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First strike Featured

7:00am EDT July 19, 2002

Developer John McGill had a piece of property in Macedonia, where he wanted to build a shopping center.

The only problem was the sprawling 18 acres of wetlands that needed to be filled or moved for the development to go through.

McGill shopped the wetlands project around and was hit with staggering estimates, from $1.2 million to $1.8 million. Reeling from sticker shock, he turned to Mentor-based HzW Environmental Consultants Inc., a company he had called on before for advice on environmental issues.

"They're really a necessity to have as part of the team," McGill says.

HzW helped cut the wetlands project cost down to $400,000, while not putting at risk the land and water or the surrounding community.

Too often, Matthew D. Knecht, President of HzW Environmental says, company owners wait until they are faced with a fine or court order from the EPA until they clean up, or they are unaware of a problem until they are cited.

"Once you're in the noose, we hope we can find you the most pragmatic, practical, legal, ethical, moral solution," Knecht says.

Taking steps to avoid environmental problems is usually less expensive than waiting until the government is breathing down your neck.

Ask questions

A quick phone call to ask simple questions of a environment consultant may be the best and fastest way to decided how to approach a problem.

Company owners may not even know they are having a negative impact on air, land or water, let alone be up-to-date on the most recent environmental regulations. And all companies, whether a clean industry or not, must grapple with environmental issues when building a new facility on undeveloped property.

"They can call us, and we may not necessarily get a job out of it," says Thomas G. Powell, HzW Environmental's business development director. "We may recommend they go somewhere else, talk to somebody else that's more of an expert."

Keeping compliant

Whether you think you have a problem or not, it's better to be safe than sorry. Some companies ask HzW to audit their facilities and look for potential environmental compliance issues. Knecht says his inspectors will make recommendations, but it is up to company owners to take preventive steps.

"We pretend we're little EPA inspectors," Knecht says. "We have probably 13 industries that we're on contract with that don't have problems today, but they ask us to come in and continually monitor their air emissions to make sure they're not violating air permits."

What do you need?

Because issues change so rapidly, it's rare for a smaller company to have a full-time environmental officer. Those duties are usually combined with those of another employee, leaving environmental issues to fall by the wayside.

"Rather than pay someone $60,000 a year, it makes a lot more sense for them to pay us $1,000 a month to have us, so if the EPA shows up, we can come down and walk through with the EPA," Knecht says. How to reach: HzW Environmental Inc., (440) 357-1260

Morgan Lewis Jr. (mlewis@sbnnet.com) is a reporter at SBN Magazine.