Anticipating trends and providing a wide variety of services spurs growth for Pennsylvania waste treatment and hauling firm.
When the federal government implemented hazardous waste transportation regulations in the mid-1970s, the late Olen McCutcheon – the cofounder of McCutcheon Enterprises Inc., one of Pennsylvania’s largest industrial cleaning and emergency response companies – and his son, Calvin, knew exactly what to do: become certified hazardous waste haulers.
In the mid-1990s, the duo saw a need for more efficient and powerful vacuum trucks to handle tough cleaning projects at steel mills and other industries. So they worked with GapVax Inc. officials to develop a high-flow vacuum truck that could vacuum up heavy industrial waste over long distances, then simultaneously pump it out into transportation equipment (such as tanker trailers and roll-off boxes) for disposal. Then the company, headquartered in Apollo, became one of the first customers to buy these specialized GapVax trucks.
Facing more competition and waste disposal capacity questions in the late 1990s, as well as growing concerns over ever-escalating waste disposal fees and associated hauling expenses, McCutcheon Enterprises decided to build its own residual waste treatment facility. In 2001, the company opened what is now a 58,000-square-foot waste disposal facility that can handle solid, semisolid and liquid wastes from many different industries, including oil and gas.
“My father [Calvin] and grandfather [Olen] were not risk averse,” says Chad McCutcheon, a fourth-generation member of the company who serves as its communications manager. His brother, Nathan, oversees operations in Houston, Pa., as a member of the executive management team. “My great-grandfather, Maxwell, and grandfather, Olen, started with an idea. My father turned that idea into a vision.”
Much of what Calvin envisioned when he bought the company from his father in 1989 has come to fruition. The company exemplifies the power of business diversification, providing everything from the aforementioned services to septic tank pumping, roll-off container services, site remediation and a host of other environmental-related services. The company employs 125 people and owns a fleet of 275 vehicles, including 21 vacuum trucks and nine vacuum tanker trailers that work across a variety of industries. It’s a far cry from the lone truck Max and Olen started out with when they began pumping septic tanks and hauling waste from steel mills back in 1947.
Clearly, it pays to be industry pioneers who consistently stay ahead of the curve on new trends.
“My grandfather and father saw what was happening,” Chad says, pointing to the company’s pivotal move to become certified hazardous waste haulers more than 30 years ago. “That’s the point where the business really took off. They both saw that the new hazardous waste regulations would create a solid base for a waste management business. No longer would companies be able to hire just anyone to transport their waste … they saw a boom coming and they needed to be ready for it.”
Waste not, want not
The development of the company’s multimillion dollar waste treatment facility marked another significant milestone in company history. The facility can treat and release up to 160,000 gallons of waste per day (or about 58 million gallons of waste per year) from its biosolids treatment area. The oil and gas reuse area can process up to 288,000 gallons per day (or around 105 million gallons per year). The waste-solidification area can process up to 500 tons of waste per day, Chad says.
The facility offers many benefits. First, it significantly reduces waste transportation costs. Second, spending less time trucking waste to treatment facilities boosts productivity dramatically because the company can do more cleaning jobs per year. Third, the company created another revenue stream by opening the disposal facility to other contractors. And perhaps less tangible but equally important, customers find it attractive to do business with a company that can handle all aspects of a job, from cleanup to waste disposal,
“We responded to clients’ needs,” he says. “Clients prefer to hire one company to manage waste, transport it and dispose of it. It’s a cost-effective way to provide waste disposal solutions to our clients. Customers reduce their costs, compared to sending it to a facility that’s farther away or to one in New York or Ohio … and when they break down their costs, they can see the savings gained from hiring one contractor as opposed to multiple contractors. Our treatment facility is one of the biggest things that sets us apart from our competitors.”
The facility runs several different waste treatment processes. One process treats municipal and residual waste streams from sources such as municipal plants, residential clients, manufacturers and the energy and industrial sectors. It utilizes screening and degritting, chemical treatment, separation of solids and liquids, and filter pressing, which consists of a series of vertical plates that squeeze out solids. The resulting filtercakes then can be landfilled, and the remaining liquids are further treated and discharged into a municipal sewer.
The solidification process involves putting liquid and semiliquid materials into four armor-plated cement pits, where a solidifying agent is added. After the waste solidifies, it’s suitable for landfill disposal, Chad says.
In 2010, the company expanded the facility to include treatment of production and flowback water from gas and oil fields. State officials eventually barred permitted treatment facilities from discharging the resulting waste stream, so the company now treats production and flowback water for reuse by gas and oil producers, who use it for hydraulic fracturing of shale
The company recently modified its solidification process to include waste reduction, which is a more efficient treatment method that yields less solid waste. In this process, waste passes through a rotary filter press, where plates simultaneously rotate and compress to separate liquids and solids. The liquids are sent to another processing area for further treatment, while solids
“That way, customers pay only for the solids that come in with the waste and not for the solids we add to it,” Chad explains. “Moreover, this means we transport less waste to the landfill, and we don’t have to add solidifying agents. It’s a win-win.”
New equipment boosts efficiency
McCutcheon Enterprises firmly believes in investing in new equipment that can increase productivity and better serve customers. A good example is the company’s recent purchase of three customized vacuum trucks, made by ITI Trailers & Truck Bodies Inc., which can quickly load drilling cuttings from gas and oil wells. The company also owns five GapVax high-flow vacuum trucks (built on two Peterbilt, two Mack and one Volvo chassis and equipped with 5,200 cfm blowers) that also work throughout various industrial and energy sectors.
The ITI trucks, built on 2012 Peterbilt 367 chassis and equipped with low-emission, fuel-efficient diesel engines made by PACCAR, feature 4,200-gallon stainless steel tanks, a hydraulic hoist for efficient waste dumping through a full-opening rear door and a 921 cfm blower made by National Vacuum Equipment Inc.
The powerful units enable the company to use just one truck on congested drilling pads instead of the two it required before (one to vacuum up the cuttings and blow them into roll-off boxes, and another truck to take away the boxes). That, in turn, leaves more equipment and employees to serve other clients. Moreover, because of the way the trucks are designed, they weigh less than conventional high-flow vacuum trucks, which allows them to carry larger payloads – and make fewer trips.
The company owns many other pieces of equipment and vehicles, including: another ITI vacuum truck, this one built on a Peterbilt chassis with a 3,300-gallon, stainless steel tank and a Demag Wittig RFL 100 blower (Gardner Denver); a Freightliner truck equipped with a 2,800-gallon aluminum vacuum tank, made by Progress Tank, and a Masport Inc. blower; a Sterling truck with a 2,800-gallon aluminum vacuum tank, equipped with a Demag Wittig RFL 100 blower (Gardner Denver) and built by Progress Tank; two Mack trucks and one Peterbilt truck outfitted by Presvac Systems Burlington Ltd. with 3,600-gallon stainless steel vacuum tanks and Demag Wittig RFL 100 blowers (Gardner Denver); two Freightliner trucks built by Progress with 4,000-gallon aluminum vacuum tanks and Demag Wittig RFL 100 blowers (Gardner Denver); and one Mack truck with a 4,300-gallon aluminum vacuum tank and a Demag Wittig RFL 100 blower (Gardner Denver), built out by Progress.
In addition, the company relies on four 5,500-gallon, stainless steel tanker trailers, made by Polar Corp., Stainless Tank & Equipment and NOVA, and equipped with Demag Wittig RFL 100 blowers (Gardner Denver); two 5,500-gallon tanker trailers made by Dragon Products Ltd. and equipped with blowers made by National Vacuum; three 6,500-gallon aluminum tanker trailers made by Heil Trailer International and Tremcar Inc. and outfitted with Demag Wittig RFL 100 blowers (Gardner Denver); four dump trucks (two Mack and two Peterbilt chassis outfitted with dump bodies made by J&J Truck Bodies and Trailers); and 15 tri-axle roll-off trucks (five Macks and 10 Peterbilts) equipped with 60,000-pound hoists made by GalFab (a Wastebuilt company) and extended tails.
More growth ahead
Future growth remains in the company’s plans, as evidenced by the acquisition in April 2013 of Myzak Hydraulics, a company that rents and sells equipment to operators in the Marcellus Shale play. The company also offers roustabout services and containment liners for well pads.
“The main reason we acquired Myzak was for their connection to other oil and gas firms in southwestern Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia,” Chad explains. “The acquisition gives us a bigger footprint in those areas.
“Along with renting equipment and machines, they also treat drilling muds and cuttings at the well sites … solidify them and send them to landfills,” he continues. “They’re called ‘backyard services,’ and we need to have that mobile capability to provide even more versatility for our clients. We’re really excited about it.”
When does the diversification stop? “I don’t see a limit at this point,” Chad concludes. “We’ve been around for more than 60 years, my brother and I are going to be around for some time to come, and Dad has no plans to quit anytime soon, either. And we’ll keep adhering to Dad’s philosophy of people, performance and progress – that the best people perform the best work which leads to continual progress and growth. So really, the sky’s the limit.”