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Drones in Environmental Investigations

The usage of drones by civilians has increased significantly over the past few years.  An estimated 600,000 drones will be in use by commercial enterprises by 2018. The top industry using drones in the United States is photography with the second largest being real estate ( DMR,  Drones have been used in military applications for years but as the drones move to the commercial industry and to hobbyists, concerns have been raised regarding safety and enforcement of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations.  The FAA refers to drones as an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) and regulations apply for personal and professional use.  With drones becoming more common, it’s important to know the rules.  Even if you’re just flying a drone for fun, you must register with the FAA, stay at least 5 miles away from airports unless you have prior permission from air traffic control, and have the drone in a person’s line of sight at all times.  Visit the FFA’s website for rules regarding Fly for Fun, Fly for Work.

Scientists have been exploring the use of drones in environmental applications for several years.  Drones can be used to collect ecological data by aerial surveillance without disturbing sensitive environments or species thus limiting human interaction that can often be damaging to the environment.  Drones have also been applied to situations to minimize the risk of human injury such as surveying elevated heights or assessing conditions that may result in physical danger.  The usage of drones also provides efficiency in surveying.  For example, drones are used to survey pipeline corridors from remote stations saving both time and energy by not using aerial flight to photograph corridors.  Drones use a number of imaging techniques including infrared sensing, which can be used to measure vegetation growth and photogrammetry, a remote sensing process that creates an “ortho-mosaic” of the area.  This technology has been used in real estate functions such as Property Condition Assessments and Phase I Environmental Site Assessments.  Other environmental applications include detecting water intrusion, animal management and conservation, coastal management, river and flood management, plant conservation, forestry, regulation enforcement, and monitoring change.

There are two UAS Platform Types of drones: fixed wing and rotary. Fixed wing drones generate lift through wings while rotary drones generate lift by rotating propellers. This allows rotary drones to land and takeoff from the ground while fixed wing drones must be started by throwing into the air. Fixed wings have longer endurance times, are generally faster, and are more efficient for large areas. Rotary drones are more flexible, can hover, fly lower, and are better for inspections/higher resolution pictures. Both drones can be autonomously flown using apps or by defining a set path.  Drones are now being researched for use to count livestock, check fence lines and roads, find missing animals, and measure the nutritive value of forage.

SSCI participated in a webinar entitled “Drones on Rangelands–The Basics” presented by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service ecosystem science and management unit.  In the presentation, an example of drone use in range land application was provided.  The drones map out the area surveyed and then a computer software is used to search for the shape of the cattle and take out the background aerial image leaving only the cattle, as seen on the right side with the yellow background. The program then counts the number of outlines of cattle.

Summer is Here, 2017 Company Picnic

SSCI recently held its annual Ranch Picnic located at the Hodges Ranch in Santa Fe, Texas. SSCI was also happy to host CRG Texas Environmental Services, Inc. at the annual Ranch Picnic.  This year’s Ranch Picnic featured a wide variety of delicious Texas BBQ!  From ribs, chicken, sausage, and smoked brisket to tasty sweet treats, a fun time was had by all!  Friendly competitive games of corn-hole and croquet commenced between a few SSCI and CRG employees throughout the afternoon.  A ranch tour was provided by Ms. Helen Hodges, President of SSCI, to all who attended the festivities.  Throughout the tour Ms. Hodges showed guests a few of her retired performance horses, her beef cattle, and a tour of her lovely ranch home.


All guests left the Ranch Picnic far too full of BBQ and with many fond memories!  Planning for the 2018 SSCI Ranch Picnic is already underway!


Southeast Texas Cooperative Purchasing Organization

Separation Systems Consultants, Inc. has been awarded a vendor contract by the Southeast Texas Cooperative Purchasing Organization.   Cooperative buying can provide lower prices and better quality for school districts.   Region 5 Education Service Center (ESC) acts as the coordinator for this cooperative and facilitates the process needed for it to be successful.  Through the ESC Region 5, SSCI has been awarded an Environmental Services contract.

Purchasing Cooperative Members include school districts, colleges, cities, counties, and charter schools.  Members participating in the SETCP can access SSCI’s vendor profile by searching the Vendor Database.

Southeast Texas Purchasing Cooperative
Awarded Vendors

June 1, 2017 to May 31, 2018

Company Name:
Separation Systems Consultants, Inc.
Contact Person:
Jo Keim
17041 El Camino Real, Suite 200
City, State Zip:
Houston, TX 77058
Telephone Number:
Fax Number:
Email Address:
Website (www.):
EIN Number:
Printable W9:
Call for quote


Provides Service:
Environmental consulting, Phase I & II ESAs, asbestos & lead surveys, remediation, soil and groundwater sampling and waste disposal.
Category 1:
Environmental Services




Season’s Greetings from SSCI

Seasons Greetings




Separation Systems Consultants, Inc.

17041 El Camino Real #200
Houston, TX 77058



During the Holiday Season, our thoughts turn to those who have helped us achieve our goals throughout the years:  our customers, teaming partners, family and friends.  To give back and show our gratitude for another successful year, we have made donations to Armand Bayou Nature Center, The League City Historical Society and Interfaith Caring Ministries.top_logo

Armand Bayou Nature Center (ABNC) was founded, based on the conviction that an educated, involved community is vital to the preservation of our natural environment.  ABNC’s mission is to provide environmental education to the public and act as the steward of the 2,500 undeveloped acres under its care.  ABNC receives no regular government funding and relies on foundation support, contributions from business and industry, dues, special project funding and the goodwill of the public for financing.  For more information, visit ABNC at

League City Historical SocietyThe League City Historical Society is a non-profit organization. The mission of this Historical Society is to promote and to preserve the historical value of League City, to educate the community on the rich history of the League City area, and to foster a positive community spirit for rebuilding, restoring, and preserving the historical area of League City. For more information, visit The League City Historical Society at

Interfaith Caring Ministries



Interfaith Caring Ministries (ICM) was founded in 1985 by a group of churches concerned with the growing needs of families in the local area.  Today ICM serves thousands of individuals, families and seniors.  For more information, visit ICM at

SSCI greatly appreciates you and looks forward to working with you in 2016.  Have an environmentally safe and prosperous New Year!

Warmest wishes from all of us at SSCI.  Happy Holidays!


The SSCI Team

 DBE, SBE, WBE, and HUB firm

SSCI has 30 years of services experience in providing consistent, high-qualify engineering and environmental services.

Chrystal Fretwell Joins SSCI Houston

Environmental Scientist Chrystal Fretwell has officially joined the SSCI Houston team this December. CF Ms. Fretwell began her internship at SSCI in May of 2015 during her final year at the University of Houston-Clear Lake and continued to contribute as an Environmental Technician after the completion of her internship.  During her time at SSCI, she has become proficient in Phase I Environmental Site Assessments (ESAs), Records Search with Risk Assessments (RSRAs) and natural resources and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) compliance projects.  Ms. Fretwell has served as a key team member in various locally and federally funded projects.  She has assisted in the performance of Affected Property Assessment Reports (APAR) under the Texas Risk Reduction Program (TRRP), and other groundwater sampling and remediation projects.  Her sampling experience includes ground water, asbestos, and lead-based paint, as well as, soils related to spill clean-ups, remediation and petroleum storage tank properties.

When Ms. Fretwell is not working hard at the office, she is competing in barrel races all around Texas and Louisiana!  Ms. Fretwell has been competing in barrel racing since she was 10 years old, and after her long days at the office she enjoys spending time taking care of her horses.

Congratulations Chrystal Fretwell on receiving your Bachelors of Science degree in Environmental Science of Biology!

League City Historical Society Living History Dinner

In September 2015, SSCI team members attended the League City Historical Society Living History Dinner at the Walding Station in League City, Texas.  The League City Historical Society’s annual fundraiser offers the opportunity to spend an evening with a famous “figure in history”.  This year the nationally known Larry Marple from Ohio provided an informative and entertaining portrayal of the Colonel Theodore Roosevelt.  Mr. Marple played the role of Col. Roosevelt riding along with his Rough Riders as they headed to Cuba to fight for Cuban Independence.

20150912_220431 (1)SSCI’s President, Helen I. Hodges, serves on the Board of Directors for the League City Historical Society (LCHS) as well as most of SSCI’s employees serve as members of LCHS.  SSCI’s LCHS members attended the Living History Dinner and were greatly amazed by the event.  The venue was full of fascinating antiques from a huge antique fire truck to old time barber chairs.  A Silent Auction was held during the event auctioning off a wide selection of items provided by many contributors ranging from baked goods to paintings.  SSCI attendees were intrigued to learn about Col. Roosevelt’s life journey. During the audience interaction, Mr. Marple’s knowledge as Col. Roosevelt was dramatically put to the test.

Mrs. Theresa Abell with SSCI said, “The man definitely knew his stuff! Intense questioning from the audience livened up the details as well as his thoughts behind decisions he’d made as our President.  I was thrilled to realize that we share the same birthday, October 27th. Definitely an event I would recommend to all and a big ‘thank you’ to LCHS for providing us this unique experience of history! I’d give it a ***** (5 stars).”

Overall, SSCI gave the performance two thumbs up and anxiously awaits The League City Historical Society’s next event “Ghosts of the Past” Genealogy in a Cemetery.  The event will be held Saturday, October 31, 2015 come rain or shine to deliver fun and enlightening tales of the genealogy of the Pioneer Family of Gordy. Surnames include Gordy, Derrick, McFaddin, Rakestraw and Frost.  The tour includes West Bay Common School Children’s Museum, 210 N. Kansas Street, and continues with a short drive to Fairview Cemetery.

For more information and tour times for this event, please call the Museum at 281-554-2994 or chairperson, Deborah Gammon at 281-334-4950.


From left to right: Theresa Abell with SSCI, Jo Drake Keim with SSCI, Helen I. Hodges with SSCI, Larry Marple as Theodore Roosevelt, Dan Tibbals with SSCI, and Timm Mull with Hodges Ranches.

Throwback Thursday to SSCI’s July Barbecue

ranch and horses

The Hodges’ Ranch

Throwback Thursday to SSCI’s barbecue where the SSCI Houston office celebrated Mr. Dan Tibbals’ recent achievement of passing the Professional Geoscientist exam and begun the planning of SSCI’s 30th birthday celebration.  SSCI employees and their families were invited to enjoy the beautiful summer day at the Hodges’ Ranch in Santa Fe, Texas on July 12, 2015.

 “It was a great opportunity to meet each other’s spouses and children -those people we know so well from conversations with co-workers, but not in person,” said Ms. Jo Keim.

Children petting the horses at the SSCI barbecue.

Activities at the ranch included feeding and grooming horses, rounding up the cows, an overview of the ranch operations, horseback riding, feasting on various delicious food dishes, and swimming in the Hodges’ pool.  The afternoon highlight was brought by a demo of a remotely controlled quadcopter with a camera which performed fun aerial stunts while providing visual aerial views of distant ranch pastures.

At the end of the day, SSCI’s employees agreed that the gathering was a great way to get together and socialize, and that more 30th year anniversary planning sessions are in order!