Traveling Through Time: Roux Associates Celebrates its 35th Anniversary

In celebrating our anniversary, Roux Associates would like to take this opportunity to thank our many clients for trusting us to work on their projects, both large and small, since our company was founded in 1981. We would also like to thank our staff of dedicated professionals who do the great work that keep our clients coming back. We’ve asked the founder of the company, Paul Roux, to look back: to share how Roux Associates came to be and describe a few of the key projects that have impacted our firm’s growth over the past 35 years.

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In 1981, Roux Associates was founded by Paul Roux as a groundwater contamination investigation practice. Paul’s goal was to build a small consulting firm where the staff was smart, hardworking, talented, and nice: the kind of people it would be a pleasure to work with every day. The timing turned out to be perfect. New regulations created an immediate need for experienced groundwater contamination consultants, and there were not enough around to meet the demand. Using Paul’s past contacts and a minimum of marketing and sales calls, Roux was able to land some major corporate clients and work on challenging projects. These fresh work opportunities attracted some of the talented people Roux was looking for, and the firm began to take off. As it grew, Roux evolved from a small, purely groundwater investigation firm, into a much larger environmental consulting and management company. We now provide a broad range of science and engineering services, along with litigation support, insurance claims assistance, and more.

Roux Associates
Left: Paul Roux at the Industri-Plex Superfund Site in Woburn, Massachusetts, 1982
Right: The Industri-Plex Superfund Site in Woburn, Massachusetts, 2014 

In the early 1970s there were only limited environmental regulations in the United States. In the decade to follow, very strong regulations were implemented in what seemed to be the blink of an eye, which Paul Roux could best describe as “chaos.” The Federal Superfund Law of 1980 stated that responsible parties involved with owning a property were accountable for cleaning up hazardous waste, pollutants, and contaminants found on site. Corporations were suddenly liable for handling hazardous materials, and often blamed by the government for millions of dollars’ worth of contamination, which opened doors to many site remediation, litigation, and insurance issues. Additional Federal and State laws reinforced the Superfund Law and tacked on more regulations.

The first list of Superfund sites, in order of highest to lowest contamination according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), was released by the EPA the same year Roux was founded. The Industri-Plex Site in Woburn, Massachusetts was number five on the list out of 114 sites, and was considered the most significant contamination location in New England. Because of Paul’s existing professional relationship with the company that would take primary responsibility for handling the Site, Roux Associates was hired to begin the remediation process. This was our firm’s first major project and the first step in our long journey. This was also the beginning of Superfund, meaning that the remedial investigation and feasibility study processes that were later developed and now used by the EPA, did not yet exist.

Roux worked with the EPA, the MassDEQE (the predecessor to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection or MassDEP), and the client to develop methods and procedures to investigate the environmental conditions at this 245-acre Site. After years of investigation, remediation, and redevelopment, the spot that was once deemed the fifth most hazardous waste site in the nation by the EPA was transformed into a thriving center for transportation, retail, offices, and hotels. Today, the Site continues to flourish, and Roux is still involved with monitoring its environmental conditions.

Agricultural Chemicals

In the early 1980s, the EPA was considering requiring warning labels on pesticides and herbicides that were being detected in groundwater and surface water around the country. The two main questions that agricultural chemical manufacturers had at the time were:

1)  Are the detections the result of leaching and runoff of chemicals after proper application, or the
result of some other cause (such as spills, leaks, or improper application)?

2)  If any detections were the result of proper application, were these detections the result of
particularly sensitive hydrogeologic settings or other unusual conditions?

Roux, which at the time had only six or seven employees, was retained by an agricultural chemical manufacturer to find the answers to these questions. The projects involved monitoring well installation and groundwater sampling at dozens of sites, and monitoring water quality from 25 rivers in numerous environmental settings across the country. Several different types of study protocols were developed by Roux, which were accepted and adopted by the EPA to provide data for labeling purposes. Roux testified before the EPA’s Science Advisory Panel, as well as several state environmental regulatory panels. The data and conclusions developed by Roux were used by the manufacturers and the EPA to develop application directions and warnings. Roux grew substantially larger during this period, in part to handle the agricultural chemical work.

Petroleum

By the late 1980s, Roux was retained by a major petroleum company to oversee environmental remediation conducted at 80 service stations from the mid-Atlantic to New England. Roux took over and led the remediation at a number of these sites, as well as sites in California. After gaining valuable knowledge and performing quality work, our company has since been chosen to investigate and remediate over a dozen prominent refinery and terminal locations throughout the Northeast. One of such projects, located in New York, involves the largest underground release of petroleum in the United States. Our company has been managing the remediation and regulatory compliance activities at this Site for the past 25 years, including:

  • Directing the work of as many as 40 subcontractor personnel on a daily basis;
  • Creating three-dimensional modeling of multiple phase subsurface flow;
  • Providing engineering design and construction of automated product recovery along with air and water treatment systems;
  • Installation of a vapor recovery and treatment system;
  • Operating and maintaining all remediation and monitoring systems; and
  • Completing all regulatory reporting.

Much of the work, including installation of sewers and other underground piping systems, was particularly difficult since it took place in a densely populated urban area. To date, over 8.5 million gallons of product have been recovered, and operations are still ongoing. Our extensive work on petroleum projects has played a momentous role in our growth, both in number of employees and in the breadth of our capabilities.

Brownfields

As we moved into the 1990s, the experience gained working on Superfund sites and other big environmental remediation projects was applied to the remediation of large scale, complex Brownfield sites. By the end of the decade, Brownfields work had become a key part of our business and a major driver of our firm’s growth. To date, Roux has remediated over 100 Brownfield sites across the country. One example is the Pacific Park development, including the Barclays Center (home of the Brooklyn Nets and NY Islanders) in downtown Brooklyn, New York. The Barclays Site contained an active 100-year-old train yard prior to redevelopment. Roux conducted a waste characterization of over half a million yards of soil that needed to be excavated to build the arena.

Since the Barclays Center is located in a congested city, there was no space to stockpile excavated soil. In addition, the handling and destination of the soil depended on its degree of contamination, so the waste needed to be characterized prior to digging it up. To solve these issues, Roux planned and executed a three-dimensional in-situ soil sampling project for the entire Site, including the active train yard. The excavation work was then managed so that all removed soil could immediately be loaded on the correct truck and sent to its rightful disposal facility. This allowed the work to be completed on schedule, and with minimum soil disposal cost.

Litigation

Delving further into the 90s, we began to gain momentum in the challenging practice area of litigation support. Roux experts perform in-depth analyses of intricate environmental problems, preparing detailed expert reports, opinions, and testimonies in deposition and at trial. Over the years, our associates have provided expert testimony on hundreds of environmental disputes, including many high profile cases. In the Tronox v. Anadarko Matter case, for example, Roux evaluated the cost to remediate 373 major sites formerly owned or operated by the Kerr-McGee Corporation. Dr. Neil Ram of Roux Associates defended these evaluations at trial. The court’s Judge Allan L. Gropper stated in his ruling, “It is significant that Ram’s analysis is the only comprehensive valuation in the vast record of this case of Tronox’s environmental liabilities.” Thanks to Roux’s evaluations, expert testmiony, and Judge Gropper’s ruling, our client was awarded $5.1 billion for cleanup costs. In addition to cost allocation, our experts specialize in contaminant fate and transport, forensic evaluation, and standard of care, among a number of other technical areas.

ENS

Roux has developed and continues to create and employ a number of “Green” technologies from the late 1990s into today, which we have termed Engineered Natural Systems, or ENS. One type of ENS is the Constructed Treatment Wetland, or CTW, which can be used to treat a wide range of contaminants in wastewaters. In 1996, Roux received a patent for an innovative CTW design that greatly increases efficiency and reduces the land area needed for its installation. An example of this type of CTW was designed by Roux for a massive manufacturing facility in Saudi Arabia. The system has been installed and is currently treating two million gallons per day of industrial process and sanitary wastewater. Treated water is 100% recycled for use within the industrial facility. We have installed a number of CTWs and other “Green” systems across the country and beyond, and we believe that these technologies will be a vital part of future growth for our company.

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The project examples described above represent just a few important milestones in our history. Roux, which has grown steadily and organically over the years, currently has approximately 300 employees in offices from New York to Los Angeles. We could have grown faster if we had wanted to, but in the words of our CEO, Doug Swanson, “Our goal is not to be the biggest, but to be the best.”

We seek to hire the best people we can find, provide them with support, training, and motivation, and hold on to them for the long term. More than half of our principals (engineers and scientists) have been with us for more than 15 years, and nearly half of those for over 25 years. Our professionals are smart, hardworking, talented, and yes, nice—just as Paul Roux envisioned 35 years ago. Roux Associates has gained size, credibility, and capability, but has not lost the sense of community that makes it such a great place to work. Paul Roux attributes his success to delegating responsibility to others and not being afraid to “pass the torch,” while striving to produce a likable work environment. He stressed the importance of having fun, enjoying yourself and the work you do—“so many people have the opposite,” he reminded us.

For the future, Roux plans to remain an independent, employee-owned firm, continuing to do what it has done since day one. We look forward to meeting new clients, hiring new team members, growing our practice areas, and employing the same ingenuity and work ethic that has helped us expand an idea into a gratifying work environment and a successful environmental firm.