Ohio firm has role in cleanups

STOW – The name EnviroScience on the small building along Darrow Road does little to indicate what’s going on inside.

Nothing to suggest the company is home to 55 biologists, some of whom were responsible for helping to clean up the infamous BP oil spill.

Nothing to give away the fact that every major railroad in the country calls on them to assist after train derailments, even to the point that scientists dive beneath submerged cars to rig them for removal and minimize environmental damage.

Nothing to explain how the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has tapped them to take over the National Aquatic Resource Survey in which they will write the rules and train every state on how to take samples and examine trends in every river, lake, stream and wetland in the country.

“Having a company like this in Stow is unbelievable. Cities salivate over companies like this,” said Mayor Sara Drew, whose city is selling a recently vacated parks and recreation building to give the company room to grow.

EnviroScience’s headquarters, across the street from City Hall, and a second Darrow Road location where it stores boats and other equipment, will be condensed into a 20,000-square-foot city building near Silver Springs Park. Park employees were moved from the building last summer as part of a citywide consolidation effort.

The 30-year, $2.45 million lease / sale agreement enabled the privately held EnviroScience to stay in town when it was looking to expand.

Drew said the financial benefits to the city go beyond the purchase price. The schools will benefit from $40,000 a year in property taxes when the city-owned property goes into private hands, and the city will save $285,000 in interest when it pays off what it still owes on the building.

The company’s partners, President Martin Hilovsky and Vice President Jamie Krejsa, are homegrown entrepreneurs, both born and raised in the Cleveland area. Both now live in Summit County.

Hilovsky founded the company in 1989, a couple of years after Ohio started mandating biological testing of water discharges.

Prior to that, the Ohio EPA required cities and businesses to test only for chemicals, like PH, iron and zinc. But in 1987, a group of Ohio scientists successfully argued to legislators that chemicals don’t tell the whole story of whether discharges into public waterways were affecting marine life.

Today, about 10 percent of EnviroScience’s business is still based on its original purpose, serving some 200 business and municipal clients in Ohio and surrounding states.

About a quarter of the business now comes from emergency response. After the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, EnviroScience was hired to design the protocols for environmental sampling, train people how to do it, and then audit the process from start to finish.

That kind of expertise helped them land a $38.5 million, five-year contract with the U.S. EPA to take over the annual effort to sample and monitor trends in the nation’s waterways.

In Pennsylvania, EnviroScience has even helped the state decide where to place bridges by diving to survey mussel populations.

While the company’s reach is national – it recently opened a second office in Nashville, Tenn., at the request of southern clients – it does a lot of local work as well.

After the Twinsburg Park and Nature Reserve was created a few years ago, EnviroScience was hired to identify “everything that lives, breathes and grows there,” Krejsa said.

Paula Schleis is a reporter for the Akron Beacon Journal.