When the owner of a fish farm in the Houston area needed assistance understanding the environmental requirements related to raising ornamental carp for aquariums, TCEQ Compliance Specialist Cynthia Williams worked with Leslie McGaha, a volunteer, to lend a hand. Adding excitement was the farm owner’s advice to “Beware of wild dogs on the property.” Although she did get muddy, McGaha managed to avoid the dogs while helping the owner.
McGaha is a TCEQ EnviroMentor in Houston. She and 117 other environmental professionals across the state volunteer to give free, confidential assistance to those needing help complying with state environmental rules.
A service of the Small Businesses and Local Government Assistance (SBLGA) Section of the Small Business and Environmental Assistance (SBEA) Division, the program matches EnviroMentors with customers needing help.
“A typical customer is a business professional who is new to environmental requirements,” says Jane Scheidler, EnviroMentor program coordinator, “or an operator of a small business who is unaware of the regulations that exist for his or her industry.”
“Volunteers provide important one-on-one assistance to customers,” says SBEA Division Director Brian Christian, adding that from May 2009 through April 2010, 43 EnviroMentors contributed 1,640 hours to 77 different projects. Five individuals impressively contributed a record 100-plus hours each.
Cathy Dougherty, a licensed professional engineer in Rowlett, contributed 85 hours helping a small water and wastewater company whose manager had suddenly left. “By re-creating the company’s records and submitting them to the TCEQ, as well as preparing its wastewater permit for renewal, Cathy performed a valuable service,” says Scheidler.
EnviroMentors appreciate the variety offered by the program. “No two cases are ever alike,” says Jeanne Yturri of Zephyr Environmental Corporation in Austin. “No matter how many times I pick up the phone, I can still be surprised by the variety of situations.”
Many EnviroMentors also find volunteering to be a deeply rewarding experience. “The program has given us a chance to work with small companies that have critical environmental needs,” says Michael Whitehead, president of W&M Environmental Group, Plano. “It’s a great opportunity for those with a passion to help others.”
The TCEQ is currently looking for EnviroMentors in Midland, San Angelo, Abilene, and El Paso. If you’d like to volunteer, contact Scheidler at firstname.lastname@example.org. And if you’d like an EnviroMentor to lend your business a helping hand, please visit www.TexasEnviroHelp.org.
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