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List of Consultants Practicing in RI

Questions to ask a when hiring a consultant

Hiring an Environmental Consultant

You may find that cleaning up a contaminated site can be not only complex, but also costly, if not done right. You may also be surprised to learn that your problem is relatively simple and well within your budget. In either case, it may be in your best interest want to retain an environmental consultant. The following information is intended to help you choose the right consultant.

Finding the Right Consultant & Initial Contact

Once you have a clear understanding of the scope of work, you will want to develop a list of potential consultants. The State of Rhode Island does not have a consultant certification program for site remediation work.  DEM maintains a list of consultants who have notified the Department that they are engaged in environmental investigations and remediation work.  This list is not, however, a recommendation or reference list.  Other recommendations may come from professional societies, other companies in your industry, or trade organizations. 

Once you have narrowed your search, contact the consultant you may wish to hire. Request a list of completed projects and the names of the project managers who engaged the services of the consultant. This should help you determine whether the consultant has experience suited to your needs.

If the consultant has completed similar projects get in touch with the references provided. Ask the scope and nature of the services provided and whether they were satisfied with the work performed.

The Next Step - Meeting with a Consultant

Once you have identified a consultant who appears to meet your needs, request a meeting. Some important issues you may want to discuss in this initial meeting include:

Staffing & Specific knowledge about the training and experience of those individuals who will be representing your interests should be acquired and reviewed. Request the resumes of all persons who will be assigned to the project. You need to determine if the right people are available to complete the project. At a minimum, any person performing remediation work should be trained in health and safety protection in accordance with federal requirements (29 CFR 1910).

Knowledge of Rhode Island Regulatory requirements - If a consultant does not have a thorough knowledge and understanding of these regulations, project delays and additional costs may result. At a minimum, a consultant performing site remediation work must be familiar with:
  • DEM policies concerning:
  • Field Sampling Procedures / Analytical Methods for Reporting (Appendix B of the regulations)

Insurance Coverage - You should review the consultant's insurance coverage in detail. Your careful consideration will help you make an informed business decision regarding the risks your company is willing to take. For example, the consultant could cause new contamination, worsen the existing contamination, or damage a third party's personal or real property. The absence of the right type of insurance may subject you to liability for accidents caused by the consultant.

Project Cost Estimates - A consultant cannot guarantee the outcome of remediation exploration activities (e.g., whether contamination will be found and if so to what extent). It is therefore difficult to precisely predict the cost of a project. Therefore consultants usually bill on a time and materials basis. The time required will vary for each project. Request a cost estimate for your scope of work and other work products. Bear in mind that individual consultant billing rates and estimated costs are not necessarily good indicators of the quality of the work. Remember if the work is not completed correctly, additional costs will be incurred to comply with DEM regulations.

If the consultant will not be able to complete your project within the time you require it may be advisable to select another consultant. Ask the consultant for a schedule for your project. Check the consultant's references regarding the timeliness of work.

The Final Decision

With the knowledge you obtained regarding the experience of the consultant you should be able to make an informed selection. Just as you would call several contractors and obtain several bids on home improvement projects you should take the time to do the same when selecting a consultant for site remediation work.

Request a written proposal. The proposal should include a start date in addition to the expected duration for the project. After you receive the proposals, interview the firms that have provided high quality competitively priced proposals and have presented a clear understanding of your goals and service requirements.

At this time you should also request the consultant identify any potential conflicts of interest and the controls which protect your interest.

Department Review

DEM reviews all site remediation proposals and reports for compliance with the applicable regulations. The consultant you select should clearly demonstrate a knowledge of these regulations and procedures, thus ensuring an acceptable, timely and cost effective remediation.

Further Help

EPA has two guidebooks designed to assist Performing Parties as they scope out a project and hire consultants.   See the 24 page guidebook  "Assessing Contractor Capabilities for Streamlined Site Investigations" and the 60 page Brownfields Technology Primer:  Requesting and Evaluating Proposals that Encourage Innovative Technologies for Investigation and Cleanup.   

If you have any questions regarding these suggestions please call the DEM's Office of Waste Management at (401) 222-2797. We are ready to help you. For copies of the regulations, please contact DEM's Office of Customer and Technical Assistance at or download all or part of the Remediation Regulations.

Questions to ask when hiring an Environmental Consultant

The DEM can not recommend a specific consultant to you. It can recommend some areas of inquiry for consultants and the references you were able to obtain from them. The answers to these questions should enable you to make an informed selection as a consumer of remediation services.

Scoping Questions
  • Do you want the consultant to be concerned with the entire site or only part of the site?
  • Do you want the consultant to advise and assist in the entire remediation process or only certain phases of it?

Questions to ask a Reference
  • Was the consultant timely in completing all elements of their work?
  • Were submitted documents initially approved by DEM or was it necessary to resubmit information?
  • Did the consultant work effectively with the client and the DEM project manager?

Questions for Prospective Consultants
  • Does the consultant have adequate staff to complete the project within your specified time?
  • What individual(s) will be assigned to your project and what qualifications, training or experience do they hold? Ask for resumes.
  • With respect to Health and Safety issues, how does the contractor maintain adequate site control and monitor site conditions while work is in progress?
  • Describe how the employees are familiar with the firm's Quality Assurance/Quality Control protocols. (environmental sampling and preservation techniques, documentation of sampling events, etc.)
  • What are the hourly costs associated with each person working on the project?
  • Can the consultant provide letters that demonstrate the firm has a good working relationship with subcontractors (drilling companies, laboratories, surveyors, construction companies, etc.)?
  • Does the design engineer have experience using at least three different remedial technologies to remediate releases of hazardous substances?
  • Does the consultant have experience in identifying and obtaining easements, permits, settlement agreements and approvals as necessary in order for the implementation of the remedial action?
  • Will the contractor provide a listing and description of all environmental sampling related equipment that is owned or readily accessible (indicate source) by the firm?
  • What types of liability insurance (pollution liability and errors or omissions) does the consultant (or any subcontractors it plans to use) have?
  • What does the policy cover and what are the limits?
  • How does the consultant bill you?
last updated: 1/31/14

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