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VOL. 128 | NO. 182 | Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Green Growth

Lead-based paint regulation boon for Tioga Environmental Consultants

By Michael Waddell

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Tioga Environmental Consultants is adding new staff and ramping up for an increased workload, due at least in part to new commercial regulations expected next year on lead-based paint in commercial facilities.

Tioga Environmental Consultants founder and president Maggie Strom, center, testing water samples with Larkin Myers and Richie Fletcher. 

(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

The Memphis-based environmental services firm provides investigative services like lead-based paint testing, mold sampling, asbestos testing, and soil and groundwater testing. It also performs environmental compliance and permitting services like regulatory compliance for manufacturing facilities and industries, property transaction services such as Phase I and Phase II’s, and site assessments.

Tioga president Maggie Strom has been involved in environmental consulting in the Mid-South since 1998. She and Tioga vice president Larkin Myers had worked together at a larger architecture and engineering company, the Pickering Firm, that decided to close its environmental business office near the end of 2009.

So Strom and Pickering’s environmental business office director, Mike Donohoe, decided to form their own venture to continue serving those clients.

“We had a great client base and a lot of experience doing this work here in Memphis, so it seemed like a natural thing to continue with it,” said Strom, who named the company after a piece of land of Tioga County, Pa., that her family owned and where she has spent many summer vacations. “It’s where my love of being outdoors, the nature and the environment comes from.”

In January of this year, Myers bought out Donohoe’s portion of the business to become co-owner and vice president. She had worked with Strom at Pickering for six years as a civil engineer, project manager and associate principal owner until taking a year sabbatical to leave town and care for her grandmother. She returned to Memphis and joined Tioga in 2011.

“It’s been a great transition for me from doing engineering design work like designing storm water structures (while at Pickering) to now doing more pollution prevention for storm water structures,” said Myers, who also previously worked in Little Rock for a civil engineering firm that did land development work.

Tioga handles between 50 and 100 lead-based paint inspections per month, primarily on homes built before 1978 in Tennessee, Mississippi and Kentucky. Lead-based paint inspections are required on all mortgage transactions for homes built before 1978 involving federal funds.

The company could see a heavier workload next year, when new commercial regulations are expected for lead-based paints.

“Right now all of the lead-based paint issues are associated with residences, but new commercial regulations on lead-based paint are expected in the next year,” Strom said. “The main issue with lead-based paint is lead poisoning with children, and we do a lot of work already with child-occupied facilities like day cares and churches.”

Homes should always be tested after renovation projects to make sure no lead dust is left behind.

“About half of our services go to lead-based paint and asbestos inspections,” said Myers, who points out that a general contractor is called in for removal of the contaminated areas. Tioga then completes a clearance test to make sure that no lead dust remains on the property.

Tioga just hired a new lead-based paint inspector, bringing the total to four, and the company now has one part-time and seven full-time employees.

The other half of Tioga’s business comes from property site investigations for commercial transactions, groundwater studies, and regulatory compliance and permitting for mostly industrial clients.

“We commonly see petroleum contamination from underground storage tanks, as well as VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and metal contamination at industrial sites,” said Strom, who handles most of the work with hazardous materials, facilities and compliance, while Myers manages storm water, oil, and waste water issues and planning duties.

“We’ve taken a lot of business growth measures over the past year,” said Strom, who was selected this year to participate in the Small Business Chamber’s E200 Emerging Leaders program. “It’s been a very exciting program, and we’ve gotten so much out of it. The support system that the city and the county provide for small businesses is really ideal.”

Tioga was also just selected for the Economic Gardening program by EDGE.

“We feel fortunate to be selected, and we hope to target our growth in certain directions and maximize our reach,” said Strom, who expects to next hire a geologist, a couple of environmental scientists and another technician in the near future. “We’re looking to expand our staff while also expanding our services.”

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