I tend to sound somewhat jaded in this blog, especially in my previous post and this older post. In order to counteract some of that cynicism, here's a story of a different sort of site visitor.
I was doing some fairly boring groundwater sampling (a lot of sitting around watching water drip) on a major contaminated site when a man came wandering over from a nearby neighborhood. He asked what we were doing and I went into my standard sampling spiel: "I'm here working for client x, we're taking groundwater samples using y equipment, and measuring the z in groundwater before we collect the samples."
He told me that he grew up in this neighborhood and that he and his friends used to swim in the local (water body) all the time. The water used to be all sorts of strange colors from the industrial effluent that was piped straight in.
His brother died from cancer at 16.
He told me that he was so happy to see that someone was still out there, years after the pollution became a big deal and the cleanup started. That he hoped our work would prevent a repeat of his personal tragedy.
When I'm mired in paperwork and the regulators want just a few more samples to prove a negative (but you haven't poked these 10 square inches!) and the client is spending more money on lawyers than on remediation, it's good to remember that as clumsy as it is, this industry is better than the alternative.