by Sheri Tkacz, Marketing Manager
And then the dance began. I was mesmerized. Mike and Melissa worked with a choreographed script that I won’t even pretend to understand. Each knew what the other needed without saying a word. Remember that mysterious black case I mentioned earlier? It contained a photo ionization detector (PID), which Mike likened to “an extra nose”. This piece of equipment, which sort of looks like a Zach Morris cell phone crossed with a stingray, is both placed in each bag and kept within the area of all the samples to determine if there is any unsafe odor release (luckily, there wasn’t). Before the bagged samples are placed into their pre-arranged vials, the “sting ray” portion of the PID is placed in the bag to make sure the sample is safe. Always gloved up, another little plastic tool is used to take the samples from the bag to the vials. This piece of equipment looks exactly like the kitchen tool that I have that cores and fills cupcakes. Mix, select, fill, seal – repeat. And repeat. And repeat. From each sample area (represented by bags), approximately 20 vials and one approximately 2 oz. container are filled. They are then grouped and placed in new bags, labeled, and placed into the cooler (which contains frozen reusable ice packs). And while all this is happening, everything is being recorded on forms to ensure traceability. They made it look simple, but I’m sure that it is anything but simple.
Then it was time for tank number two to emerge from its resting place. And this time I got to see something that I had missed from the first UST pull. The contractor added dry ice to the tank to displace any remaining oxygen. While it reminded me that Halloween is just around the corner, it was also a good reminder of the importance of what we were there for in the first place. We were on site because of chemicals, because of potential hazards to the environment, and because there is a responsibility to properly clean up after oneself. Until the Mr. Fusion powers those flying cars I’ve been promised my whole life, gasoline is a necessary component to everyday life. But I’m proud to be part of an organization that ensures that it is stays where it should and doesn’t end up in my drinking water.
Tank pull numbers two and three followed the same pattern as tank pull number one. And Mike and Melissa repeated their systematic process again and again. However, after tank number three was pulled, it was time to take additional samples now that the entirety of the space was available. For some of the areas requiring sampling, the excavator was too large, so the contractor was kind enough to present Mike with hand-dug shovelfuls of dirt. And looking at the labeled bags next to one another, the variety of soil types was evident – both in color and texture. East Lyme is a coastal community and their soil reflects that. You could clearly see what looked like beach sand, but you could also clearly see soil that was much rockier. If I turned this blog over to Melissa right now, she’d happily geek out and tell you all about it and what it means and how it got there in the first place. What Melissa knows about rocks is a whole ‘nother blog post (or maybe a series)!
After the third tank was pulled, we were informed that the pump beds (the locations where the gas pumps used to be) were also going to be pulled and that samples would be required from there as well. Remember those gloves? Every sample site and every sample bag require a new set of gloves. I also understood why we needed so many boxes of containers. At the end of the day, I believe there were close to 150 vials and jars delivered to the lab for analysis. Some are designated as control samples, some are backup samples, and some are the samples that will be tested. And every vial and jar were filled in a manner that was thoughtful and purposeful, and with the greatest respect for the task at hand.
After all our tasks (I say “our” like I had something to do with it) were completed, it was time to fill out the chain of custody paperwork. Thanks to incalculable hours of watching Law & Order, I was familiar with the concept of logging in samples, cross-checking labels, and verifying details. After all our “t”s were crossed and our “i”s dotted, it was time to deliver our day’s work to the lab. I wrongfully assumed that this would be a “drop and go” situation. Those 150+ samples that were so painstakingly placed in particular bags then had to be removed and lined up in numerical order before the chain of custody form could be checked by the lab. Because of the exceptional organization of Mike and Melissa this was an easy enough task, just one I certainly wasn’t expecting. After getting the thumbs up from the lab technician, it was back to the office to unload our truck.
Before even grabbing a cart, Melissa had us clean out the truck. I appreciated this thoughtful effort on behalf of whomever would be using the vehicle the next day. I remembered that I had noted how clean the vehicle was when I first entered that morning – now I know why. And considering it was our job that day to transport dirt, that the truck was in such good condition is only due to this kind of thoughtfulness. As we were putting things away in their rightful places, the two things that didn’t make it back to the shelf were those two boxes of gloves. Melissa said she would empty them both on her job the following day. Of that I have no doubt.
About the Team:
Mike Mostowy has a degree in Environmental Science from UConn. He has exceptional taste in cars, knows more about music than most musicians, and is a gifted and natural teacher. He was exceptionally patient and is the very definition of a leader.
Melissa Luna has undergraduate degrees in Earth Science and Geology and a Master’s Degree in Earth and Environmental Science. She has apps on her phone that show the myriad of rock types in Connecticut and appears like she has been with the company for 30 years, not 3 months.
Sheri Tkacz has degrees in English and International Pastry and is happy to be employed. She would like to thank both Mike and Melissa for not laughing at her questions and always providing her with the answers.