Lab Director Jackie Villinski came to MEL in 2013 after 20 years as a research chemist.
Dave Southard has been running metals at MEL since 1983!
John Bartlett specializes in TOC, cyanides and nitrate/nitrite. He came to the lab in 1992.
Todd Pakulski joined MEL in 1987. He specializes in inorganics.
Dan Connolly has been with MEL since 1990. He runs BOD, pH, ignitabilities, TCLPs, and manages hazardous wastes.
Sample Manager Kristi Hoppe's tact and drive keeps everything running smoothly. She joined MEL in 2007.
Data Manager Kathryn Balzer's eye for detail has been invaluable to the lab since 2012.
Technical Assistant to the Director Elizabeth Muentener plays bookkeeper on the side. She joined the lab in 2016.
Owner/ Manager Susannah Beck Miller started washing glassware at the lab in 1984.
The multi-talented Suzanne Muir joined MEL's sample reception, data and reporting crew in 2020.
Geologist Martha Mixon cut her teeth on lab work at MEL from 1989-2003, and rejoined MEL as a professional consultant in 2020.
It started with rocks.
Maine Environmental Laboratory (MEL) was founded as Northeast Geochemical Company in 1979 by Fred Beck, a mineral exploration geologist doing consulting work in Maine and Northern New England. At that time, a company wanting to test soil or rocks for mineral content had to send samples to Denver, Salt Lake City, or Reno, Nevada. Most companies were looking for deposits of copper, lead, or zinc, and thousands of soils samples were shipped west annually. Shipping delays as well as slow western lab turnaround times caused logistical problems for the mineral exploration groups working in the Northeast.
Seeing a possible business opportunity and wanting to supplement his consulting business, Fred started the laboratory in Yarmouth with one employee, Helen Lataille, a former hospital lab technician. Herb Kodis, a recent USM geology graduate, was hired to assist her and by 1982 had been promoted to lab director, a title he held until his retirement in 2012. To accommodate rapid growth, in 1982 the lab moved from a rented basement at NYA to its present location in a former sawmill at 1 Main Street on the banks of the Royal River at the Lower Falls.
Over time, Northeast Geochemical Company’s menu of services increased, and the name was changed to Northeast Geochemical and Assay Company. Fire assay tests for gold and silver were of particular interest to mining companies at the time. Fire assaying involved a major commitment of time, space and capital for crushers, pulverizers, and two electric furnaces (similar to kilns). The lab was the only fire assay lab on the East Coast and rock samples were received from as far away as Georgia.
Stricter mining laws enacted in the mid-1980s saw mining companies shift their focus from base-metal exploration on the East Coast to the search for gold in Nevada, and Latin and South America. Fire assay orders dropped off and the lab adapted by expanding into the analysis of “environmental” samples, that is, testing every type of material that needed to be tested, including liquids.
The market for environmental testing was growing due to new State and Federal regulations requiring virtually all businesses and municipalities to test wastewaters or solid waste products before discharging them or sending them to a landfill. In 1985, the lab formed a new division called Maine Environmental Laboratory to handle the new services. By the early 1990s, 90% of the lab’s business was “environmental.”
We are Family
In 2013, Fred's daughter Susannah Miller became lab manager and quickly hired chemist Jackie Villinski to be lab technical director. Fresh off a 20-year career creating new products at Tom's of Maine, Jackie's experience with advanced systems has proven invaluable to MEL, and her willingness to take on any chemical puzzle has brought in new clients in fields as diverse as manure-to-methane plants to VA hospitals. In 2016, Susannah bought a majority share in Maine Environmental Laboratory, enabling it to become a federally designated Woman-Owned Small Business.
Today, our four analysts (Dave, Dan, John and Todd) have a combined 120 years of experience in analytical chemistry. Owing to their expertise and our phenomenal support staff, Maine Environmental Laboratory has one of the best reputations in the area, and earns continual high marks from State auditors.
Personal service, long relationships with clients, reliable and quick turn-around times, adhering to the strictest quality control standards—that's what separates Maine Environmental Lab from the pack.