A Hibbing analytical lab has a client list that includes developers, homeowners and federal, state and local entities — a list that includes anyone or any project that has an interest or requirement related to environmental monitoring.

And with a new organic certification, which was granted through the state department of health, RMB Environmental Laboratories Inc. is now looking to expand its services and staff on the Iron Range.

"It opens up the doors to many more clients, but also supports our existing clients much more," Bob Borash said. He added that existing clients include industrial ones, like mines.

Borash started the company in 1995 in Detroit Lakes, when he realized there was a void in the ambient water quality testing industry.

Although ambient water quality testing is still the company's "backbone," Borash said they've branched into several other testing specialties.

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The company, now certified in Minnesota and North Dakota, staffs environmental consultants, does biological monitoring of living organisms in an ecosystem, services industries and municipalities' waste management, branched into groundwater protection and has several more services to its name.

Zach Lamppa, RMB board member and principal as well as a former Iron Range resident, said the company is now the largest lake- and stream-monitoring company in the state.

Water testing has grown in importance in recent years, Lamppa said.

"To me, in this political climate that we're in, it's bipartisan. And we all have a vested interest in the quality of our water," Lamppa said.

Several years ago, RMB opened additional labs in Hibbing and Bloomington, Minnesota, to reach additional clients. Companywide, RMB employs around 60 people.

Its 16,000-square-foot Hibbing lab, which is "jam packed" with analytical instruments, specializes in metals and organics testing, Borash said.

Through its metal analyses, RMB staff search for analytes — substances like iron, lead, manganese, arsenic and more — in water, soil or hazardous waste.

Clients who use this service range from homeowners who want to ensure their drinking water has safe levels of analytes, all the way to major companies needing their waste characterized to ensure it gets proper treatment.

RMB typically uses its organic analyses when gasoline or petroleum unintentionally leaks or spills into the ground or water. The lab tests the contaminated water or soil for presence of that substance, to help engineers and cleanup crews remediate sites, Borash said.

There's three to four other labs in the state that have organic certifications, none of which are located on the Iron Range, he said.

The Hibbing location employs seven full-time staff members, and is looking to hire several more. The additional job openings are due to the new certification and related work as well as a growing client list, he said.

The addition of the organics certification will also allow it to serve more of their client's needs, especially industrial clients like mines that produce waste.

The lab also processes work from non-Iron Range clients, allowing it to bring in revenue from other areas in the state and non-Minnesota customers, he said.

The lab was characterized as an essential business at the pandemic's start because of its involvement in public safety issues related to water and wastewater, Borash said.

The company did feel the pandemic's impact, because assessment monitoring — or the monitoring to learn more about their water quality — was put on hold. RMB's lab is one of the state's largest suppliers of data about assessment monitoring; Borash said they've resumed this type of monitoring.

"We're environmentalist, and who can't be, being in this industry? And we have an intrinsic value in the quality of our water," Lamppa said.