Multi-Company Cleanup Team Defuses Ecological Time-Bomb in Houston, Demonstrates Environmental Ethics, Says EcoWerks Chief Michael Laws

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The financial collapse of a Houston bilge-water treatment company left its landlord holding a site loaded with potentially hazardous pollutants, in a facility that was slowly degrading and increasingly at risk from a major weather event. Fortunately an ecological nightmare was averted recently by a team of companies – some working at cost, free or reduced rates - that closed the books on the thorny situation and hand the landlord a clean site.

We have successfully completed every project that we have undertaken, no matter how tough, complex or highly technical.

The financial collapse of a Houston bilge-water treatment company left its landlord holding a site loaded with potentially hazardous pollutants, in a facility that was slowly degrading and increasingly at risk from a major weather event. Fortunately an ecological nightmare was averted recently by a team of companies – some working at cost, free or reduced rates - that closed the books on the thorny situation and hand the landlord a clean site.

Port Arthur-based EcoWerks – a provider of environmental recycling and waste management, remediation and disposal services for government agencies and the shipping, petroleum and related industries – worked with a number of other professionals and companies to tackle the cleanup.

EcoWerks President/CEO Michael Laws said the project was a good example of a team of businesses coming together not only for profits, with but also with a deeper purpose of creating a cleaner, more sustainable world: “Our mission is to ensure that our current quality of life is sustainable, preserved and improved for future generations.”

In 2008, Water Rehab shut down its facility on Buffalo Marine’s property along the ship channel in southeast Houston. It was not a hazardous waste processing plant, but the accumulated solids from its bilge-water treatment included significant oil and other potential contaminants such as heavy metals.

By late 2011, the clock was ticking. Buffalo Marine could not use its property, and in storm-prone Houston, there was the danger of a weather event that could wash oil and other pollutants into the channel, only yards away, and significant complications from this potential liability on their property. Meanwhile, government agencies began monitoring the site, including the Texas General Land Office, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the City of Houston.

That’s when EcoWerks volunteered to planning and managing remediation of the site. The goal was to eliminate any pollution hazard, properly dispose of, or recycle, any remaining material in the tanks, and decontaminate remaining. Buffalo Marine agreed to pay all disposal and recycling costs, and cover hard costs for decontamination and remediation of the site. And the president of Water Rehab spent significant personal time working on the project.

EcoWerks agreed to cover its own costs in analyzing and managing the facility, and pay for some processing costs.

Third-party companies – a number of whom supplied services at reduced costs – included:

·         Donovan Industrial

·         United Rentals

·         Evergreen Industrial

·         Seabreeze Environmental Landfill

·         Alltype Environmental Cleaning

·         Baker Tank

The initial estimated cost of cleanup was about $20,000, based on the removal of 15-20 tons of pumpable solids, some oily wastewater, and decontaminating equipment. Unfortunately that estimate turned out to be far short of reality.

The project became dramatically larger when the team found the total volume of solids to be 85 tons. Further, only two of the five tanks could be pumped out. The tanks had not been cleaned in their 10-year history and they had 4 to 6 feet of unpumpable solids in flat-bottom tanks with no man-ways for access. Two tanks had solids so impacted they were carbon-like and required chiseling to remove.

The tanks were on an 80-foot-square cement pad, surrounded by a 16-inch cinder block containment berm that had been damaged and was not watertight. The site also was spanned by 10-year-old PVC transfer lines with extreme UV degradation; there were numerous breakages and leaks during the cleanup. And the aging tanks themselves showed frayed fibers, and would need proper coating and repair after cleaning.

Thousands of gallons of oil and water and other material collected during the cleaning of the tanks and site were transported for processing, recycling and safe disposal to EcoWerks’ Port Arthur facility.

As of mid-January, after completion of the cleanup, there had been two major rainstorms, and Buffalo Marine workers reported that rainwater was clean and showed no signs of tell-tale oil sheen.

In the end, the project’s cost to Buffalo Marine was about just under $80,000, while the cost to EcoWerks was approximately $40,000, Donovan Industrial providing cleaning technicians and transportation to haul oily materials to EcoWerks Port Arthur facility for recycling, discounted their bill $15,000. On the open market, EcoWerks estimates, the cleanup would have cost between $200,000-$250,000.

Laws praised the team that came together as a model of environmental and business responsibility and safety. Laws credits the key to the success of this project to the “fortune” that the different players - several of whom were at their wits' end - were willing to cooperate fully with the goal of eliminating this as a problem for all concerned.

One of the reasons EcoWerks committed to the project, he said, was that his company had used Water Rehab for processing in the past, and felt responsible to eliminate any potential “cradle to grave liability” for its customers. Another was the character and nature of Buffalo Marine as a company and customer. Laws said Buffalo Marine is well known as a class act, a mid-sized company with exceptional focus on safety, environmental protection, quality, customer service, and treating their suppliers and venders fairly. Buffalo found itself in a situation it didn’t deserve, and wasn't qualified or equipped to resolve. Its character and reputation deserved help.

Laws said there is an overlooked side to the environmental industry, where good people create long and solid relationships, working to ensure mutual survival and prosperity. The good guys tend to look out for the other good guys. Laws said this is what makes often chaotic heavy environmental and emergency responses work.

Of his own company, Laws says he invites challenging jobs: “We have successfully completed every project that we have undertaken, no matter how tough, complex or highly technical.”

“When our customers come to us for environmental solutions, we know that they want it done safely, they want it done right, they want it done at a fair price, and they want it done in a way that prevents future liability for them. And that is what we deliver. In thirteen years, we’ve never failed at a project we’ve started, maintaining an excellent safety and compliance record.”

ABOUT THE COMPANY

EcoWerks, the DBA of EcoWater Industries, LLC, offers an array of services, including recycling and waste management, logistics and transportation, wastewater treatment and oil recovery, industrial cleaning, emergency response, field services, special projects, robotic/non entry cleaning, supplies and equipment and R&D design and construction. Its 25,000 bbl Coast Guard-certified tanker barge, Marine Clean One, is outfitted with an on board waste water treatment and water recycling plant and multi-mission-capable-equipment to do anything from picking up bilge water, to supporting salvage operations, emergency lightering, vessel cleaning, degassing and decontamination and more.

CONTACT:

Michael Laws
President/CEO
6200 Procter St. Extension,
Port Arthur, TX 77642
Office: 409-962-7469
Fax: 409-962-7480
Cell: 214-878-6527
michael(at)ecowerks(dot)com

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Michael Laws
EcoWerks
409-962-7469
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