With nearly 30 years of experience in the fields of geology and environmental remediation, it’s difficult to imagine a client project challenge that Kirby Smail has not yet encountered. As a Senior Project Manager for Antea Group, a leading international environmental and sustainability consulting firm, and valued REGENESIS client, Smail routinely manages complex projects across a broad range of clients, services and geographies. He shares, “I ensure the right resources are assigned to the right projects at the right time. In addition, I’m leveraging talent management to grow and mentor the staff within my project teams. I’m also a member of our Chemical Segment leadership team and a member of our Environmental Liability Management (ELM) Practice team as the Vapor Intrusion Service Line Lead.” His broad and diverse role allows him to lead several client accounts simultaneously, with responsibilities that include developing and maintaining client relationships and ensuring client expectations are met for performance and budget. He continues, “Essentially, I am a problem-solver. I have always enjoyed a good puzzle or logic problem, and these talents have come in quite handy throughout my career in environmental consulting.”
When he began exploring a career path, Smail’s decision to focus on the environment was an easy choice. As a child, he had developed a keen interest in geology, and enjoyed collecting rocks as a young boy. He continues, “I knew I wanted to be a geologist since I was about 9 years old. Growing up, my dad was a “rock-hound” and my best friend’s dad taught geology at the local college. I think my interest in geology certainly grew from that early exposure. In college, my focus was sedimentology, so environmental consulting seemed to be a natural fit for my skills and interests.” His passion for geology and the environment would eventually lead to a BS in Geology from Northwest Missouri State University, and afterwards, a MS in Geology from Utah State University. Prior to joining Antea Group 10 years ago, he worked for several environmental consulting firms in a variety of positions that included Project Geologist, Project Manager, and Staff Geologist. When asked what he enjoys most about his work, Smail points to successful site closures. “I enjoy closing sites because so many of the environmental sites out there have been open for decades. A lot of clients seem to lose hope in navigating their sites to closure, so it’s very rewarding for both me and our clients to have successful outcomes. I also enjoy finding solutions to complex and difficult problems and building and mentoring junior staff – its amazingly fun to watch them learn and develop.” And the most demanding aspect of his work? “While many facets of my job are demanding, I think the biggest challenge stems from managing very tight project budgets to get sites to closure, while simultaneously balancing project and staff schedules.”
When it comes to working with REGENESIS, Smail appreciates the fact that Antea Group has a strong partnering relationship with REGENESIS across the US, and internationally. “It’s truly a collaborative effort,” he shares. “And that allows us to get the best results for our clients. REGENESIS seamlessly integrates with our project teams in the evaluation of what products are most suitable for our application, and they fully participate in the project-specific design phase along with our project team.” One recent example that comes to mind involves a project with a site that included numerous logistical and regulatory problems. Smail continues, “The site is now owned by a third party and had significant petroleum impacts in both soil and groundwater. After several attempts at negotiating access to address the impacts, an access agreement to complete an excavation was signed. We knew this was likely our only opportunity to address the remaining impacts, since the property was scheduled for redevelopment. We worked through a design phase with REGENESIS for the addition of ORC Advanced to the excavation prior to backfilling. REGENESIS suggested trying a new product, PetroFix™, to assist in retarding the migration of impacts to the groundwater and for enhancing the biodegradation of impacts as a way to “supercharge” the ORC Advanced pellets in the biodegradation of the residuals following the excavation. We believe this collaborative effort with REGENESIS will close this site- a site that certainly was problematic in moving to closure.” Regarding other REGENESIS products beyond PetroFix™, that he’s used, Smail points to several he’s enjoyed success with. These include ORC® Advanced, PetroCleanze™, PersulfOx®, and more recently, PetroFix®. “In addition to these,” he says, “Antea Group has utilized an even wider range of products that include HRC®, S-MicroZVI™, PlumeStop®, and RegenOx®.”
Throughout his time with Antea Group, Smail has resided in the Des Moines, IA area, where he works from his home office. Married with eight children, he is quick to point out things can get pretty busy on the home front. “Three of our children are out in the world,” he says, “Three are in college, and two are in high school. Our kids seemed to have inherited my love for science. One is an acoustical engineer working as a consultant himself, one is studying environmental science and sustainability, one is on the pre-med path, and one is on the pre-veterinarian path.” When it comes to hobbies, outside of work he enjoys rock and fossil collecting, along with camping, when life allows some free time. He shares, “I’m a Boy Scout at heart and enjoy the whole experience of packing all the gear and tent camping, but alas, my wife much prefers the comforts of our 36-foot motorhome!”
When asked how he’s seen the industry change over the years, he reflects on the increased solutions that have been developed. He shares, “I’ve been in this industry for nearly 29 years and I’ve seen a tremendous amount of change during that time. When I first began my career, just out of graduate school, there really were not a lot of tools in the remediation toolbox. It seemed at the time that the solution to environmental problems was to throw money at it. However, as more remedial tools were developed and regulatory agencies (and regulations) became more mature, the focus changed to what I believe is a more practical approach of focusing on the site goals to allow closure. Shortly thereafter, the right products and solutions became available to address the specific contaminant or conditions. This has allowed closure of sites that may not ever have closed otherwise.” And how would he encourage others to join in his field of study? He concludes, “Chase your dreams, find your passion, and do your best to make that your career. If that’s geology or environmental remediation, fantastic! Work is hard and demanding, but if you are following your passion, it’s fun and exciting.”
REGENESIS is proud to have Kirby Smail, Senior Project Manager for Antea Group, as a valued client and partner in environmental remediation, and appreciates his dedication and vast experience in providing successful remediation outcomes for REGENESIS and its clients.