Ambulance Chaser LSP in Cow Country

Posted Dec 11, 2018 by: David FossAmbulance Chaser LSP in Cow Country

As told at the LSPA Story Slam 

It was a rainy Friday afternoon in June. Not an ideal day for a front-end loader to catch fire and release 30 gallons of diesel fuel and hydraulic fluid. Of course, when is a good day for that?

If you’re Farmer Ferry, the fact that it was raining meant that the release hit the puddles, flowed with the rivulets down the driveway, and entered the only two catch basins within a quarter mile. Those flow to wetlands that feed Rocky Run Brook which is a tributary for the Palmer River. Less than one mile away, the Palmer River is a public water supply for the Town of Swansea.

Really not an ideal time or place for Farmer Ferry to have a tractor fire.

As I was driving home from lunch, I saw three fire trucks with their lights spinning and emergency personnel doing emergency response things:  placing booms, putting down speedi-dri, and trying to contain a spill. 

Here I am, a rogue LSP driving home from lunch, realizing that maybe they could use my help. I pull over, put on my hard hat, steel toed boots and safety vest and say, “Hi Bob!” There is Bob Murphy from MassDEP Emergency Response arriving at exactly the same time, putting on his hard hat and high-viz jacket.    

Bob and I approach Farmer Ferry and Bob explains that as the Potentially Responsible Party, he has a couple of obligations. He hands Farmer Ferry a Field Notice of Responsibility and in a stern, yet professional, tone explains, “You need to hire an emergency response contractor and you need to hire an LSP, a Licensed Site Professional. I can’t tell you what LSP to hire, but here’s one standing next to me. MassDEP has called our on-call contractor, and Global Remediation are on their way.” 

Things get settled, and the Global Remediation’s crew arrives. Bob Murphy approves our plan of attack and clears out along with the fire department. 

John Connolly is the Supervisor for Global. The crew refer to him as “the colonel”. He is a retired marine who stands ramrod straight with his high-and-tight buzz cut. He runs a tight ship. In short order, there are laborers placing booms in catch basins, controlling the flow of run-off and recovering speedi-dri, the vacuum truck operator is cleaning the two catch basins, and the bobcat operator is removing the gravel driveway that is the area of greatest impact. 

From my perspective, everything falls into place.  I am directing Global but as an LSP under contract with Farmer Ferry. After a couple hours the rain stopped, making it easier for us to get our arms around the spill. I was pleased to observe professional competence and expertise during the clean-up. The crew members knew their roles and executed their tasks effectively. In the span of a five hours, the contaminated soil was stockpiled, the catch basins cleaned, and booms emplaced. As the sun was setting on a warm summer evening and the mosquitoes were coming out, all the response actions were complete and the site was buttoned up. Because the work was completed quickly, we prevented the release from impacting the nearby surface water and private water supply wells. 

What’s my role in this story? I was there was as an observer and communicator. It’s all about the communication and documentation on the back end of the project. After all, is the work really complete until a report is written to tell the story? And what is everybody’s favorite part of the reporting process? You guessed it, submitting via eDEP.

One of the challenges of working with a 75-year old dairy farmer in Rehoboth, Massachusetts, is that he is a client that doesn’t have a computer. He is a PRP who doesn’t have a cell phone. We all have challenges, but we have to make the most of what we are given. We have to use all the tools in our toolbox. 

What does any technology-challenged luddite like me do in this circumstance? We rely on our kids. Just like I rely on my kids for unconditional love, I also rely on them for tech support. Farmer Ferry’s daughter Janice was his tech support, so we could communicate using 21st century technology. 

While setting up a meeting with the Ferry’s to discuss how regulatory closure would work, Janice texted me, “Meeting on Saturday would be great. We will be done milking the cows at 8:30 and don’t start planting corn until 10:00 AM.” I think to myself, “I love living in a small country town and working with people who schedule their business meetings around milking cows and planting corn.” 

I meet with the Ferry’s in a farm house kitchen that has seen generations of family dinners. With the smell of Maxwell House coffee in the air, we sit at the Formica table on a well-worn linoleum floor. We talk about contracts and budget, and about eDEP, the electronic filing process. At this point in the discussion, it wasn’t yet confirmed that the Ferry’s insurance policy would cover the claim. In the end, they had coverage and the remediation was paid for. But on the day of our meeting, that wasn’t clear.

Based on the look on his face, I can see that Farmer Ferry is concerned about finances. I understand that being a dairy farmer in New England is not a high margin business. After we talk about eDEP and submitting reports, Farmer Ferry looks me in the eye and says, “With respect to the budget, it may not be a lot to you, but it is a lot for us . . . so I have to ask, can we pay you in milk? We have the best milk in town.”

I held my tongue and thought to myself, “Goodness, the owner of my company is lactose intolerant, and we much prefer to be paid in cash.”

I have no regrets of being an ambulance chasing LSP that day in June.