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Jon Zanders

You’re investigating one of the biggest environmental catastrophes of recent years, and lawyers are watching you from every side. You’d better be very, very sure of your field sampling technique.

Jon Zanders had the skills to do the job.

Zanders, a Project Manager with Stone Environmental Science & Engineering, spent time earlier this year performing field investigations for the chemical spill on West Virginia’s Elk River on behalf of a major client. According to public records, the spill released an estimated 7,500 gallons of 4-methylcyclohexanemethanol (4-MCHM) into the river in January, leaving up to 300,000 residents without drinking water for days.

“I had a number of attorneys watching over my shoulder the whole time,” Zanders said. “You really have to have an eye for detail.”

Zanders learned his skills in Columbus State’s Environmental Science, Safety & Health program. The program teaches the technology of environmental science, health and safety; including soil and groundwater contamination, soil vapor intrusion, and hazardous waste management. The program places a heavy emphasis on the technical aspects of gathering samples in the field that are representative of current conditions.

“What’s great about the classes at Columbus State, for this field, is they show you the practical side of the industry,” Zanders said.

These days, Zanders is a “one-stop shop” as an environmental consultant. He researches the history of sites, collects samples for laboratory analysis, interprets data and prepares reports including findings, conclusions, and recommendations. His clients include commercial real estate lending institutions hoping to avoid surprises on the properties they’re financing.

He started college in 1995 at a four-year university with a football scholarship, although an injury derailed those plans. He moved down to Columbus with friends, and then started at Columbus State in 1998. He got a job in the industry while he was partway through the program, and has been working at Stone Environmental for over 15 years.

He’s added to his skills with credentials in soil vapor sampling, hazardous waste management, industrial compliance, storm water compliance, and groundwater monitoring. He even co-taught a short course for the National Ground Water Association this summer in field methods for groundwater monitoring and analysis.

In addition to being a soil and water sampling star, Zanders is also a rock star. He toured across the United States and Europe with punk bands for several years, fitting it around his consulting schedule, although now he’s more focused on his career.

Both consulting and touring scratch an itch to travel, Zanders said.

Zanders plans to add one more accomplishment this fall: finishing his Columbus State degree.

Although a partial program was good enough to get a job in the industry, he needs the credential to advance his career. He plans to transfer to a four-year college to obtain a bachelor’s degree.