In a class room on Carl Sandburg College in Galesburg, a small group of people sat watching a presentation by Tom Malek.
Malek owns Crossfire Soil Remediation. He helps businesses clean up contaminated soil using his portable decontamination device which he said is more economical and environmentally friendly than current methods.
He said his Crossfire system can be used to clean soil from chemical spills, fuel spills or old industrial sites.
Also in the classroom was Amanda Marruffo, an environmental operations manager with BNSF Railway. She said that Malek's presentation immediately sparked ideas for how her company could use his system.
"I mean we have remediation sites all over the country, from derailments, diesel spills, things that have happened historically a long time ago,” Marruffo said.
Marruffo and Malek were at the college as part of a group called the Green Team. It was founded by Galesburg businessman, Gary Lay.
Lay owns S.W.A.P. which stands for Solar Wind Alternative Power. He specializes in small scale solar and wind power systems for homes and businesses.
He said he started the Green Team this spring to connect business and other groups in the area that are interested in environmentally friendly ideas.
He joked that he was starting to get depressed because he thought he was the only one working on such ideas in the area, but he said that after starting the Green Team he's realized that he definitely not alone.
"I mean there are so many people with the colleges and businesses that are very progressive thinking and very open to ideas and that kind of thing. But we’re all disconnected,” Lay said.
Marruffo, whose territory covers all of Illinois and Iowa, said she has not run into this type of group, on this level, before.
Representatives from Knox College, Carl Sandburg College, University of Illinois Extension as well as several business owners have joined.
“At a smaller level, within BNSF, you’ll see little groups, green team groups, get together and it’ll maybe only be for a facility and they’ll say ‘you know what, we need to start recycling at this facility and how can we do that?’ It’s a much smaller level, but to see it at a community level, a whole community, it’s pretty unique,” Marruffo said.
One of the Green Team’s goals is to connect business’s like Tom Malek’s Crossfire Soil Remediation, with clients like BNSF.
Tom Mallek with Crossfire Remediation said he has worked with clients in several states, including Alaska, but just making people aware of his services is still a challenge.
“That’s part of the biggest problem, just knowing that you even exist. Even if you have an online presence, the search engines don’t always find you,” Malek said.
Group Founder Gary Lay said the possible collaboration between BNSF and Tom Malek isn’t the first relationship started at a green team meeting.
He said a woman from the Peoria area expressed interest in some of Lay’s solar units for a hydroponic garden and a U of I extension agent provided a man interested in starting an organic garden with the information he needed to start planning his operation.
Lay said the Green Team's meetings have become less frequent this summer as people had other commitments, but he said he’ll schedule more frequent meetings and workshops this fall and winter when more people are likely to attend.