A Master’s Thesis Becomes an A+ Business
MG Remediation, Inc. removes danger and restores buildings
Peter Mandel is in the business of getting people back to normal. “A glorified janitor,” he calls himself, which sounds tame until you hear what he cleans up.
Take the 250,000-square-foot warehouse sitting on a PCE (perchloroethylene) plume, a cancer-causing leftover from dry cleaning and metal-parts cleaning businesses. Choosing to save money, some firms put used PCE in holes in the ground. “They think it will magically go away,” says Peter, Owner and President of MG Remediation, Inc. (MG). “But toxins migrate, and all foundations crack. Vapors collect under a building and seep up. Breathe it eight hours a day and it can be a slow death.”
In the case of the warehouse just described, MG’s inspection of the building’s indoor air, groundwater and sub-slab zones caught the PCE. From underneath the slab, an MG vapor-intrusion mitigation system vacuumed it out.
Remediate and Reconstruct
Remediation—to reverse or stop environmental damage—covers ground from private homes to vast apartment or office complexes to retail, manufacturing and stadiums. Many remediation businesses concentrate on mold, asbestos and lead. Some, after ripping out troublesome areas, leave the property owner to rebuild. On both fronts, MG redefines getting the job done. First, it takes on almost any toxicity; second, while it’s still on-site, it rebuilds with the speed and documented accuracy owners need to quickly return home or get back to business.
“A lot of large apartment complexes use us to remove mold or asbestos, then install new kitchens and bathrooms to move-in condition,” Peter says to illustrate their turnkey benefit. “We work with the designer and architects. We act as a general contractor and engineer, and we do the work ourselves. We sub out electrical and plumbing only for larger jobs; otherwise everything is to code and we know the codes. We’re thorough, and we’re fast. Speed is part of our mission statement.”
In the early 1990s when Peter was getting his MBA, for a company to both remediate and reconstruct was unheard of, he says. When Peter proposed that kind of company for his graduate thesis, his professors and classmates saluted the idea. But his employer at the time, then a leading environmental company, gave it a thumbs-down. That employer has since gone out of business, Peter says. And Peter’s response to the thumbs-down, after graduating top of his class, was to implement his master’s thesis himself. “If you could do it all, so much the better in terms of speed and cost,” Peter explains. “And we’d be competitive with pricing like everything else.”
Whatever the Chemical, Tragedy or Disaster
Once MG was open for business, as new challenges arose, whatever the chemical, tragedy or disaster, in Peter’s words, “We’d take the bull by the horns.” If a toxic circumstance was new to him and his team, they would research and tap authorities on the topic. “A lot is math and the things I studied in school,” Peter explains. “You figure out the calculations, all the levels you can’t go beyond, the carbon filtration…it’s science-based.”
Before long, the MG team had cleaned miles of ventilation ducts, improved solutions for fire and water damage control, demolished buildings, crime scenes and trauma sites, and remediated soil and groundwater. MG even became the go-to company, Peter says, for high-stakes cleanups involving methamphetamine (meth), which impregnates surrounding Sheetrock, turning kitchens into hazard zones.
Even further up the danger scale, MG is one of the few remediation companies in California to decontaminate for fentanyl, 50 times stronger than heroin, and its analog, carfentanil, an elephant tranquilizer Peter describes as “ten thousand times stronger than morphine.” “A VOA (40 milliliters), the size of your thumb, can kill more than 300,000 people,” he says. “It absorbs through your skin and really absorbs in your mouth and nasal passages, so it’s easy to overdose. It seeps into surrounding building materials, and unless it’s decontaminated correctly, just from touching the wall, a child can overdose.”
Essential safety, meanwhile, is two-way. “We’re in full hazmat suits, full-face respirators,” Peter says of a typical job site. “The chemicals we use to send the toxicity below government levels are strong.” MG currently treats for fentanyl, carfentanil and meth with a state-certified industrial hygienist “who likes our work,” Peter says. “You can’t miss anything. You have to perfectly manage the neutralizing chemical, heating the room to a certain temperature and increasing humidity for the proper reaction.” He tells about finding a bag of fentanyl the police missed at a site—hidden inside a couch. The point is that his team was in full hazmat gear when they found it.
Safe, Sharp and Savvy
In the business of keeping its clients in business, MG offers what Peter calls “vapor intrusion mitigation” to address the volatile organic compounds (VOC) that collect under buildings. A building’s difference in air pressure can draw in cancer-causing carcinogens, Peter explains. Because vapor extraction—complete removal of an underground plume—can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, MG also offers vapor intrusion mitigation systems.
“Vapor extraction dives down 20 feet or more to remove the plume completely,” Peter explains. “Vapor intrusion pulls a vacuum up to 5 feet under the building, so nothing comes in.” The result is less time to mitigate, less equipment to perform the work and less cost. The benefit to a company’s bottom line, Peter says, is that the tenants occupy a building sooner and owners and developers keep their tenant pipeline moving. “It doesn’t always have to be an extraction,” Peter sums up. “At an eighth of the price, you address it immediately and business goes on.”
The MG brand of thinking—safe, sharp, savvy to business needs—has attracted a client roster of household names that includes AT&T, United Airlines, Apple Inc., The Sobrato Organization, Coldwell Banker, Bank of America, the National Park Service, The Salvation Army, Texas Instruments, Essex Property Trust, and Sequoia Properties.
Peter attributes MG’s success to loving his work. The daily challenges and precision required fascinate him, he says, and the rewards energize him. “You put it together like a puzzle of a thousand pieces, and you’re saving lives,” he says, marveling. “I met a woman with stage-three lung cancer. She was 36 years old with two little kids and had never smoked. She was living in the woods but inside an area with high levels of radon gas. I went into her house in the Santa Cruz Mountains to mitigate the radon. She beat the cancer, but to know you can stop the next person from getting sick—that matters. The happy ending at the end of the job is a great thing.”
Why Companies like MG REMEDIATION
Why remediation? Because old buildings are like old cars, Peter says simply. They decline. New properties can have their problems. A packed warehouse can be hit by fire, mold, sewage, some kind of biohazard leak. Fabrication plants could have an acid-line or toxic-gas break, requiring chemical neutralization or stopping an “immediately dangerous to life” (IDLH) situation. Accidents happen. Tragedies happen. Surprises come along—and seldom at a convenient hour. When they do, people have to move out and businesses hemorrhage money. Documents and family treasures are at risk.
Cleanup has to be immediate, informed, thorough and fast—or more things can go wrong, Peter says. People can die or overdose, especially concerning drugs cleanup. If mold isn’t addressed correctly, daily subjection to high doses can cause other sickness; every immune system is different.
In each case, “you have to remediate by the book,” Peter says. “You put your plastic poly-containments against a wall, establish negative pressure pulling air always in, filtering in the negative air machine and blowing it back to the outside environment, so the air is always filtered, never subjecting a human to particulate matter, asbestos or microbial spores (allergens).”
Unless a cleanup is executed perfectly, lawyers show up, which is why a lot of property management companies prefer MG. “We do it right, we’re fast and we document,” Peter says. “We cover our clients with good procedures—which is part of the rebuilding.”