Page 29 - BusinessWest April 28, 2021
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 tion. Also taking part, each bringing a different from the pandemic,
“It’s very difficult for us right now because a lot of it is interpersonal relationships — meeting with regulators around a table with big maps — and we
St. Patrick’s Day 2020. It took a few weeks to figure things out, with staff working at home, and we made some long-term improvements in technology for certain staff.”
Since then, he added, the process has been smooth, if not ideal. For example, early on, “we were very, very lenient in terms of inspections,” but the office was able to conduct limited risk- based determinations and emergency-response actions. “Staff still needed to visit spills on the highway and other releases.”
MassDEP complemented any necessary in- person visits with virtual inspections through FaceTime video and submitted photos, Gorski added. And after the initial slowdown, the pace of activity has been relatively stable.
“We’ve been on par with past years with the number of inspections in the Western Region, with enforcement numbers being a little bit down,” he said. “I think we’ve done pretty
well keeping a presence out there and, more importantly, keeping our staff safe and meeting COVID protocols.”
Myhrum knew any leniency wouldn’t last. “I
perspective to the discussion, were David Peter, principal with Site Redevelopment Technolo- gies; Ashley Sullivan, president of O’Reilly, Tal- bot & Okun Associates (OTO); Mike Gorski, regional director of the Western Regional Office of MassDEP; and environmental attorney Chris- topher Myhrum.
Peter, whose company cleans up contami- nated sites for redevelopment — including, recently, the Games and Lanes brownfields site in Agawam — said the new paradigm of com- municating has been a challenge.
“It’s difficult to move forward,” he said. “We rehab sites that have been dormant for many years due to contamination, and it’s very diffi- cult for us right now because a lot of it is inter- personal relationships — meeting with regula-
he added. As one example, last spring, the firm was hauling lightly contaminated soil from Beth Israel Hospital in Boston to a site in Rhode Island, and was able to con- duct about twice as many trips as nor- mal due to the lack
of traffic on the road during the economic shutdown.
can’t do that anymore.
           JEFF DALEY
“We saw some hiccups at the beginning of the pandemic, but when things started ticking up again, it appeared state agencies really had their stuff together, as
well as cities and towns.”
situation,” Peter said. “But the biggest impact was not being able to sit down with regulators, politicians, and neigh- bors. It really slowed us down.”
Sullivan agreed. “In general, we did see a slowdown, and some of the logis- tics became difficult; there was defi- nitely an adjustment period. But I’ll say we adapted pretty quickly, which was amazing to see,” she said, noting that the company had recently made some investments in technology that eased the transition into a different way of conducting business.
“If you owned, say, a restaurant when this happened, you were severely hit. But many essential businesses benefited, like our trucking
  tors around a table with big maps — and we can’t do that anymore. We’re at a real slowdown for any project still in the planning stages.”
Projects in active development are a differ- ent story and, in some cases, have benefited
And that transition was happening whether or not everyone was ready for it.
“If you had asked me two years ago if we could our job remotely, I’d have said, ‘absolutely not,’” Gorski said. “But we’ve been remote since
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