Jack Guswa, Board Member, LSP Board of Registration  

By: Katherine Robertson, Robertson Associates, and the LSPA's Media Consultant
This is the third in a series of articles profiling current members of the LSP Board of Registration.   

LSP Board member Jack Guswa has reached that time in his professional career when he has flexibility to pretty much pick and choose what he wants to do with his time. One of the things he chose was to serve on the LSP Board, where he has filled one of the LSP slots for seven years.

Guswa, who has been an LSP since 1993, has spent over four decades traveling around the world and cutting his teeth on some
of the nation's major environmental challenges. After earning his doctorate in hydrogeology from Penn State and spending seven years with the USGS, Guswa entered the private sector, first with Arthur D. Little and later with GeoTrans, a "boutiquey" firm with 50 employees and a single focus - hydrogeology. When Guswa joined GeoTrans in 1985, he was charged with setting up the New England Office. At that time he was the only New England employee.

GeoTrans was acquired by Tetra Tech in the late 1980s. In 2004, after several more acquisitions increased the Tetra Tech company size to almost 10,000 employees, Guswa resigned his position as a Vice President of GeoTrans to form JG Environmental, Inc., where he is the chief cook and bottle-washer, and the only employee. Guswa says the decision to leave GeoTrans was a matter of personal preference. The Tetra Tech family of companies was too big for his liking, and Guswa found himself spending too much time on the phone or in meetings. "I'd rather pick and choose my own frustrations rather that have them imposed on me by someone else," he says.

Guswa's professional resume reads like a who's who of high profile environmental hot spots. There was the S-Area Landfill on the Niagara Frontier (which, along with the Hyde Park Landfill, 102nd Street Landfill and Love Canal were all former disposal sites of Hooker Chemical). He was heavily involved on behalf of the US EPA in litigation concerning the Ottati and Goss/Great Lakes Container Corporation Site in Kingston, New Hampshire, the first federal Superfund site to go to trial. There was his work as an expert witness for WR Grace at the Wells G & H Site in Woburn, Massachusetts, a case which received some notoriety in the book and the movie titled "A Civil Action." Guswa thinks that while the book and movie may have been interesting entertainment, neither was a good representation of the site and trial facts.  

In the 1980s, he worked for the US EPA on the United States' search for a suitable geologic repository for high-level nuclear waste. One of the criteria for the repository site was that it had to be geologically stable for 10,000 years; more than 30 years later, a repository has yet to be approved, Guswa said. He has also done hydrogeological consulting internationally, working on several groundwater contamination projects in Canada, a radioactive waste disposal site evaluation project in Spain, and a water resource project in Oman.  

Then there is one of his favorites, a DOE-funded Aquifer Thermal Energy Storage project in Minnesota he worked on in the early days of his career while still employed by the USGS. According to Guswa, this was one of three nationwide demonstration projects funded during the late 1970s energy crisis. The objective of the projects was to test the feasibility of injecting and storing heat in the ground to be extracted at a later time. In Guswa's project, the heat was derived from vented steam from an electric power plant and used to heat water that was injected in the ground to a depth of 600 feet. Several months later the heated groundwater was extracted, passed through a heat exchanger, and the extracted heat was used to heat a building on the University of Minnesota campus. However, when the energy crisis ended, so did Guswa's demonstration project.

Today, Guswa is cutting back on his workload and focusing on a limited number of clients, sticking with those with whom he has a long-term relationship and who have provided interesting projects for him to work on. But he also found himself wanting to give something back to the profession. "I am sort of at the end of my career now and have been gradually increasing the amount of volunteer professional work that I do," says Guswa. "I have been a long-term Associate Editor for the professional journal Groundwater and thought that, with my background, I might also be helpful to the LSP Board."

So, when approached in 2006, by then-LSP Board member Bob Luhrs and then-Board Chair and Board member Janine Commerford, and asked if he had any interest in serving on the LSP Board, it took him less than two weeks to say yes. It was, he said, a good decision. "I certainly have enjoyed my time," says Guswa, who just came up for air after being on the committee charged with drafting the LSP exam.  

After the first few years of his tenure, the Board became a bit unsettled, Guswa said, noting that it had experienced significant staff reductions and changes in leadership and membership. "It was difficult to feel as if you could keep your head above water," he said.  

Staffing levels have increased and the Board appears to have righted itself, says Guswa. It has moved on from its long-time focus on reducing the backlog of disciplinary cases to other things such as the exam rewrite, organizational transparency, and continuing education.

There still are formal complaints against LSPs that have to be addressed, but there are considerably fewer than in the Board's early days, a fact Guswa attributes to the privatized program's maturity and a better understanding among all stakeholders about the process. That said, disciplinary cases are still the most challenging part of Board functions. "To me, it is the most difficult thing the Board has to deal with," Guswa says. The process is time consuming, says Guswa, and it is a challenge to speed it up while maintaining fairness. "A case can take years," he says, but quickening the pace is easier said than done. The process - including the collection of documents and the appeals process -takes time. And any changes in the process would have to be made without compromising the thoroughness of the reviews and the fairness of the decisions.  

For Guswa, the biggest recent task was the rewrite of the exam based on the MCP revisions which went into effect this spring. The exam - which is expected to be administered in the fall of 2014, is soon to be reviewed by a psychometrician to ensure the validity of the questions. Guswa also expects there will be greater transparency in the criteria the Board uses to decide which applicants will be approved to take the LSP Exam. "There will be a little bit more documentation of the decision-making process," he says. "The tricky part of this is that there is always the opportunity to judge what the Board considers 'experience.' This could get very subjective so we decided that as a matter of fairness to all applicants we should have better documentation and have more of a written record of what our recommendation is based on."

The future of continuing education is also rising to the top of the Board's agenda. Guswa, for one, is interested in exploring on-line education and is working with the LSPA to explore what other states are doing. "It certainly makes sense to allow for on-line training," he says, envisioning a closer collaboration between the LSPA Education Committee and the LSP Board. "It's going to take a while but it's going to happen," he predicts. "We are working to develop a more comprehensive policy."

With respect to the relationship between the Board and MassDEP, Guswa believes it is important for the LSP community to understand and recognize that the Board is not an 'arm of the DEP.' Board members do not like that characterization, because we truly try to operate as an independent Board. The Board and DEP do need to cooperate on certain issues, but this is not to say we should get "cozy" with the DEP, and we do not, he said.  

Guswa believes that the recent initiatives to effect collaboration among the various states that have privatized hazardous waste site cleanup programs, such as Connecticut and New Jersey, could be good for the environmental profession as a whole. He thinks this collaboration represents an opportunity to learn from a larger database of experience for the overall benefit of the individual programs.

Regarding collaboration with the LSPA, Guswa thinks the Board initially felt it needed to be distant from the LSPA, but expects that going forward the LSPA and the Board will work together on some technical issues and on continuing education. It's important to have that input from people familiar with the standard of practice, he says, noting that the majority of Board members are not LSPs. Guswa sees the LSPA and the LSP Board working together with increased frequency in the future. While there will always be boundaries between the two, it is, he says, "a natural evolution."