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Cleaning up in the '90s.


Indiana's Environmental Services Industry

The environment is a hot topic these days. It's also a hot industry, and one that's only going to grow.

The flock of new businesses began cropping up in Indiana after Congress enacted the 1976 Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). By the time the 1980 Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA)--also known as Superfund--became effective, the environmental management industry was growing rapidly. Today, the industry is well-established and predicted to boom as Indiana implements real-estate transfer regulations and sets new standards for management of asbestos, water quality and solid waste.

Court decisions, additionally, continue tightening the grip of fiscal responsibility for the cleanup of polluted air, water and land. Environmental management companies can help loosen the noose, through advising, assessing, remediating, recycling, incinerating, treating and disposing.

"Our regulations are increasing, and as they do, we'll get more environmental businesses in Indiana," says Thomas Neltner. He's an environmental specialist at the Indianapolis Center for Advanced research, a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to be a neutral, technically credible third-party to Indiana's environmental issues.

There will be plenty of work for Indiana's latest boom-business as more regulations come down the pike. The 1989-90 Indiana General Assembly passed "the most significant environmental program in the state's history," says Sen. Michael Gery (D-West Lafayette).

Gery, who is sponsor or co-sponsor of several environment-related bills, reports that the legislation passed includes measures for solid-waste disposal planning, waste reduction, recycling and pollution prevention. Waste reduction goals for the state of 35 percent by 1996, and 50 percent by 2001, have been set, and several programs designed to encourage recycling and waste reduction have been established.

Recently passed state regulations also establish a budget for acquiring and restoring wetlands, set up a loan guarantee program to help service station owners and operators upgrade underground storage tanks and attempt to limit out-of-state trash dumping. The assembly also set financial and "good character" requirement for applicants seeking landfill operating permits.

It is the potential financial responsibility of cleaning up a polluted site that furrows the brows of developers, lawyers and bankers. This is also what fuels the growth of Indiana's environmental management firms.

Leading the environmental management pack are those businesses that have invested in the personnel, education, equipment and resources to follow federal and state regulations that might better be described as "red mazes" than red tape. Mandates in hand, these businesses are going after leaky underground storage tanks and building materials containing asbestos.

A closer look at industries taking the point on asbestos, radon, soil-and-water testing and hazardous-waste management shows that many firms are backed up by highly skilled scientists, extensive laboratories, expensive liability insurance and marketers. Some successful Indiana firms, however, specialize in just part of the whole cleanup picture.

Specialty Systems, Inc.

Interpreting new state and federal regulations will be a task soon faced by Ron Yazel, vice president of Specialty Systems of Indiana, a subsidiary of Specialty Systems, Inc., an Indianapolis-based asbestos-abatement company. Through expansion and acquisition, Specialty Systems also has Indiana operations in Richmond and Gary and other facilities in Michigan, Georgia, Illinois, Ohio, Florida, Kentucky and California.

Now in the regulatory process, asbestos-removal requirements could change any time. The new requirements are expected to include more than the currently mandated school cleanups, cover more materials than the federal standards and require accreditation of asbestos-removal firms.

Many businesses are voluntarily removing asbestos, which is contained in some 3,500 different building materials, Yazel adds. But there are still several hundred thousand businesses in the United States that face asbestos removal.

Already in business 12 years, Specialty Systems probably has a good 20 years of asbestos-removal ahead, Yazel predicts. The company's removal business had grown 20 percent to 30 percent a year in Indiana, where it employs 250 and operates in Indianapolis, Evansville and Fort Wayne.

The company was originally founded by President Frederick Treadway--named Venture magazine's Entrepreneur of the Year in 1988--as an interior finish subcontractor. Now, the company has several subsidiaries throughout the United States and provides everything from consultation and laboratory work to asbestos abatment and reinsulation.

The asbestos industry is expected to peak in 1993, remain steady another five years, then slowly decline, he says. Today, it's a very hectic pace and a very stressful job, says Yazel. "Most of our work is during off-hours, like in the commercial that talks about it being time to make the donuts. We also work out of sight and as discreetly as possible. Companies don't want to raise any flags."

Heritage Environmental Services, Inc.

Indianapolis-based Heritage Environmental Services is one of Indiana's largest players in the environmental services industry. The privately held, full-service firm has been an environmental company since its inception in 1970. The company began with an oil-treatment plant in Columbus. In 1978, Heritage built its headquarters in Indianapolis. Only 36 people were on the company's payrolls in 1980; 690 people are currently. The story of growth has been one of nationwide expansion and a few small acquisitions.

"Our business is solving people's environmental problems," says Ken Price, the company's president, who holds a doctorate in environmental engineering from Purdue University. "We've found that people like one-stop shopping."

The problems that the company helps solve run the environmental gamut. Heritage is involved in consulting, testing, contracting, remediating, recycling, treating, transporting and disposing. Whether its a small drum needing treatment or a chemical spill that needs emergency attention--or anything in between--Heritage does it. There are only a couple of things that Heritage doesn't do: It doesn't do asbestos work and it doesn't own an incinerator. Officials at the company, however, currently are studying the possibility of expanding into asbestos work, according to Price.

The firm has worked throughout the United States, although the eastern half of the country is its primary market. Heritage lists treatment centers in Indiana, Illinois, North Carolina, Ohio, Georgia and Missouri. Four laboratory sites are located in Indianapolis, North Carolina, Illinois and Missouri. The company also has remediation/engineering offices in five cities and several sites involved in transportation.

Prevention and recycle whenever possible are two principles that underlie everything Heritage does. On recycling, Price says, "I think we have a clear mandate from our society. That is where we're applying our efforts. That's the way I see our industry going as well."

Canonie Environmental Services Corp.

Another Indiana-based full-service environmental firm of nationwide scope is Canonie Environmental, headquartered in Porter. The company was established in 1980 as a subsidiary of Canonie, Inc., which was one of the nation's top special and heavy construction companies. Canonie Environmental emerged from the needs of one of Canonie, Inc.'s clients. "We were approached by a major corporate client who had a large environmental problem," explains Robert Deprez, the company's manager of new business and technology. Now, Canonie Environmental is an independent, publicly traded company.

Some of the company's primary services include: soil remediation, groundwater restoration, landfill impoundment and closure, underground storage tank removal, in-plant waste treatment and analytical laboratory services. Canonie also provides consulting services, though primarily in support of its cleanup efforts. "We don't spend all of our time studying problems," says Deprez. "We resolve them. We have developed the engineering expertise to get it done."

Canonie has expanded its operations well beyond the boundaries of Indiana with a total of 330 employees. The company has regional offices in Florida, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Texas, Colorado and California. Its lab and its two subsidiary companies, SoilTech, Inc., and Nuclear Remediation Technologies Corp., also are located in California.

One big project that the company currently is completing in its home state is the Seymour Recycling Superfund Site. Canonie is the principal construction contractor involved in the project, and is constructing an on-site vapor-extraction system that will remove volatile chemicals from the soil.

ATEC Associates, Inc.

Indianapolis-based ATEC Associates is one of the state's oldest and largest environmental management firms. In 1958, the company was founded by G. D. Mann as the American Testing and Engineering Corporation. Mann--a Raleigh, N.C., native--settled in Indianapolis after earning a master's degree in civil engineering from Purdue University.

Originally, the company worked in the fields of geotechnical, materials and environmental engineering, according to John Mundell, director of environmental technical services at ATEC.

By the early '70s, the company began moving into the environmental services business. ATEC's first projects involved contamination assessments and water studies. With the new government regulations of the late '70s and '80s, demand increased for across-the-board environmental services.

Currently, ATEC Environmental Consultants, a division of ATEC, offers a full range of services. The division handles everything from solid and hazardous-waste management to real-estate assessment, asbestos analysis, underground tank management and lab and industrial hygiene services. ATEC also is still involved in the geotechnical engineering services that are its origins.

The company has evolved from a single office to more than 40 offices--and 1,500 employees--nationwide. The company still is owned and operated by Mann. Among its list of national clients are numerous Indiana companies, including Ball Corp., Indiana Bell Telephone Co. and Central Soya Co., Inc.


From its Portage office, CMC, which in 1989 sold and became a wholly owned subsidiary of Texas-based EnClean, Inc., operates three divisions: industrial cleaning, environmental services and protective coatings. CMC began in 1965 as an industrial cleaning and painting contractor. Because those processes were regulated, moving into environmental matters came as a natural process, says Vice President Lex Venditti.

Fifteen years ago the company employed 75; today, some 200. Besides the Portage office, CMC operates two offices in Illinois and one in Kentucky. Business has increased 15 percent to 20 percent a year, and Venditti expects to surpass $10 million this year, he says.

"We're a hands-on company," Venditti explains. "We work in conjunction with engineers as contractors, and we're subcontractors, but the vast majority of our business is directly with the hazardous spills." About 40 percent of CMC's business is industrial work; 25 percent, protective coating; and 35 percent other environmental services.

"We clean a lot of tanks, both above-ground and underground, storing all types of materials," he says.

"We provide a complete range of environmental services as a hands-on company," says Venditti. "We've been at it 25 years. There aren't too many things in the environmental game we haven't seen before, come up against or don't know how to complete successfully," he says.

Alt & Witzig Engineering, Inc.

Heavily involved in assessments is Indianapolis-based Alt & Witzig Engineering, Inc., which employs 120 in its three divisions. The company also operates offices in Lafayette, Fort Wayne, South Bend, Terre Haute and Evansville, and just opened an office in Cincinnati.

Alt & Witzig conducts geologic and hydrogeologic investigations, soil and water sampling and testing, environment audits, site assessments, hazardous-waste management and environmental engineering design.

Two years ago, Douglas Zabonick was the only environmental engineer on staff. Today, he's one of 14.

A few years ago, Alt & Witzig was one of only four or five local assessment firms; today there are about 30, he says.

"It's like the oil industry in the early '70s," he says, "wild and wooly. There's a real shortage of qualified people." Zabonick sees an environmental trend developing in Indiana that, he predicts, will "come together and serve to tighten up the industry."

For the first time, Zabonick notes, several elements have come together at one time. "We have new environmental laws, a new administration and the anniversary of Earth Day brought new awareness to private citizens." It's that combination, he predicts, that will bring lasting change.

Williams, Beck and Hess, Inc.

One of Indiana's environmental services companies that focuses on a singular issue is West Newton-based Williams, Beck and Hess, Inc. The company replaces and relines underground tanks, a hot segment of the environmental industry currently as the Environmental Protection Agency begins requiring leak detection systems for all underground tanks.

"Our work's directly related to the EPA," says Dave Beals, company vice president. "Things are pretty well set now." Beals' brother, Harold, is president of the company.

The bulk of the company's clients are oil companies and gasoline service stations that are getting a jump on federal regulations by replacing or relining and sealing existing tanks. The company installs monitoring systems in gasoline storage tanks that will sound an alarm if leakage occurs.

The company does not test underground tanks for leaks, opting instead to hire out the work to independent laboratories. Avoiding the conflict of interests is one of the reasons why the company chooses not to provide lab services, according to Pete McKay, sales and marketing manager. Other reasons include the steep costs of testing equipment and qualified technicians.

Between its West Newton headquarters and its Hobart branch, Williams, Beck and Hess employs about a dozen people. The company provides its remediation services to sites within a 200-mile radius of Indianapolis.

Although growth has been steady for the past several years, the company eventually will have to broaden or change its focus, according to McKay. Once underground tanks are brought up to the new standards, the company's work will decrease markedly. "This pear tree we're in is not going to last forever," says McKay.

Engineering & Testing Services, Inc.

Another environmental firm that has its roots in the geotechnical engineering industry is Indianapolis-based Engineering & Testing Services. The company was established in 1978, with the purpose of providing geotechnical engineering, environmental evaluation, materials testing and quality control services for construction.

Today, ETS, which now has regional offices in Chicago, Detroit, Louisville, Ky., and Memphis, Tenn., is still providing those same services. The company works underground, above-ground and with water. "We do all the investigative work up to remediation," says Chuck McGee, vice president and co-founder, along with Paul L. Douglass, the company's president. The company does not act as a contractor to provide the remediation services, but monitors cleanup sites for clients.

The two founders originally met when McGee was a student of Douglass' at Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis. Douglass holds a master's degree from Purdue, and McGee is a geologist. The company's payroll has grown from the two founding principals to a staff of 70.

It was 1985 when the company began performing environmental assessments, now a big slice of the company's pie. "There's a lot of work out there for environmental consultants," says McGee. "These last two years have been really hectic."

The following years promise to become even more hectic as the stringent ownership-responsibility laws begin holding financial institutions liable for the cleanup of property for which they hold mortgages. "In the last year or so," he says, "we've probably been referred by banks as much as any other source."


East Chicago-based ICEP (Industrial Cleanup for Environmental Protection) is an environmental company that, like many others, has translated its original expertise in the construction industry into a variety of environmental services. "We had the practical experience in the field," explains Bradley W. Hough, sales manager for ICEP. "This is where we've excelled."

Hough's family founded ICEP in the mid-1980's. The practical construction experience is augmented by an uncle who is a civil engineer, explains Hough. The business began by providing safe transportation of bulk and hazardous materials. "The more we researched the whole situation, the deeper we got into the hazardous," he says.

Services that ICEP currently offers, among others, include various types of consulting and site assessments, transportation and disposal of wastes. "We can do just about any types of work there is," says Hough. The company does not, however, have its own laboratory, and doesn't get into large-scale consulting, he says.

What the company does do is serving it well.

Hough reports that his company's growth is rapid. When it began less than 10 years ago, ICEP had only four employees. Now, it has about 80.

Environmental Consultants, Inc.

Clarksville-based Environmental Consultants, Inc., evolved from a firm that worked in the construction and engineering of public projects, such as road construction and water projects. By the early 1970s, it was clear that the company's experience in civil engineering would serve it well in the expanding environmental services market. The company's expertise in wastewater treatment plants paved the way.

Removing contaminants from water was the company's first foray into the environmental business, according to Robert E. Fuchs, president of Environmental Consultants. This work was the springboard for the company's current emphasis in laboratory work.

By late 1971, the company had several water treatment projects needing extensive lab data. "We literally took a closet and started a laboratory," explains Fuchs, who was hired in 1975 as the company's chief chemist and is now the sole proprietor. Waiting for him when he joined the company were 700 drinking water samples that needed testing from all of the national parks.

In time, company officials decided that their investment in lab equipment and personnel could become lucrative by contracting them out to other environmental companies needing independent lab work.

"I was charged with seeking and finding outside work and making it profitable," says Fuchs.

The plan worked.

The engineering arm of the company was phased out in the early 1980s, but the lab segment continues to grow. Federal water pollution control mandates from the 1970s, as well as more-current regulations, are keeping Environmental Consultants' lab extremely busy.

For the past 15 years, the company also has provided real-estate site assessments. Site assessments likely will continue to be a growth area, as the ripple of fiscal responsibility now reaches those institutions that hold mortgages. "This is a very serious matter with banking and lending institutions," he says.

Each of the last four years has shown a growth rate between 35 percent and 40 percent, says Fuchs. But not all of that growth is in lab samples.

"We don't have to market," says Fuchs. "We don't have a salesman. We don't need him."

PHOTO : A national player in asbestos removal: Specialty Systems, Inc.

PHOTO : Williams, Beck and Hess: Epoxy-lined tanks

PHOTO : Canonie Environmental: Cleanups across the country

PHOTO : Site assessment: Engineering & Testing Service, Inc.
COPYRIGHT 1990 Curtis Magazine Group, Inc.
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Title Annotation:Indiana's environmental services industry
Author:Mayer, Kathy; Church, Melinda
Publication:Indiana Business Magazine
Date:Jul 1, 1990
Previous Article:Growth coming to a halt?
Next Article:Ford Meter Box Company.

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