Employee Spotlight: Darrell Thompson, California Operations Lead

October 21, 2021

On its own, California is the fifth-largest economy in the world. The most populous state in our country is home to the operations of some of our biggest clients, and CEC did not have an established base to serve California clients — until now.

CEC has officially expanded its footprint from coast to coast with the addition of California operations and California lead Darrell Thompson.

Darrell is an environmental consultant and solid waste engineer specializing in landfill gas engineering, operations, and compliance. He has 28 years of experience, including 24 years of project work and building client relationships in California, where he will leverage those relationships to help CEC grow its client base and solidify the firm’s nationwide coverage.

“California is a huge territory with no shortage of chances to quickly tap into the tremendous client base,” Darrell says. “Throughout the company, we have a deep bench of technical professionals and experts from the wide array of industries we serve, so the timing is right and our clients are receptive. California has the need, the key clients, and the opportunities to bring CEC’s multidisciplinary expertise to the West Coast, where companies are ready for some new faces.”

How much of a game-changer is it for CEC to have established operations in California?

California generates more than 40 million tons of waste annually and has some of the most stringent environmental regulations in the United States, particularly regulations geared toward combating climate change. It’s a huge market for all types of engineering and consulting services. By having an office and resources in California, we can leverage relationships our employees, who were former leaders in the industry, have with major waste management companies here. The combination of a deep technical bench and decades of industry experience formulates innovative, sensible, and cost-effective solutions where our competitors fall short.

Are there impending environmental regulatory concerns waste companies should be aware of?

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) continues to be a prevailing concern in the waste industry, and we are anticipating regulatory actions in response to recent data that has been collected in California. We are seeing examples of increased costs in raw leachate disposal and, in some cases, limitations on or rejection of leachate disposal altogether at treatment facilities. This is driving our clients to seek out costly disposal options, including on-site treatment.

Is there a trend in California that could offer new opportunities?

California’s aggressive emissions reductions goals are driving opportunities in Renewable Energy tied to the solid waste industry. The low carbon fuel standard and California’s cap and trade market have attractive financial incentives for the production and sale of Renewable Natural Gas (RNG) due the value of credits associated with fuels derived from renewable sources such as dairy waste, biosolids, food waste, landfill gas, and solar. Major players in the renewable energy market have committed to dozens of projects in California and nationally, so there are more chances to help companies reach their goals as they take advantage of these financial incentives and credits.

Describe a unique project you’ve worked on.

One of the most unique projects I’ve worked on was the assessment and control of an aluminum dross reaction at a landfill in the Midwest. Elevated temperatures at landfills and the result of the reaction of one waste with another can result in unexpected landfill conditions, such as excess gas pressures, rapid settlement, generation of addition liquid waste, damage to landfill infrastructure, odors, and personnel safety issues. Over the years, landfill owners have gained an appreciation for the importance of understanding the potential side effects of receiving certain waste and how they react under certain environmental conditions. Seeing firsthand what can happen underground gave me a deep appreciation for what various waste decomposition processes can do, the chemistry of the processes, the risk owners and operators take versus reward, and the importance of safety for crews working on landfills. In these situations, solutions often require out-of-the-box thinking and the lessons learned are incredibly valuable.

What are some hot-button topics clients in California should be aware of?

Beginning January 1, 2022, under Senate Bill 1383 (SB1383), all jurisdictions in California are required to provide collection and now enforce separation of organic waste at residences and businesses, with few exceptions. Collection of organic wastes and compliance with this mandate will be accomplished by amending hauling contracts, providing labeled bins, conducting routine waste audits of haul routes, distributing educational materials, and by issuing citations for non-compliance.

This is a significant hot button for jurisdictions and our clients for the following reasons. In California, “organics” are defined as food waste, green waste, landscape and pruning waste, applicable textiles and carpets, wood, lumber, fiber, manure, biosolids, digestate and sludges. This represents roughly two-thirds of the total waste landfilled in California. As part of the state’s climate change initiatives, California has a goal to reduce the disposal of organic waste by 75% by 2025 and increase food waste recovery by 20% by 2025. These are aggressive goals driving tremendous need for additional infrastructure and technology, which is why CEC’s experts in organics management are so vital to our operations in California. Our professionals understand the operational challenges presented by fluctuations in waste streams, and we can assist our clients in complying with SB1383 and its impacts on the industry.

California recognizes the deficiency in the infrastructure and has created tens of millions of dollars in grant money available for qualified organics facility projects. We have relationships with organics industry leaders helping municipalities fund new infrastructure, and we are positioning ourselves alongside top waste companies to offer sensible, cost-effective solutions to handling the expected influx of organics on the market. For example, we recently were awarded a compost facility design and permitting project with a major California waste company, and we look forward to helping other companies meet the requirements of SB1383.


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CEC’s California Operations  |  Solid Waste  |  Waste Management  |  Environmental 

About the Author


CEC Staff

Headquartered in Pittsburgh, Civil & Environmental Consultants, Inc. (CEC) provides comprehensive market-oriented consulting services to advance client strategic business objectives. CEC is recognized for delivering innovative design solutions and integrated expertise in air quality, civil engineering, ecological sciences, environmental engineering and sciences, manufacturing infrastructure services, survey/geospatial, waste management, and water resources.

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