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Service companies profiting from environmental protection.

Service companies profiting from environmental protection

More stringent government regulations have led to a miniboom in the fledgling environmental protection industry.

Capitalizing on environmental concerns has proved to be lucrative for several businesses in Northern Ontario which deal with everything from toxic-waste management to water-quality analysis.


Norlab Environmental Services has established a chemical testing operation at Thunder Bay's Lakehead University.

The facility was established to provide toxicity testing and analytical chemistry services to primary industries and municipal sewage treatment operations.

Norlab president and general manager Al Smith said the facility is the only one of its type in northwestern Ontario and its services range from biological and toxicity testing to chemical analysis.

"Our only competition comes from southern Ontario," he said.

Norlab is currently leasing space from Lakehead University, but Smith reported that despite the "expensive and painful process" of starting the firm, projected revenues for the next 12 months indicate that Norlab will be expanding into its own facilities sometime next year.

"We have had a tremendous response. We have a large number of clients and we are projecting revenue of about $1 million over the next year," claimed Smith.

It took Norlab approximately 18 months to get its current facility up and running, representing a financial commitment of between $350,000 and $400,000.

"It costs $2,000 per day just to open the doors," added Smith.

Funding for the project was obtained largely through the Northern Ontario Development Corporation, which supplied capital for the purchase of equipment. Operating loans were obtained from Thunder Bay Ventures and the Royal Bank.

The bulk of the work performed by the eight-person scientific team to date concerns the province's municipal and industrial strategy for abatement (MISA) program.

Because of MISA, Smith said Norlab is marketing its services to all industrial sectors. The bulk of Norlab's clients are located in northwestern Ontario.

Norlab also performs work related to the certification of mines and to pollution containment orders involving pulp and paper mills.

Norlab's client list includes representatives of the pulp and paper, mining, petroleum, chemical and steel industries, as well as municipal sewage operations.

The technical services provided by Norlab include monitoring, testing and data analysis.

When Norlab announced the creation of its lab last October, then Industry, Trade and Technology Minister Monte Kwinter suggested that such labs have become necessary because many industries would find it difficult to maintain the equipment and staff required to meet pollution monitoring and abatement regulations.


Concern for the environment has also given birth to a North Bay firm which specializes in water-quality testing.

Near North Laboratories' executive director Michael Puccini said the lab will analyze water and waste-water for the pulp and paper and mining industries, as well as for consulting engineers and municipalities.

The North Bay lab, which is scheduled to be completed and operational by Dec. 1, will offer resource-based industries a local testing service designed to help them meet regulations governing effluent and waste-water disposal. Most of this work was previously conducted by firms from southern Ontario.

Improved access to laboratory facilities will result in substantial saving for industry, said Puccini, as costs associated with transporting samples and meeting the testing staff will be greatly reduced.

Puccini said North Bay was chosen as the site for the lab b ecause of its proximity to resource-based industries.

"Our focus is to provide accurate and rapid turnaround on results," Puccini explained.

Puccini was reluctant to comment on the cost of Near North's services, as fees will vary, depending on the amount and type of work conducted.

He said Near North Laboratories has already been approached by 12 major companies even though operations have yet to begin.

"That is something, considering we haven't spent a cent on marketing yet," claimed Puccini.

He attributes the interest to the fact that industries realize the substantial costs associated with establishing in-house facilities, including hiring permanent staff, creating a sterile working environment and purchasing equipment.

"These are three problem areas that have always proven very costly for any company," he said.

Puccini reported that Near North's 2,400-square-foot facility and $240,000 worth of equipment required for start-up will cost approximately $400,000. The figure does not include operating costs and salaries.

The two-year process to establish the lab "has been a real challenge," insisted Puccini.

He said the majority of the time was spent securing necessary loans and grants, meeting environmental regulations and obtaining the necessary airborne and solid-waste handling permits.

The creation of Near North Laboratories was assisted by a $52,454 FedNor core industrial program grant.

The laboratory is currently seeking national accreditation from the Canadian Association of Environmental Analytical Laboratories.

Located in the city's south end, the laboratory will employ four analysts and service northeastern Ontario and northwestern Quebec. Near North Laboratories is an equal partnership of Puccini, Brenda McLay, Elizabeth Lake and Karen Bain.


Despite the emergence of new companies such as Near North and Norlab, Peter Williams, president and founder of Baytherm Industrial Inc. of Thunder Bay, warns that environmental engineering is not as profitable today as some people would assume.

Downturns in the pulp and paper and steel industries are offsetting any profits which could be derived from widespread concern for environmental protection.

Employees at Baytherm work as manufacturers' agents or engineers specializing in thermal energy and pumping systems which measure the heat and volume of industrial effluent.

Baytherm designs, markets and services equipment such as dust collectors (baghouses), scrubbers and elctrostatic precipitators used for tapping sulphur particles.

Baytherm has been involved in such projects as a new wood burning system at a sawmill in Hearst and an effluent-flow-measurement system at Algoma Steel in Sault Ste. Marie.

When interviewed last year by Northern Ontario Business, Williams speculated that public concern for the environment would increase the demand for his company's services.

However, the increase has not materialized for Baytherm.

Williams said that an overall slowdown in the pulp and paper industry and the strike at Algoma Steel in Sault Ste. Marie have left little room for growth.

"There will be no expansions even with the interest in the environment. The share of inquiries have gone up but the decline in forest production has balanced it out," said the Thunder Bay entrepreneur.

Baytherm has reduced its full-time staff from six to five people.

Baytherm's market area encompasses all of Northern Ontario, with the exception of Sudbury.


Sani Mobile Abitibi of Rouyn-Noranda has recently expanded its service into Northern Ontario with the launching of a branch office in North Bay called Sani Mobile Ontario N.E. Inc.

Sani Mobile Ontario's branch president Daniel Drouin disagrees that a downturn in the paper industry is affecting the environmental protection industry.

Drouin said the "very lucrative" waste management market warranted the $500,000 expansion into Ontario despite the fact that clients were already being serviced from one of the company's 14 branches in Quebec.

"There is a lot of potential here. Everybody is stuck with environmental problems," insisted Drouin.

He said the parent company, Sani Mobile Abitibi, has maintained an extensive client list in Northern Ontario since its inception in 1982.

Specializing in waste management and industrial clean-up as well as environmental protection, Sani Mobile caters to the pulp and paper, mining and waferboard industries.
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Title Annotation:Forestry Report
Author:McDougall, Douglas
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Article Type:company profile
Date:Dec 1, 1990
Previous Article:Energy-saving process to be tested next year at Thunder Bay paper mill.
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