It's been nearly three years since consultants from Matrix New World Engineering touched down along the Gulf Coast, where it has overseen the removal of oil, contaminated sand and other debris from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010.
But the Florham Park firm is now working on a high-profile recovery effort much closer to home. Since last month, Matrix has been consulting on a sweeping waterway debris removal project along parts of the Jersey Shore that were ravaged by Hurricane Sandy.
The work has put Matrix front and center in the recovery of cars, boats and other debris that was swallowed up in the October storm, said Dennis Petrocelli, senior vice president at the firm. The project is well under way in hard-hit areas like the Barnegat Bay, in Mantoloking, with the firm providing environmental oversight to CrowderGulf LLC, an Alabama-based debris removal company that it has partnered with in the Gulf.
"In order to make these marinas and waterways navigable, all of this stuff has to come out," Petrocelli said, noting state regulators have made such areas a priority because of their economic value. "Good weather, bad weather, we're out there dawn to dusk seven days a week, so we're working within all of the daylight hours."
The work is being done under a state contract awarded in February to CrowderGulf, which is tasked with restoring an area stretching from just south of Sandy Hook to the middle of Long Beach Island, Petrocelli said. The company's goal is to have 75 percent of the debris removed by June 1, as called for by the Department of Environmental Protection contract.
While CrowderGulf uses a range of heavy equipment and barges to remove the debris, Petrocelli said the items are first located using small boats and sonar equipment. That has allowed Matrix to tap other New Jersey firms like Weeks Marine, a Cranford-based contractor.
"It's a big task, so in order to it we need to bring in a lot of local assistance," he said.
Matrix still oversees a team of about 40 in the Gulf, despite BP's moves to consolidate the cleanup there, Petrocelli said. The work stemmed from a decision, only about three months before the oil spill, to move the firm into the disaster recovery sector, and it has paved the way for its involvement in the post-Sandy recovery.
"It was a very fortunate decision to sort of change our focus, and I think it put us out front pretty squarely," Petrocelli said.