When James Redwine was asked to come up with an environmental cleanup plan for old GM plants, one of his first calls was to Baton Rouge-based Toxicological & Environmental Associates Inc.
The company, which opened in 1996, specializes in “green-and-sustainable” approaches to environmental remediation, said Bradley Droy, TEA’s co-founder, president and chief executive officer.
“We were doing green and sustainable before it was in vogue. It’s a part of our DNA,” Droy said. “Jim Redwine knew that, and he pushed to get us on the team.”
Redwine had actually been with TEA a few weeks when he was offered the job heading the environmental remediation plan for the GM properties.
His familiarity with TEA helped Redwine in pushing for a green-and-sustainable component of the cleanup, although the idea initially drew some “funny looks” from other members of the old GM bankruptcy team.
Their basic attitude was that the “old GM” is in bankruptcy and the estate didn’t have to do that, Redwine said.
“Well, guess what? Three weeks later, the EPA says, ‘Where’s your green-and-sustainable remediation program?’” Redwine said.
“We’ve already started one, thank you very much.”
TEA’s approaches to cleaning up contaminated soil and groundwater include allowing natural processes to break down pollutants; the use of naturally occurring bacteria, fungi, and plants to accomplish the same thing; and NASA-patented products EZVI, or emulsified zero-valent iron, and AMTS, activated metal treatment system.
The first product is used to destroy chlorinated solvents, such as dry-cleaning fluid or engine degreasers, Droy said. The second takes care of PCBs or polychlorinated biphenyls.
Before being banned in 1979, PCBs were commonly used in hundreds of products, including motor oil, cable insulation, paint, caulk and electrical devices.
Droy said the NASA products are considered green and sustainable because they directly destroy the pollutant so a landowner doesn’t have to pump out or haul the polluted water or soil to a landfill.
“Rather than just transferring the contaminant from one spot to another, you’re actually destroying it, and you’re done with it,” Droy said. “That’s a very desirable thing in remediation.”
Redwine said depending on how one counted, the old GM had either 89 or 150 sites that had to be evaluated for environmental cleanup. One site was an entire town in Michigan.
Droy said he personally went through the entire portfolio of properties and identified 25 where green and sustainable solutions could work.
TEA then narrowed the list to eight sites and did feasibility studies for each, Droy said. To pass muster, the green-and-sustainable technologies had to offer an advantage from the cost, effectiveness and implementation standpoints.
In the end, TEA found that phytoremediation, or plants, could be used to help clean up six sites, Droy said. TEA could use EZVI at four of the sites and AMTS at two.
TEA hopes to perform the green-and-sustainable remediation work as a subcontractor for the general contractor that wins the bid for the overall remediation work.
Droy declined to disclose any revenue figures, but said TEA has been successful as a specialty niche firm that does highly technical consulting. The company, which began with Droy and chief operations officer Frank Manale, now has around 30 employees at offices in Baton Rouge, Santa Rosa Beach, Fla.; and Pittsburg, Calif.
However, Droy said he expects much of TEA’s future growth will be driven by its products division, RemQuest.
RemQuest handles the sales of products like EZVI, but the division is also working with scientists in research and development efforts to come up with new solutions to contaminants, Droy said.
“Right now, products make up about 25 percent of our revenue stream. We’re hoping that products in the next several years will make up 50 percent to 75 percent of our revenue stream,” Droy said.