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Lafayette College Students Find Security in Armory Project

21 Jul 2021 1:14 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

And by virtue, secure 2021 Charlie Bartsch scholarship 

By Steve Dwyer 

Once again, BCONE is recognizing budding excellence within the brownfield remediation and environmental space. In short, youth is being served…and in a few years, youth will return the favor and serve right back. Many new industry recruits will assume the torch in order to keep brownfield practice alive and well. 

The vehicle for this talent recognition is the Charlie Bartsch Memorial Scholarship that’s handed out annually to students who exhibit excellence in engineering and environmental course work at various colleges and universities in the BCONE geographic footprint. 

This year, the spotlight shines on Lafayette College, Easton, PA, where BCONE named Hannah Cook and Leigh Jacobsen as scholarship recipients. They had participated in course work overseen by Arthur D. Kney, Ph.D., professor of environmental engineering at Lafayette College. 

Image: From left to right - Hannah Cook, Leigh Jacobsen, Dr. Arthur Kney, Leslie Tintle and Maria Coler

Maria Coler, BCONE’s Scholarship Chair, reviewed student projects along with Leslie Tintle, a Project Geologist at  Sanborn Head & Associates, Inc. and a graduate of Lafayette College as they determined the winning Cook-Jacobsen team.  

According to Coler, LSRP, CEO and founder of Hydrotechnology Consultants Inc., Jersey City, NJ., she and Tintle reviewed three Phase I Environmental Site Assessments before the BCONE Scholarship Committee made its final decision to award Cook and Jacobsen, which she called “excellent work.”

“Phase I ESAs, when performed correctly, require a detailed analysis of several data streams. Mastering the analysis of each data stream is not an easy task. Learning how to cross-reference data streams and critically analyze the information takes years. It appears that [Professor Kney’s] students are off to an excellent start. While all of the Phase I ESAs were excellent, the Phase I’s for the Armory and Gas Station [of which the Cook-Jacobsen team worked on] stood out.” 

The teams were required to evaluate complex histories and off-site impacts, with each team excelling in different aspects of analysis. Like anyone would expect from students still building an affinity for mastering Phase I ESA’s, Coler says: “there were lessons to learn. The Armory team attempted to use analogous sites to overcome their data gap regarding potential sources of hazardous waste. I think it would have been informative if they more thoroughly researched armories in general and then cited the specific sites to back up their general research.”

Cook says she is eager to continue to learn and master brownfields in a holistic manner. She has accepted a full-time offer as an engineer in Washington, D.C. with Clark Construction, a company with which she has interned the past two summers. “My plan is to pursue either the Site Superintendent or Project Manager career path to help facilitate the delivery of renovation and new construction projects.” 

Asked what her career aspirations are in the brownfield industry, Hannah says that “knowing some of the potential contaminants that cause a site to be classified as a brownfield, I believe that I’ll be better prepared to protect the crews on site, mitigate future issues, and also point out signs of previous contamination.”

In speaking about their motivation to pursue brownfields, students that BCONE has engaged with in the past have indicated an interest triggered by what they experienced in their local communities along the way of blight, abandoned properties and dilapidation—all projecting a community in a negative fashion. 

Along those lines, Hannah enrolled in Professor Kney’s “Introduction to Environmental Engineering'” class as a sophomore. Throughout the course, Dr. Kney proved to be “passionate about the material and mitigating threats to society and the environment that I could not help but begin to develop my own passion for these issues. In my senior year, I elected to take “Environmental Site Assessment,” which truly opened my eyes to the environmental injustice many disadvantaged communities face.”

“To be able to take this knowledge forward and attempt to put it to use benefitting any community in which I may work is rewarding in itself,” she adds. 

Jacobsen, of Stamford, Conn., says that while taking Lafayette’s Environmental Site Assessment Capstone, she learned much about preliminary site investigations for potential environmental conditions. “I learned how to identify recognized environmental conditions and write a professional Phase I Environmental Site Assessment in accordance with ASTM E1527 standards.” 

Selecting the Old Easton Armory to perform a Phase I, Leigh and Hannah “were intrigued” by its rich history. While the site is currently listed as an office building, it operated as an Armory for the Pennsylvania National Guard from the early 1900s until the mid-1980s. “The previous operations of the site made the site investigation interesting because we were tasked with examining the threat of a release of military storage contaminants,” says Leigh.  

“My first exposure to environmental engineering and site development was through an interest in an abandoned site in my hometown of Stamford. The site was situated on a 15-acre plot of commercial and industrial land that was home to gas stations, automobile shops and dry cleaners,” she explains.  

Mill River, which ran through the site, was walled with concrete for years, blocking off the area from the rest of the city. The presence of a river “amplified the concerns related to exposure pathways and contamination,” says Leigh. “When I was younger, I would walk past the site and wonder if it could be rehabilitated and developed into something greater. Eventually, there were plans to turn this old industrial site into a thriving urban park, named Mill River Park. I eagerly applied to work as an intern at Mill River prior to my junior year of high school when the park was at its ending stages of development.”

It was in this duty that Leigh was able to see the transformation of an abandoned site into an urban greenspace, witnessing firsthand the impact the site cleanup had on the neighborhood. She says that people now take walks on the trails, sit by the river and enjoy outdoor concerts at a park that previously was not safe for residential development. 

“Living in Stamford and working on this park made me aware of all the environmental problems that are right in my hometown, but also gave me hope as to what contaminated sites could become,” she says. 

Reflecting on her experience at Mill River Park, Leigh believes that this was what really motivated her to work in the civil and environmental engineering industry, showing her the importance of developing healthy and safe communities and encouraged her to enter into the field at Lafayette. 

Additionally, while at Lafayette, she took a “great liking” to the Environmental Engineering class and was able to secure an internship with Langan in their environmental department. “At Langan, I helped write Phase I Environmental Site Assessments, participated in site walks, and assisted with groundwater and soil sampling activities for Phase II Site Investigations,” says Leigh. “I enjoyed the work I did with Langan, and wanted to gain more knowledge of the environmental engineering field. This motivated me to request to enroll in Professor Kney’s capstone class as a junior.” 

Professor Kney states: “It certainly has been a challenging semester. Having support from organizations like BCONE and  ASTM certainly added value to the course by helping students connect their education to the jobs/academic future they’re preparing for. I believe working together with industry partners provides students the opportunity to see their future as well as jumpstart their career,” he says.

Coler provided the team with some constructive criticism to their work by stating: “More evaluation of the dry cleaner as a potential offsite source of contamination and the mention of the site as a potential manufacturing facility was warranted. Also, the odd odor on the stained wood floor was a hint to evaluate the wood itself as a potential source as a result of it likely being treated with a hazardous chemical.”

These are indeed points that future pros like Cook and Jacobsen will take to heart and roll with. “I am ultimately unsure of exactly what I would like to pursue as a career. I have found that I have many different interests in addition to civil engineering and I am working to find a field that helps combine these interests. I do know, however, that I would like to pursue a field related to sustainable site development, whether that be on the remediation or design side. My ultimate goal is to have a positive impact on whatever community I end up working in and I am encouraged to see where my career path with lead me.”

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