Phoenix Soil, LLC

A COMPANY SPECIALIZED IN CLEANING EARTH RELIES ON KOMATSU IN TOUGH INDOOR CONDITIONS

Mar 9, 2009

The owner of Phoenix Soil, LLC could be identified as “green” long before recycling and concern for the environment struck a chord in the consciousness of many Americans. In fact, he’s been “Green” his entire life.

“I’ve always been an environmentalist,” said David Green, who recognizes the irony of his surname given the nature of his company. “I am proud of the contribution our company makes in taking care of the environment. When we go home at night, we feel really good.”

That’s because Phoenix Soil is in the business of taking in contaminated soil and returning it to its natural state. Green owns the company with his wife, Jean. Located in Waterbury, Conn., Phoenix Soil employs about 25 people and processes approximately 200,000 tons of soil per year from all over the state of Connecticut.

The soil that comes into Phoenix Soil’s 60,000-square-foot indoor recycling facility is contaminated with some sort of petroleum hydrocarbon or solvent, either heavy oils, machine oils, lubricating oils, gasoline, diesels or hydraulic oils.

“In the state of Connecticut, businesses that have stored hazardous materials must adhere to the Transfer Act when they want to remortgage or sell,” Green explained. “That requires a soil test. If contaminants are present, they have to be remediated. So the property owners must remove the soil. We take it in, treat it and recycle it for reuse.”

Green estimates about one-third of his business comes from residential work. “For example, homeowners might have an underground fuel oil tank that’s been there since they bought the house,” he said. “Now they’re retiring or want to sell the house, and this tank must be removed. When the ground is sampled, the tank often had leaked and contaminated the area.

“Another 30 percent to 40 percent of our business comes from road construction. Road builders can hardly dig up an old road anywhere and put in a new road without running into an old manufacturing facility that left contaminated soil or some sort of a well from an old gas station that leake

Thermal desorption

That contaminated earth is brought to Phoenix Soil where it goes through a low-temperature, thermal desorption process. “We put the soil into a rotating drum and elevate the temperature,” Green described. “It takes approximately 12 minutes to go through this drum and when the soil comes out, all the organic contaminants are removed. There’s no trace of contaminants at all. It’s back to a natural soil that meets Connecticut residential standards. The soil could be put back on a lawn or anywhere els

Because of the composition of clay that is indigenous to soil in Connecticut, Green said his finished product does not make good construction fill. Instead, he said his recycled soil is most often used for covering up and closing out landfills.

Growing Phoenix Soil

Green’s local involvement in producing clean earth began with the founding of Phoenix Soil in 1993, while Green was still managing the largest hazardous-waste treatment facility in New England, Environmental Waste Resources (EWR). While attempting to clean up the soil for that company, he realized he could perform a similar service for other businesses and property owners.

“I identified a service that nobody else was providing,” he said. “I figured I could not only treat soil for EWR, but also treat outside soils. So I started Phoenix Soil and put my brother, Robert, in charge. About a year later, I left EWR and joined Phoenix Soil full time.

“When Bob and I first started the company, the two of us were running 20-hour shifts. We would work 12 hours running the machinery and eight hours on the floor or the loader. We had a motor home parked there at the time and we would leave, shower, get four hours of sleep and then go back to work. We did that for the first six months.”

As business grew, Phoenix Soil was able to hire additional employees. Right away, Green saw a demand for the service he was able to provide.

“When we first started, I thought this was going to be a five-year venture,” he recalled. “We didn’t realize all the potential for cleanup that’s out there. I even thought that business would stop in the wintertime, so we’d have our winters off to ski and do other things. But it turns out, we’re busy year around. Up until recently, we’ve always been at 90-percent to 100-percent capacity.”

Committed to Komatsu

To keep up with such a continuous demand for its services, Phoenix Soil has used Komatsu equipment acquired from East PBE Inc., with the help of Sales Representative Stephen DeFiore. That fleet includes four Komatsu WA380 wheel loaders and three Komatsu PC200LC excavators.

“We use the wheel loader to feed the hopper and also for moving soil within the building,” Green said. “Our work here is totally enclosed inside a building. This is very good for the environment, but — with the dust and tight quarters — very tough on equipment. Our Komatsu equipment has worked well for us and we’ve tried all the other brands. My brother and I put comparable machines next to each other and agreed that Komatsu was better. Once we found out the Komatsus were made in America, that made a huge difference. I’m a big believer in spending our money here.”

Green said his own technicians handle routine mechanical issues. For more serious concerns, Green said East PBE has been extremely responsive.

“That’s the reason we’ve continued to stay with East PBE over the years — service and support,” Green explained. “We call Steve with a problem and he takes care of us. It doesn’t matter what it is — he always comes through.

“We’re a small, mom-and-pop operation,” Green elaborated. “As far as stocking parts, it’s just impossible to keep everything we need on our shelf. East PBE stocks the parts we need so we can get them right away. Having equipment that works and works well is of the utmost importance. I even have Steve’s home phone number. I don’t abuse it, but it’s nice to have when we really need something. So, I can summarize our relationship with East PBE with four points: one, they’re in-state and I like that. Two, their product is made in the U.S., which I also like. Three, they back it up, which is extremely important. And four, it’s a very good product. That’s why we’ve stayed with East PBE since the very beginning.”

Relationships fuel growth

What Green initially expected to be a short-term business venture is now at 15 years and still going strong. Green said solid relationships — with his employees and his business associates — have fueled that growth.

“I’ve been working with some of the same cleanup contractors for years,” he said. “They’ve supported me. All of my management people have been with me since 1984, when I was working with EWR. When I left there, they came with me. I’ve had fantastic support from some great, talented people.”

That support has allowed Green to develop other companies. Green Globe, LLC does cleanup work at different sites around the world and United Retek of Connecticut, LLC performs on-site ambient temperature stabilization/ solidification recycling of contaminated soils. With all of his business ventures, Green estimates he has about 55 employees.

“I’m recognizing now that there are many more opportunities for this business than I ever thought,” Green said. “It’s been one heck of a ride.”