Ohio Firm Has Major Role in Environmental Cleanups
Akron Beacon Journal
3 March 2013
By Paula Schleis
STOW, Ohio (AP) - 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
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
The 30-year, $2.45 million lease/sale agreement enabled the
privately held EnviroScience to stay in town when it was looking
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.
In the basement of its Darrow Road home, lab technicians place
bugs called ceriodaphnia dubia (c. dubia) and fathead minnows into
discharge samples to see if they can live, grow and reproduce. If
the cycle of life is cut short, they know there's a problem.
Hilovsky said Krejsa was an early employee who taught him a lesson
Some 20 years ago, Krejsa was a new employee in the lab when he
took a phone call from a West Virginia steel company that needed a
field survey done of eight miles of Ohio River as part of an EPA
The boss wasn't around to ask, so Krejsa said, "Yeah, we can do
That phone call turned into a $2 million contract and a new
reputation for EnviroScience, which exported Ohio's fledgling
biocentric standards to become models for other states.
"It taught me a lot about taking chances and encouraging my
employees to use their interests to do new things," Hilovsky said.
"If someone has an interest in endangered bats, then they can work
on that," including finding clients to support it.
For many years, EnviroScience has been a national go-to consultant
for major train derailments. Company employees are among the first
responders, helping to determine how to minimize the environmental
impact. They also teach railroad employees how to react to
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
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.
Because the company's aquatic biologists are also certified
divers, EnviroScience branched out into work that includes
locating and preserving endangered mussels. The mussels are
coveted for their ability to filter water, so communities are
interested in knowing where they are and how to keep them from
In Pennsylvania, EnviroScience has even helped the state decide
where to place bridges by diving to survey mussel populations.
"When they want to know where to build a bridge, they don't ask an
engineer. They ask a biologist," Krejsa said.
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.
That kind of information is important for knowing where it's OK to
put a ballpark and what sensitive ecological systems need to be
kept away from even hiking trails.
The company designed the Little Cuyahoga River expansion that was
part of the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. redevelopment project
in East Akron, and the cleanup of the contaminated Haley's Run, a
stream restoration project by Lockheed Martin near the former
"That kind of work is tricky," Krejsa said, "because you want to
restore it to its natural state so the things that thrived there
before are what comes back" and not invasive or non-naturalized
Hilovsky said the company is fortunate to be in the midst of so
many quality universities. It draws employees from Kent State
University (where Hilovsky graduated), the University of Akron
(where Krejsa graduated) and several other local schools.
It was the research of a KSU biologist that led EnviroScience to
commercializing the milfoil weevil, a bug that it raises and sells
throughout the U.S. and Canada as a means for controlling the
noxious Eurasian watermilfoil weed.
"We have a great relationship with faculty," Hilovsky said, "and
that has led to new opportunities, too."