Specialty Business Expands to Make the World a Better Place
EcoTerra helps turn toxic wasteland into safe communities
When Nipam Shah graduated from the New York Institute of Technology with a master’s degree in environmental technology, he was committed to helping make America a better place to live. To do that, he opened EcoTerra Consulting, LLC (EcoTerra) from his home office. That was in 2016, and the business grew so fast that EcoTerra now employs 10 professionals at its Piscataway, New Jersey, offices.
EcoTerra has already grown into a multimillion-dollar company that specializes in helping New York and New Jersey landowners and public entities remove contaminated soil and waste, then repurpose the waste to help create clean land for new communities.
EcoTerra combines environmental expertise with in-depth knowledge of the solid waste management industry. With certifications of New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC), New York City Business Integrity Commission Trade Waste Broker, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection A901 Solid Waste Broker, and Certified Hazardous Material Manager (CHMM), the company has developed a special one-stop-shopping opportunity for individuals, contractors and governmental agencies the likes of which is unique to New York and New Jersey. EcoTerra’s technical knowledge and environmental consulting background provides customers with consulting, planning, testing, treatment, transportation and safe disposal of solid waste.
“We also possess in-depth knowledge of permitting processes and have in-house scientists who test for contamination. We don’t just comply with acceptable treatment criteria—we actually exceed Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requirements. That is the unique combination we offer,” Nipam says. “We know both ends of the processes and everything in the middle, and that is truly the prime factor of our growth.”
The Best Service Doesn’t Have to Cost the Most
EcoTerra provides a consulting perspective at the environmental investigation stage. They test to determine the type of contamination—including the type of hazard classification and history of the site. They determine where that type of soil can be moved to, document their findings and create an Excavated Material Disposal Plan (EMDP). They obtain governmental disposal approval, create a comprehensive plan for transportation and disposal, and provide on-site supervisors to monitor each load and make sure their customers aren’t paying more than they need to for specific levels of contamination.
“We pass along savings to our clients and use our in-house testing facility to save even more,” Nipam says. To that end, the company identifies and isolates “Hot Spots,” (a commonly used reference in project documents for petroleum, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and hazardous impacted materials), and that’s a key factor to saving money.
EcoTerra staff includes Licensed Site Remediation Professionals (LSRPs), but Nipam believes, “We are all stewards for the care of our environment, and we do our very best to provide innovative, responsible, sustainability-based decisions in the handling of solid waste.”
So whether EcoTerra provides the entire plan and logistics or simply acts as a broker for soil transportation and disposal, its in-house team of engineers and scientists provide cost-effective solutions.
Cleanup at Former Superfund Site
In New York, EcoTerra is helping to turn a former Superfund site into a new community with residential housing, a public park, restaurants and shopping. Many such sites are old manufacturing venues that have been orphaned, and the EPA must provide cleanup under the dictate of the Superfund Act, which sets aside cleanup funds.
EcoTerra was chosen to provide contaminated soil removal and transportation to an approved disposal site for this project. In this multiyear project, EcoTerra will remove soil, concrete and other toxic materials. “We do this work not only to protect the people in the area,” says Nipam, “but to turn wasteland into a safe place for homes and commerce.”
EcoTerra has prepared the plan for waste/soil transportation and removal, and commonly helps private contractors and the public by working with general contractors and government agencies. Such plans are typically required in the projects by city and state agencies such as the New York City School Construction Authority, New York City Department of Sanitation, New York City Department of Design and Construction (NYCDDC), NYCEDC, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, both the New York and the New Jersey Departments of Transportation and the New Jersey Turnpike Authority.
EcoTerra is also expanding its services to provide even more cost savings, including helping contractors modify or create new processes. “Depending on their needs and level of expertise,” Nipam explains, “we can help reduce liability and make the process easier and more cost effective for everyone involved.”
EcoTerra plans to establish its own disposal facility site, and Nipam is already opening an engineering division that will be completed by summer 2020. That division will provide the basis for handling the design phase for the entire remediation process for large industrial projects. “These types of expansion plans combined with our success in the early stages of the company are why we are able to grow as fast as we are.”
It Takes Special People to Create a Special Company
Whether it’s a logistics professional, a project manager, engineer, scientist or office employee, the EcoTerra staff is a close family that celebrates their victories together and relishes in their social functions. Nipam makes sure to compensate everyone handsomely by providing bonuses (in 2019, one at midyear and a second at the end of the year), a 100% company-paid pension plan, and full benefits.
At EcoTerra, Nipam wants to share that same type of family business environment with their customers. Keeping the lines of communication fluid helps everyone stay on target and on time. “We respond to phone calls and emails immediately, even if it’s just to acknowledge receipt and let customers know when we’ll respond to their inquiries. We’d never want a client to think that they are being ignored or that we’re unavailable to them.
“We’re a for-profit company, but we are transparent in more the ways of a nonprofit,” Nipam says. Every proposal and plan EcoTerra submits includes possible snags based on the unknowns so clients aren’t surprised when the occasional monkey wrench is thrown into the plan. “We never want them to be blindsided. They appreciate it and come back with repeat business.”
As a Small Business Enterprise and Minority Business Enterprise, EcoTerra vows to save America’s contaminated land. “And we want everyone involved to share in the benefits and rewards,” Nipam says. “That was the whole point of creating a unique company like EcoTerra.”