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Someone Special

by Clare Coppa

In 1968, nine-year old Zdenek Hejzlar watched Russian tanks roll through his hometown of Hronov, Czechoslovakia, near the Polish border.

Three days later his family fled across country into Austria, just before its border was shut down. “We couldn’t take much; whatever you could pack into one of those little Czech cars,” he recalled. “As a boy you don’t really comprehend it that much but it was scary.” Upon leaving Hronov, their land and possessions were seized by the Communist regime.

From Austria his family of three flew to the Middle East. There he would be influenced by his father’s work as a textile engineer. “Most of the kids my age at that point in Iran were working in the factory. So I didn’t have many kids my age to play with. I ended up often going to work with my father and he introduced me to a lot of neat things.”

During Hejzlar’s adolescence, the family relocated to South Africa where he entered an exchange student program with the Scottish College of Textiles. In Scotland, he met his future wife, Karen, an exchange student from the Philadelphia College of Textiles, and eventually decided to finish his studies in the United States.

Now a Ph.D., Hejzlar is director of Environmental Management with Breen & Associates, Florida, a division of Engineering Systems, Inc., Illinois, that provides specialized research and engineering services. An active member of ASTM Committee E50 on Environmental Assessment, Hejzlar devoted his doctoral dissertation to ASTM Manual 43, Technical Aspects of Phase I/II Environmental Site Assessments, which he authored. He holds a Ph.D. in Occupational Safety and Health Engineering and degrees in chemistry and statistical analysis.

Zdenek teaches ASTM technical courses, “Environmental Site Assessments for Commercial Real Estate: Phase I and Transaction Screen Process”; “Phase II Environmental Site Assessments”; and “Property Condition Assessments” developed with his assistance by Committee E50.

“We don’t want to bore the readers with too much of my life story,” he laughed. “Since I became a trainer for ASTM, I’ve traveled around the United States and around the world on behalf of ASTM and it’s been a wonderful experience. I’ve met many, many interesting people. With all the things that I have learned in the past, every time I go somewhere and teach another course, I learn something new."

According to Scott Murphy, director of ASTM Education Services, Hejzlar served as technical expert for ASTM’s first computer-based training course on environmental site assessment. He also taught instructors in Seoul who are presenting the Phase I course in Korea, and is working with the Navy Environmental Health Center on a new ASTM course, “Environmental Site Assessments for Military Deployment Sites.”

Recently, Hejzlar was chosen for a Brownfields advisory board formed by the City of Fort Myers, Fla., to coordinate Phase I and II assessments for abandoned gasoline stations, coal tar plants, shops for auto-repair, and those where chlorinated solvents were used. “Nobody wants to redevelop them because they are worried that basically the sites are contaminated and nobody’s willing to invest in them,” he explained. The city was selected as a U.S. EPA Brownfield Assessment Pilot Community. “What the Brownfields Program is doing is providing some incentives for the owners or developers to investigate these properties and if there is contamination to clean them up and return these properties to good use.”

Hejzlar’s specialty is deciding which remediation technologies are best suited to specific sites—based on assessments done according to standards developed by Hejzlar and his ASTM colleagues. “I’ve really and truly enjoyed my relationship with ASTM,” he concluded. “It’s something that gives you an opportunity to interact with many other people. Working on the committee, you get to know the people that are in the same field. So ASTM has been great for me. I enjoy the experience.”

Copyright 2001, ASTM