Jersey?
JA: A person must hold a bachelor’s degree or higher in natural, chemical or physical science, or an engineering degree related to site remediation. Along with these educational requirements, qualifications also include full-time, relevant professional experience, the parameters of which are outlined by the New Jersey Site Remediation Professional Licensing Board. To maintain his or her license, an LSRP must complete 36 continuing education credits in each three-year license renewal term.
AESI got in on the ground floor of the LSRP program. (AESI President) Michael Novak and I were among the first individuals to be issued an LSRP license in New Jersey. Today, with several LSRPs currently on staff, our firm has successfully closed 150 LSRP matters and has 347 total LSRP projects. This career path is a good fit for those with the desire and capacity to learn about the technical aspects of the environmental profession, along with the regulatory and legal matters that drive these projects.
Q: Is it important for LSRPs to learn about all facets of the business beyond the technical aspects of remediation? If so, why?
CR: It has become increasingly important for LSRPs – as well as those interested in becoming an LSRP – to be proficient in fundamental business and people skills. AESI is often retained in the due diligence phase, and in many cases when an existing SRP case cannot be closed prior to the transaction we also have to advise on the route of remediation during transaction and post-transaction. So having a business perspective – gleaned from a combination of collegiate training and on-the job/staff training – is key to working comfortably and confidently with regulators and our clients. As a firm, having employees that possess these business skills makes us even more transactionally intelligent.
JA: A well-rounded LSRP today should possess an in-depth background in various facets of the real estate industry from acquisitions, divestments, mergers and building demolition and legal matters to asbestos, lead paint, radon gas and a host of other environmental issues that typically require an LSRP’s expertise and capabilities. Having this knowledge allows an individual to be more efficient and cost-effective in identifying issues that need to be resolved as part of real estate transactions.
PW: We are continually problem solving and advocating on behalf of our clients. The environmental industry is largely governed by a series of guidelines, rules and regulations. To that end, there is always a lot of change in the regulatory process and LSRPs need to stay abreast of these changes and quickly react and adapt. Expediting site cleanup as efficiently as possible without compromising quality is central to the transactional work we do.
CR: Good listening and communication skills are equally valuable. Clients share their problems and concerns with us, and it’s our job to deliver what they need in a personable and professional manner. Environmental cleanup is certainly not the most glamorous aspect of a real estate transaction, but clients benefit enormously from our pragmatic work and it’s ultimately what makes a property salable.
Q: How does AESI’s culture ensure all team members have the support and flexibility they need to be effective business leaders?
JA: We take an entrepreneurial and collaborative approach to meeting challenges and solving problems. Senior staff members are expected to share their insight and knowledge, and every member of our staff is encouraged to work together to deliver inventive solutions that provide optimal value for our clients. Along these lines, we work in teams on every project, which increases collaboration and allows less experienced team members to participate and gain confidence. As a result, more ideas are developed and productivity improves.
All employees are encouraged to take continuing education classes to hone and improve their skills, join industry associations and pursue networking opportunities. AESI also hosts in-house training sessions as well as ongoing “lunch and learn” programs throughout the year.
CR: The company culture is all about fostering an inclusive environment that values integrity, accountability and transparency. Beyond technical training, new employees are provided with some level of client interaction and participate in the company’s internal operations. These opportunities help to cultivate strong leadership from within our organization.
PW: Growth here is individual-specific, but the company’s goal is to help each employee become a fully rounded professional with a range of technical, administrative, operational and financial capabilities. At other firms, a staff member may only be working in the field learning technical aspects of the job, but at AESI, employees are given ample opportunity to acquire a range of business skills. An employee can bring more value to the table by expanding their roles and pursuing added responsibilities within the company. We all learn and grow from each other, both in the office and out in the field.
Q: Beyond the success of New Jersey’s LSRP program, what other factors are driving opportunities for LSRPs?
CR: LSRPs are playing an integral role in how the world is changing, most notably as relates to the e-commerce phenomenon. Online shopping is blurring the lines between the retail and industrial sectors, which is having a significant impact on how properties are being used. Last-mile distribution facilities and fulfillment centers are reliant on well-located warehouse space; in many cases, this equates to reuse of vacant or underutilized industrial properties. Throughout the tri-state area, many of these properties are designated brownfield sites and future use is impacted by environmental contamination. Before development can move forward, any environmental challenges will have to be addressed.