Roux on Location: Columbia Falls, Montana

In the spring of last year, Roux began a large, ongoing remedial investigation (RI) at a unique site located just outside of Columbia Falls, Montana. The Montana Project RI is focused on determining the nature and extent of contamination caused by a former aluminum smelter, which instead of being housed in an industrial-driven city, is nestled between the breathtaking Glacier National Park, Flathead River, and various national forests. Eager members of our team from several Roux offices participated in assessing the Site, and some even temporarily relocated in Montana to work on the Project long term. The weather, terrain, and wildlife have made Montana a challenging yet intriguing location for environmental work.

The former aluminum smelter, surrounding landfills, and support facilities, in use since 1955, make up about 300 acres of the roughly 3,000-acre property owned by our client. In 2009, operations at the smelter ceased, and Roux Associates was retained in 2014 to begin working on the Site. Our team first developed a Remedial Investigation and Feasibility Study (RI/FS) Work Plan while assisting the client in negotiating an Agreement and Order on Consent (AOC) with the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA). In 2015 the AOC was finalized, and Roux was retained as the Site’s environmental consultant to lead implementation of the RI/FS.

We began the Phase I Site Characterization program of the RI in 2016, during which we investigated the site hydrogeology and determined whether the former aluminum smelter and on-site landfills had any impact on the surrounding environment. The Project required members of Roux to work in Montana full time from April to September. Each of our staff members played a different, integral role in the process of site investigation. Steve Michalanko, a Senior Scientist from our Logan Township, New Jersey office, visited the Site for a short time to assess ecological conditions. A few of our Principals aided in oversight of the activities in Montana, including Wai Kwan of our Long Beach, California office, along with Drew Baris and Mike Ritorto of our Islandia, New York office.

Mike Ritorto, Principal and RI Project Manager, explained that huge efforts were put in by everyone involved, including the collection of more than 700 samples (soil, sediment, groundwater, surface water, and more) during the RI. While the EPA was the lead agency for the Site, Roux also interacted with the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) and local residents, who were engaged in the investigation. Mike participated in public meetings, took questions, and informed residents of the small nearby town (about 5,000 people) of our involvement on the Site.

For Drew Baris, Principal-in-Charge, one of the highlights of the Project has been the teamwork and comradery between personnel from all of our offices. Drew noted, “the Montana Project is a great example of how Roux, while not a large firm, can handle the largest and most complex projects when we pool our resources and work as a cohesive team across our offices.”

While Mike and Drew conducted most of their work from our New York office, some of our scientists, geologists, and engineers relocated to Montana for extended periods of time. MaryBeth Lyons, for example, moved to Montana for three weeks in September and four weeks in December. MaryBeth is a Staff Scientist who joined Roux in June of 2014 in our New York office. She enjoyed the inimitable opportunity to work remotely and be self-sufficient so far away from New York, gaining a new experience early in her career. MaryBeth sampled 64 groundwater wells and took sediment and surface water samples from a boat on the Flathead River, adjacent to the Site. The purpose of the river sampling was to assess potential site impacts to the river, and see if anything could potentially affect wildlife. The boat allowed our team to reach sampling points that were unsafe to access on foot; the samples were then transported by boat to the shore across the river and driven in Roux vehicles back to the Site. This sampling and transport method ensured that field staff wouldn’t have to carry large coolers up a steep hill on foot, making a difficult task as safe as possible.

Montana’s topography and climate became challenging aspects of the Project. The accumulation of snow in the winter months made sampling extremely challenging, requiring extensive digging to access sampling locations while experiencing cold temperatures. These challenges required us to reevaluate our approach to sampling activities, and forced us to shift schedules around in order to collect quality samples in a timely manner while weather permitted.

While the outdoor conditions in Montana presented our team with obstacles to overcome, they also offered escape and recreation. “It was a cool setting,” described MaryBeth, “we were close to Glacier National Park, which was a beautiful place to visit on weekends.”

Since last year, MaryBeth has taken part in pneumatic slug testing on-site in March and July. Between the rich industrial history, the opportunity to work and play in complex yet rewarding setting, MaryBeth hopes to remain an active member of the Montana project.

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Many of our employees came and went to and from the Site for a limited time, but Roux sent two members of our staff to relocate in Montana for five months. Amy Hoffmann, Project Geologist from our Woburn, Massachusetts office and Sydney Ward, Project Scientist from our Oakland, California office, packed up and moved for the Project to a state they had never visited.

Amy was our RI Field Manager and Site Health and Safety Office for the Phase I RI. “Montana was such a wonderful opportunity to be involved in,” shared Amy. “Roux really put together a stellar team both in the field and back at home base (our New York office). Having such a cooperative and supportive team was what made the project run so smoothly, and allowed Sydney and I to take the time to enjoy the new surroundings in Montana. I was honored to get the chance to live in Montana and really immerse into a whole different culture than the East Coast.”

Both Amy and Sydney were relocated during the spring-summer season. It was during these warmer months that Sydney and Amy experienced the optimal conditions for sampling during the week and enjoyed the sights on the weekends, including a lot of hiking and biking. During the five months Sydney and Amy spent on-site, they ran the field investigation to evaluate the nature and extent of contamination in soil, soil gas, groundwater, surface water, and sediment at the Site, as well as in neighboring bodies of water. Like MaryBeth, Sydney and Amy experienced sampling from the Flathead River in a small boat, and sampled additional rivers, creeks, and ponds. Their work also included drilling, installing monitoring wells, collecting soil samples and sampling groundwater monitoring wells, and performing a geophysical survey of the subsurface across the Site.

“I relocated from my home in San Francisco, where I live in a relatively busy city neighborhood,” said Sydney, who always wanted to travel to Montana for its recreational opportunities. “In Columbia Falls, Amy and I lived in a community full of vacation homes, which was sparsely populated until about the fourth of July. We were surrounded by mountains, open space, and farms outside of our neighborhood, as well as our industrial site several miles down the road.”

After having worked at our firm for over five years, Sydney identifies the Montana Project as her best experience at Roux. “It was extremely rewarding moving forward with a fast-paced, extensive scope of work on a complex site,” she said. “We were fortunate to have a good on-site client observing our work and progress, as well as a strong team back in New York overseeing and managing the work.”

In addition to outdoor recreation and the nature of the work she performed, Sydney enjoyed the scenery and wildlife sightings—although some were friendlier than others. Our team in Montana saw eagles, turkeys, moose, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, and some saw bears. Those who worked on the Montana Project, including Sydney, carried bear spray on-site in certain areas where bears were known to frequent, just in case.


From left to right: Mike Ritorto (NY), Annelise Muscietta (NY), Amy Hoffmann (MA), and Sydney Ward (CA) 

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Overall, Roux’s Phase I RI activities performed in 2016 included: geophysical surveys, soil gas surveys, ground-penetrating radar (GPR), soil sampling, groundwater monitoring well installation, asbestos landfill test pitting, borrow pit area test pitting, and surface and groundwater sampling, and our work is ongoing. Four rounds of groundwater and surface water sampling have been completed as of July 2017. Our 2017 work also includes reporting and work plan preparations. Next year, a Phase II RI will commence, and additional RI/FS work will be conducted over the next three to four years. At Roux, we look forward to offering more work opportunities in Montana and beyond to our capable staff members, who are eager to continue helping solve our clients’ most complex environmental challenges.

CSR Spotlight: Ronald McDonald House

The Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House, established in 1974, was the first of its kind in the world. It was co-founded by Dr. Audrey Evans, a former pediatric oncologist at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and Jimmy Murray, former General Manager of the Philadelphia Eagles. The idea was to create a home away from home for families of seriously ill children by creating a community of comfort and hope. There are now over 365 Houses in 43 countries worldwide, including two locations in Philadelphia.

The Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House strives to ease the daily burdens faced by families of sick children so that they can focus on the well-being of their child and their family. At the House, families receive a variety of services and support from the staff and many volunteers. One example is the home-cooked dinners served every night, thanks to the generosity of volunteers. At the Front & Erie House, near St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children and Shriners Hospital for Children, 35-40 people attend dinner each night.

On Monday, August 14, 2017, volunteers from the Roux Associates’ Southern New Jersey office brought in dinner from a local favorite, Deke’s BBQ, to serve to the guests.  Volunteers enjoyed a tour of the House, loading plates with pulled pork, chopped chicken, BBQ zucchini bake, mashed potatoes, and successfully convinced some of the kids to try the sautéed veggies!

CSR Spotlight: Empire State Ride To End Cancer

Here at Roux, an active CSR program is an integral part of our company values. Nathan Epler is one of our most active CSR participants; he has been at Roux for over 20 years as a Principal Hydrogeologist, and is Vice President of the non-profit organization Coastal Steward Long Island. On Sunday, July 30th Nathan took part in the Empire State Ride To End Cancer: a bike ride from Staten Island to Niagara Falls that lasts a full week, making up a 546-mile-long journey.

The annual Empire State Ride (ESR) benefits the Roswell Park Cancer Institute, located in Buffalo, New York. This institute is America’s primary cancer center where the nation’s first chemotherapy program was established, and has been conducting cutting-edge cancer research since 1898. Nathan (left) first heard about the ride and its cause through one of his friends, Steve Mars (middle). Steve is a cancer survivor, like many of the other riders. Some riders lost loved ones to cancer or had survivors in their immediate family. There were even some riders undergoing chemotherapy while participating in the week-long ride. The experience of riding together through long, exhausting days, paired with exchanging stories about how cancer affected their lives, created a close bond between the riders as they united to cycle for a cure. “You become a real team,” explained Nathan, “I began the race knowing one person and ended it feeling like I was part of a family.” What started out as a bike trip became something much more.

Nathan had a lifetime of cycling experience to prepare him for the ride. He began bike touring at age 14, carrying gear with him for American Youth Hostel trips. His love for bike touring led him to ride across the country twice, at ages 18 and 21, carrying heavy gear and led only by paper maps. He has been cycling ever since for both leisure and other fundraising events (such as the American Diabetes Association’s Tour de Cure), but preparing to ride through New York State for a week straight required training he had never done before. “I wanted to prove to myself that I still had it in me to do this,” he said.

The trip began Sunday morning in Staten Island, where the riders took the ferry to lower Manhattan and started out on the green belt along the west side toward, and across, the George Washington Bridge. They traveled through the Palisades to Stony Point, making up a 57-mile ride. From then on, they traveled almost 80 miles a day for seven days straight through hills and heat. “New York State is absolutely gorgeous,” recalled Nathan, citing photos of rolling hills, farmland, and recollecting mostly good weather. There was one day where the group experienced a thunder and lightning storm, but Nathan didn’t mind since “it kept him cool.” The route proceeded up the Hudson Valley to Albany, and then west along the Erie Canal. In Albany, Nathan accidentally veered off the path and got separated from the group. He was met with an ESR representative who offered him a van ride to reunite with the rest of the group or return to camp. Instead, Nathan denied the ride and persisted, refusing to give up. Because of his off-course travels, he estimated to have totaled 570 miles, as opposed to the set 546.

Despite taking the road less traveled, Nathan described his journey as “bike riding heaven.” Many of the riders who came from triathlete or competitive backgrounds treated the ride as a race, but Nathan made a point to pace himself. He stopped to take photos often and take in the scenery. Rest areas on the side of the road provided food and water every 15-20 miles, and at night the riders slept in tents—an added bonus for Nathan, since he also loves to camp. These accommodations, as well as others like mobile bicycle repair trucks, great food, and a superb support staff, made for a safe, organized trip with zero accidents.

When the group finally made it to Niagara Falls on August 5th, they rode through the streets two by two and were greeted by over a thousand cheering people lining the route into the center of Niagara Falls. Many of the riders’ family members came to support and congratulate them, ending the week with an emotional and joyful celebration.

Nathan (left) riding through town in Niagara Falls, greeted by spectators lining the streets

The Roux Team, comprised solely of Nathan and Steve, raised $15,000 for the cause, putting us in fourth place out of all participating teams. The ride in total raised over half a million dollars—which will be matched, meaning over one million dollars will be donated to the Roswell Park Cancer Institute thanks to the Empire State Ride. Between the sights, the stories, and the friendships gained, Nathan described the ride as one of the most memorable experiences of his life. He plans to get back on his bike for the ESR again next year, hopefully recruiting more members to join the Roux team to ride to end cancer.

Nathan and some of his new friends, celebrating their victory in front of the falls

Roux at Work: Award Winning Brownfield Cleanup Project

Recently, one of Roux’s brownfield redevelopment projects in Brooklyn, New York was awarded the 2017 Big Apple Brownfield Award for Innovation by the New York City Brownfield Partnership. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines a brownfield as “real property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant.” To put it in the most simplistic terms possible, brownfield sites need to be cleaned up, much like many of the sites we work on at Roux. The difference lies in the “expansion, redevelopment, or reuse”—brownfields are getting cleaned up with the purpose of creating new buildings (including residential or commercial spaces, universities, and many more), adding value to the surrounding community.

Roux’s Noelle Clarke, the Principal Engineer on the Brooklyn brownfield site, is a Manhattan College graduate who has been working at our firm for 19 years. As the Principal Engineer for the Site, Noelle evaluated site remediation alternatives, prepared technical documents, and reviewed and sealed all documents needed for submittal to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC). Our remediation was completed under the NYSDEC’s Brownfield Cleanup Program (BCP), which encourages private-sector cleanups of brownfields for redevelopment and revitalization in economically struggling communities.

Noelle’s extensive work on the Site included preparing the Remedial Action Work Plan (RAWP), remedial design documents, Final Engineering Report (FER), and Site Management Plan (SMP). During construction, Roux had full-time field managers on-site operating under Noelle’s direction to ensure the plans were carried out correctly. This field presence, as well as her weekly site visits, allowed Noelle to certify the FER, which documented all aspects of the remediation. While Noelle created and reviewed plans, overseeing their execution, a new building was in the process of being built on-site. As brownfield sites normally call for a hasty cleanup, this was one of our expected yet difficult challenges. To get past the many hurdles of remediating a site amid construction, Noelle and David Bligh, a Senior Engineer at Roux, spent much time on the phone with regulators to expedite design document approvals to make sure building construction could continue.

Roux’s remediation was needed since the soil, groundwater, and soil vapor at the Site were contaminated with dry cleaning chemicals, calling for multiple treatment methods. A Community Air Monitoring Plan (CAMP) for volatile organic compounds (VOCs), dust, and odor was put in place, and odor suppressant foam was routinely sprayed on soil piles on-site to further control any possible odors. To remediate the soil, we used a unique process: slurry (a thick semiliquid mixture) made up of cement and bentonite clay was pumped into holes in the ground as they were dug out, which secured the walls of the holes and allowed us to easily excavate the contaminated soil. This innovative method solved one of the most pivotal site challenges, removing soil from 35 feet below grade next to a 100-year-old building without requiring extensive dewatering. In addition, zero valent iron or ZVI was used to create a permeable reactive barrier wall to passively treat groundwater. The ZVI treatment chemically reduces the amount of chlorinated solvents in groundwater, and has been used for many years to treat dry cleaning contamination.

Roux completed all remedial measures within the desired timeframe, and the Site was awarded a Certificate of Completion from the NYSDEC in 2015. The Brooklyn Site construction is complete as well, which is now a seven-story mixed use residential and commercial building. There are retail shops on the ground floor and the remaining floors are residential, a portion of which is affordable housing.

When asked about the project and its challenges, Noelle commented, “I’ve been at Roux for 19 years, and it’s never boring. There’s always something different and new to learn.” The diligent work put in by Noelle and the supporting Roux team (including Joe Duminuco, David Bligh, Ron Lombino, and Levi Curnutte) helped our client meet their goals on time and on budget, adding value to the community, and transforming a previously underutilized space.

To read more about Roux’s Featured Projects, please click here.

CSR Spotlight: Planting Justice

Planting Justice is an Oakland-based charity that is simultaneously working toward food justice, economic justice, social justice, and environmental justice by building community gardens throughout the Bay Area and creating green jobs with living wages in low income neighborhoods. These community gardens are used to grow fresh, nutritious, organic produce for the community and teach gardening skills to anyone who wants to get involved. To date, they have built over 400 edible permaculture gardens in the Bay Area.

Their Rolling River Nursery in East Oakland is where they grow many of their starter plants which are distributed to the community gardens or are sold to help fund their operations. In May of 2017, volunteers from Roux Associates’ Oakland office gathered at the Rolling River Nursery to help them prepare for the summer growing season by transplanting a variety of seedlings, rooted stem cuttings, and starting new plant propagations from stem and cactus cuttings.

We were guided by an enthusiastic garden-guru named Joe who was eager to teach us about the many plants they grow at the nursery. He also taught us numerous gardening skills including how to graft fruit trees to maximize fruit production. Volunteering at Planting Justice was a rewarding experience and provided a great team-building opportunity for our office. Planting Justice is doing wonderful things for our community and we look forward to future CSR events with them.

CSR Spotlight: Coastal Steward Long Island

By Melissa Nau

By now, you’ve probably heard of the term CSR, or Corporate Social Responsibly. And I’m sure you’ve heard about a corporation donating money to a charitable organization via some form of media. While Roux Associates does take part in donating and raising money for charities, it’s important to remember that those aren’t the only ways you can lend a hand to a non-profit. My recent CSR experience led me to supporting the efforts of Coastal Steward Long Island (CSLI), a non-profit local to Roux’s headquarters, whose goals include promoting marine education, preserving our beaches, and restoring shellfish populations. Since CSLI has three programs, there’s a lot of room for Roux to help while ensuring we’re not doing the same task over and over. And for me personally, even beyond the three programs, I gained invaluable work experience through partnering with CSLI that would have never been possible without volunteering.

It seems obvious why companies support charitable organizations: it makes them look good. And on an individual basis: it makes you feel good. But there’s so much more to it than that. My personal CSLI mission covers three goals: to help the environment, other people, and the organization as a whole.

An environmental consulting firm supporting an environmental conservation group seems like a perfect fit—and it turned out to be my perfect fit too. I love the beach; I’ve lived ten minutes from one for my entire life. If I had never heard of CSLI, I would have undoubtedly gone to the beach every weekend this summer anyway, so it’s doubly motivating and rewarding to be spending time in the setting I love while working to protect it. When I see a piece of trash on a beach, my first instinct would always be to pick it up. Now, I’ve applied that impulse to a cause, all while soaking up the sun and still making time to relax in a setting I’m proud to call home.

Networking has been a huge part of my experience, whether I’m telling random beachgoers about today’s cleanup, promoting the organization online, or getting friends and colleagues directly involved. CSLI allows for “helping others” by not only introducing them to a worthy cause that aligns with their personal interests, but by helping teachers and students engage in their education programs.

In cooperation with the Town of Brookhaven, CSLI offers marine education programs at the Marine Environmental Stewardship Center in Mount Sinai. The center—a homey, two-level marine haven right on the beach—contains fish tanks, touch-screen games, interactive displays, books, and high-tech microscopes. Through field trips to the center that Roux helps support, CSLI teaches many different programs including collecting and identifying organisms in the salt marsh, analyzing microscopic plankton (using the microscopes), and much more, covering a wide variety of age groups.

Coastal Steward Long IslandCoastal Steward Long Island

In promoting CSLI’s education programs, I made a point to tell some Long Island teachers about these exciting opportunities. Thanks to this networking, I successfully set up a school field trip to the center for the special education class in my high school—benefiting the students, the teachers, and the CSLI board members, who are always looking for chances to share their knowledge and resources. In my high school, marine biology was always the first elective to fill up because of the high volume of student interest, so it’s inspiring to know CSLI gives students an opportunity I always wanted but didn’t get to experience.

My networking experience also extends to the CSLI board. Two of my colleagues are members of the board: Nathan Epler, Ph.D. who works as a Principal Hydrogeologist at Roux, and Spencer Saraf, a recent Marine Toxicology graduate student at Stony Brook University and newest board member. Spencer described her experience on the board thus far as an extremely rewarding experience. She shared, “[Being a board member] has given me the opportunity to apply my marine science background and make steps towards restoring our oceans. I am looking forward to watching this program grow and develop, so that we can reach more of Long Island through education and restoration.”

Board member Ashly Carabetta is another Stony Brook graduate who I’ve developed a close working relationship with in coordinating events, press releases, flyers, and more. Having helped to establish an intelligent, tight-knit group of professionals in the field of science has not only allowed me to meet and work with great people, but it has created a larger network of like-minded individuals who share a zeal for the same cause. “I love being on the CSLI board. The field of marine conservation is driven by passionate people, so we’re willing to do a lot for very little,” said Ashly. “It feels good to be a part of a greater good. And for someone like me who is just starting out in her career, it’s nice to know my voice will be heard and that I’m making a difference.”

Coastal Steward Long Island
Some of CSLI’s board members, including Nathan Epler (second from right)
and Ashly Carabetta (third from right)

Unbeknownst to me, this CSR effort also taught me about the art of negotiation and allowed me to be part of rebranding the organization. After much required communication and collaboration between veteran and new team members, we collectively decided to rebrand the CSLI name, logo, and website. As a young professional in marketing, being included in the rebranding dialogue was alluring, knowing my opinions played a part in the final decision. This was great practice for any type of business meeting or lunch: discussing possibilities, sharing new ideas, and controlling the dialogue to stay focused and give all proposals a fighting chance. It was intriguing to witness the complete overhaul of the brand from a marketing perspective—there’s a multitude of factors to consider, which I’ll now keep in mind moving forward in developing my own career’s brand.

On top of cleaning beaches, helping others network, setting up field trips, and taking part in the rebranding efforts, my favorite part of the CSLI experience was experimenting with new platforms of work. I was challenged to develop my graphic design skills in creating posters for events like CSLI’s Earth Day Beach Cleanup and for showcasing their education programs, which is not one of my usual work tasks. In addition, I assisted in restructuring, revamping, and leading the team in creating a new website. While I’ve had years of web development experience under my belt, I never thought I would have the opportunity to start fresh while utilizing my previous experience. I was entrusted to create new content, speak with technical support personnel, continue to preserve branding consistency and appealing design, all while publishing the site within a narrow time frame. Aiding in the creation of the CSLI website in just a few weeks is something I never thought was possible. The experience I gained while making a functional site that advertises a great cause is truly invaluable, and never would have been possible without volunteering.

It’s essential to realize that donating time is one of the most valued things to a non-profit organization, which nearly all of us can do. If you think of charity and picture spooning food onto a plate in a soup kitchen, jump on Google and see what types of volunteering opportunities are in your area. There are tons of organizations out there—the trick is just finding one that means something to you. Regardless of whether your job is directly involved in your charitable activities, you could still build solid business relationships and gain unique work experiences that satisfy both your interests and your resume. Volunteering for a charitable organization (aka engaging in Corporate Social Responsibility) was one of the most rewarding things I’ve done in my past year at Roux, and I look forward to my continued involvement with Coastal Steward Long Island for years to come.

If you’d like to learn more and help support this organization, click the links to read about CSLI, their marine education programs, and their upcoming beach cleanup with Fabien Cousteau this Saturday (May 20, 2017). We’d love to see you there!