Category: WhatsDown

Terradex at 20: Keeping the Startup Feeling in Pursuit of Long-Term Stewardship

Can Terradex still be a startup after 20 years? That is the question I ask myself as I reflect on this milestone. A startup is a fast, bumpy, innovative ride to converge on the model, market, revenue, and profit, and is very much the norm in Silicon Valley. Although Terradex is in the business of the perpetual, it remains adorned by the spirit of the startup. So, my answer is yes, and here are three reasons why I keep this startup feeling.

First, the force of Terradex’s mission has never dissipated. The force of the mission is engrained in the startup. Terradex has targeted an essential need: enabling land stewardship through web technologies to protect the public and the environment. I am an altruist and seek to protect the public, community member, or worker, who might unknowingly come in contact with contaminated residuals. While protecting the public, we also serve our customers by protecting their cleanup remedies. The Terradex mission is a “win-win” for everyone.

Second, I get to work in the playground of innovation. In Silicon Valley many amazing tools are being assembled for monitoring land use and activity. Today’s technology, previously unimaginable, now includes satellite constellations, drone capture images, and artificial intelligence, all of which are routinely applied to detect land and structure changes. This tech revolution has enabled the development and deployment of our product offerings. Terradex adapts these new technologies for land stewardship. Satellites can remote sense and apply artificial intelligence. I can then utilize satellites to show a customer new structures on their remote land or a disturbance that might damage an ecosystem or a protective liner acting as a barrier to contain residual contamination. At Terradex, I get to adapt the technology and integrate it into our solutions like LandWatch.

Third, I get to pursue emerging markets to protect vulnerable land. Startups often surprise by creating and then fulfilling a market that is not apparent or by replacing an old paradigm with the new. Our current market is defined by specific areas of interest: land that is contaminated and vulnerable to public use and land that is sensitive, such as a habitat area, and vulnerable to development. In the coming years, land such as forests used for carbon sequestration will be similarly vulnerable to uncontrolled land uses. We further anticipate that efforts tied to climate mitigation and sustainable development will result in a new generation of lands that must be protected. As an experienced startup, we are poised to pursue these new markets as they emerge.

Even as a startup, in our first 20 years Terradex has made an impact. There are two main areas of our impact: 1) building the playbook of land stewardship that has become the industry standard and 2) the resulting impact as our stewardship technologies successfully protect public health and cleanup remedies.

When Terradex started, the industry’s focus was on conducting cleanups and not post-cleanup obligations. We discovered that because most remedies fall short of a complete cleanup, they create an obligation for long-term stewardship. At Terradex, we saw the need to fashion industry and governmental practice to fulfill this obligation. Over the last 20 years, we have been part of establishing a modern long-term stewardship framework, which included:

  • supporting EPA in its development of guidance for advanced methods for long-term stewardship,
  • leading ASTM standard development for Continuing Obligations that serve as long-term stewardship best practices,
  • developing data standards for long-term stewardship with ECOS, and
  • training over 6,000 practitioners via ITRC’s stewardship training, while
  • establishing Terradex’s data methodology now protected in a U.S. patent.

I treasure the impact Terradex’s team of 12 has made on our clients and the tens of thousands we protect. It amazes me that we send nearly 10,000 alerts a month to people moving into a new home, working to repair a sewer line, or installing a new water well. These simple, actionable messages keep people safe and protect our customers’ cleanup remedies from damage. I look back at many of our notable accomplishments with pride. We have successfully:

  • prevented a well from penetrating an aquitard, thereby protecting drinking water supply,
  • alerted a developer about encountering an area of buried ordinance,
  • protected homeowners by preventing an inadvertent vapor intrusion pathway installed by a utility contractor, and
  • supported compliance by alerting our client to a tenant’s activities in breach of an engineered control.

In the past 20 years, Terradex has set a path now encompassed by our three product solutions, LandWatch, DigClean, and WhatsDown. We introduce these solutions on the new Terradex web site emulating the protectiveness we seek to provide in vulnerable settings.

Thank You! We didn’t achieve Terradex’s impact alone. Building Terradex’s stewardship solutions has taken a village, including the Terradex team, our customer partners, and our colleagues in professional organizations. At 20 years young,Terradex has been an impactful and innovative startup and we proudly celebrate that accomplishment with you.

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Bob Wenzlau October 5, 2021 0 Comments

Conversation with Bob Wenzlau, Terradex CEO

Terradex’s WhatsDown launched in the Summer of 2014. The release of WhatsDown coincided with concerns across Silicon Valley about public health related to volatile organics. Terradex has sought to play a constructive role while offering useful commercial services including indoor air testing.

A more detailed article is at this link to the Palo Alto Weekly.

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Bob Wenzlau September 8, 2014 0 Comments

Environmental Protections – A Proposal for Public Branding of Institutional Controls

Through WhatsDown, we maintain a catalog of “institutional controls”.  However, in the app there is one big change – we replaced the term ‘institutional control” with the term “environmental protection”. With WhatsDown serving the public, we were compelled to generate an intuitive mapping application.

The term “institutional control” is a general umbrella term that captures various devices including environmental covenants, land use restrictions, deed restrictions, activity and use limitations (AULs), governmental controls and often engineering controls.

The term “environmental protection” carries the inspiration behind the terminology.  When an environmental protection is applied, the stakeholder knows that there is a device in place that is protective in nature.  While the term environment is broad, within the context of land contamination, the meaning is relatively implicit. As an environmental professional would establish an “environmental protection” the duty associated with that is embedded in the term.  The term “environmental protection” is both trustworthy and efficient.

As our environmental  industry and the agencies embark on the stewardship of installed remedies, the priority shifts to promoting the discovery of institutional controls.  By design an institutional control must communicate to diverse stakeholders who heed their guidance. These stakeholders do not carry the domain expertise of an environmental professional, yet their decisions are critical to an institutional controls effectiveness.  For example, a local government land use planner should respect controls that affect zoning, an excavator should understand controls that affect actions damaging a liner, and a community member should be aware of notices that affect food crop production.

Labeling these controls as “environmental protections” immediately engages the user with their relevance. We tested the term, and found most recognized the intent and purpose – especially when compared to the terminology commonly applied within our industry.  Following is the FAQ from WhatsDown where we strive to introduce Environmental Protections.

What Are Environmental Protections?

Environmental Protections are legal or physical controls, sometimes dubbed “institutional controls” by regulatory agencies, that guard people from unsafe exposure to contaminants at spill sites. Environmental Protections are put into place when government agencies allow spill site cleanups to occur under so called “risk based” standards, which allow some contamination to remain in place if environmental protections are added to guard against exposure. Environmental Protections limit activities and future uses that could pose health or environmental hazards. These protections ordinarily last for as long as contamination remains in place, which could be for many many year, even permanently in some cases.

WhatsDown shows Environmental Protections in “caution” yellow, indicating proceed with care. Environmental Protections often address a single parcel of land, but also can cover much larger areas when, for example, groundwater or soil contamination spreads across multiple properties. WhatsDown increasingly attempts to map the boundary of the Environmental Protection. Otherwise, WhatsDown shows the Environmental Protections as a point on the map.

Government agencies ordinarily require Environmental Protections to be tailored to the hazard. For example, if contaminated groundwater would inadvertently be used for drinking, the protection could be a drinking water restriction. If there were chemicals harmful to children, then protection could restrict use for schools or daycare. The protections are assembled based upon specific risks posed by the spill site. Not all spill sites have protections associated with them, especially those where cleanup has not been completed.

We hope that in the future we might find some shifts.  When remedies are described to the public, the term “environmental protection” can be used to provide quicker assimilation.  We might find state websites saying “Download Environmental Protections” when public repositories of institutional are engineering controls are maintained.  What are your thoughts?

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Bob Wenzlau July 11, 2014 0 Comments
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