By Lori Kropidlowski, AEI’s Business Development/Marketing Group Manager
Ahtna Environmental, Inc. (AEI) has been recognized as one of the Engineering News Record (ENR) magazine’s “2021 Top 200 Environmental Firms” in the nation. We well exceeded the $18M environmental annual revenue threshold to rank at 189. This was while facing the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic that challenged project execution for both our clients and the Ahtna Group of Companies.
A few examples of meeting these unique challenges include Ahtna work for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Alaska District on both the Ogliuga Island Formerly Used Defense Sites (FUDS) Remedial Investigation and the Davis AFB Cantonment Area FUDS Removal Action Soil Load-Out projects led by Sr. Project Manager Vivian Tokar. In March and April 2020, as the initial COVID-19 state and local community mandates were implemented, the execution of remote project work in Alaska became much more complicated. One of Ahtna’s main clients is the USACE Alaska District and the DoD’s direction was to work within the COVID-19 mandates to execute scheduled work. In 2020 the City of Adak closed to non-residents to protect their population from the virus. This led Alaska Marine Lines (AML) to restrict non-employee passengers from their landing craft vessels. Both the Ogliuga Island and Davis AFB Cantonment Area FUDS projects had planned on using Adak as a logistical hub and catching a ride on AML to the remote portions of Adak and the uninhabited Ogliuga Island.
Ahtna’s leadership team and our local subcontractors pulled together and developed a new logistical support plan capitalizing on our existing subcontract with Support Vessels of Alaska to provide personnel transport to both islands from Dutch Harbor. COVID-19 mitigation plans were developed for both projects and submitted to the State of Alaska. Our project staff quarantined for 14 days and reported temperatures and symptoms daily through an online portal prior to heading out to the project sites. Both crews completed their tasks; the Davis load out of the contaminated soil was completed quickly and efficiently in about a week and the Ogliuga team was gone for the month of May. In Alaska, with our short work season and resource constraints, it is not easy to delay projects for a year or even a month. Ahtna’s creativity, our good relationships with our local vendors, and everyone’s willingness to work together to safely ensure local project execution allowed for the USACE Alaska District to keep these two FUDS program sites on the path to final cleanup.
Another example of our meeting the pandemic challenge was Ahtna’s Camp Parks Burn Pit Removal Action project located in Dublin, CA for the USACE Los Angeles (LA) District. Led by Construction Site Manager Sommer Carter, the team incorporated COVID-specific standard operating procedures, which required frequent updates to coincide with county, state, and federal health guidelines. The resulting plan contained strict protocols for all elements of the field work and required implementing additional decontamination, documentation, and tracking procedures. During a mid-project site tour with the USACE LA District personnel, Ahtna received comments from the tour group on the project’s expanded safety operations and procedures which included “a model for COVID management” and “a highly organized excavation site.”
As mobilization began in June 2020 and global coronavirus pandemic restrictions intensified, the Southwest Environmental (SWE) team acted quickly to design and rapidly implement COVID-specific field safety standard operating procedures, intensive social distance monitoring and sanitation maintenance, and real-time updates to coincide with Ahtna, federal, state, and county health guidelines. Ahtna completed the multi-depth precision removal action on time, under budget, and with zero safety incidents.
AEI President Tim Finnigan said, “Making the ‘ENR Top 200 Environmental Firms’ list is a first for Ahtna and something to be proud of. We as a group have worked together to make Ahtna a well-known and respected name in the environmental industry. I personally want to thank all our staff for your hard work, attention to quality, and customer satisfaction. This is a great achievement.”