North Dakota’s C Company sending hydroexcavation crews to South Carolina to help with flood repairs

A slowdown in the Bakken Shale play has opened up time for several oilfield services companies in that region and Williston, North Dakota-based C Company is using some of its downtime to help others.

Seth Church, managing member of C Company, and his staff have been watching the news and reading about the massive flooding disaster taking place in South Carolina where a storm dumped nearly 2 feet of rain in the central part of the state last week.

Floodwaters caused damage to roads, utilities, dams and homes and have taken over 20 lives so far, according to state officials. There are still several areas seeing flood warnings after rain returned to the area on Saturday.

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“Our guys really have a heart for this. For a lot of them it is their home,” says Church, a managing member of the hydroexcavation company. “Several of the guys that are with us are from the Columbia, South Carolina, area and they have family and friends in the area and it’s devastating to see what has happened to them.”

Late last week company officials made the decision to relocate several of the company’s resources to South Carolina to assist in the cleanup work. Church and sales manager Greg Heindl arrived in Columbia on Thursday, while another crew is en route and expected to arrive early this week.

“We have another couple trucks with four or five guys ready to go as soon as we have the projects for them,” Church says. “We’re able to afford sending the trucks and crews over because of the slowdown in oilfield work.”

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Widespread damage
Church has already seen several areas that were flooded and damaged since arriving in South Carolina, but crews are in a holding pattern for now until they know for sure where they might be needed.

“We’re waiting for this week because that water from the Columbia area was pushing eastward towards Georgetown,” Church says. “They really are doing search and rescue in some areas and in others it has turned into recovery, and then in some they are moving into the assessment phase on Monday and Tuesday.”

As of Thursday, 269 roads and 134 bridges were closed, mostly in the central and coastal portions of South Carolina, according to the state’s DOT. Fourteen dams have failed around the state, according to the South Carolina Emergency Management Division, and another 70 have been put on a watch list.

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Seventeen of South Carolina’s 46 counties were receiving disaster assistances as of Thursday as the state accumulates cleanup costs that could top $1 billion, according to an estimate by U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina).

“The anticipated need for hydrovacs in this area is where there have been line breakages, line outages or corrosion from the salt water coming in and corroding the underground utilities,” Church says. “It’s in those areas where we believe a safe, soft-digging technology is needed to repair those lines safely.”

Church says municipalities may need help cleaning out manholes, drains and pits. He even sees his company helping on the commercial side of operations as well. “Industries and stores where flooding has occurred may have unknown chemicals in there and will not be able to sweep that water into the sewer system,” Church says. “They need to capture that and we can help with that. We anticipate needs from private housing and development such as tanks needing to be removed and cleaned out all the way into commercial applications.”

Highlighting hydroexcavation
Church believes using hydroexcavators in disaster situations should become the norm. However, several areas don’t have hydroexcavation contractors serving them.

“There’s very little use of the machines out here in this area of South Carolina,” Church says. “Some area municipalities are using (Vactor) 2100s, but there’s very little hydrovac operations in that region. The Columbia area has about 800,000 including the Charleston and Myrtle Beach areas. That’s a large population base that really isn’t familiar with safe digging practices using hydrovacs.”

Church hopes that by not only offering aid to the region, he can also introduce safer digging practices.

“This is about safety. When you’re dealing with floods and you’re using conventional methods of excavation, you may have more potential life hazards than the actual flooding,” Church says. “Using safe dig practices is going to be so viable, so necessary in this region.”

Church and Heindl arrived in the area with the company’s Guzzler truck, while the crew scheduled to arrive this week is arriving with the Mud Dog 1600 series truck by Super Products.

Finding the work
Since arriving in Columbia, where the company will be based while providing services in South Carolina, company officials have reached out to local utility companies and municipalities.

“We have reached out to the ones that we could,” Church says. “A lot of places were closed with people in the field, but we did drop off packets of information including promotional materials, our insurance and W9 so that people don’t think we’re just some fly-by-night contractor coming in to try to make a buck off the people.”

Church would like to see his company do about 10 percent charitable work to churches and nonprofit organizations that may need help and complement that with paying work.

“We’re coming in with a serious intention to help locals get their infrastructure back online as soon as possible and in the safest manner possible,” Church says. “This is a big deal. It’s not as catastrophic as Hurricane Katrina by any means, but it is catastrophic to those people in South Carolina. We think we can help people and we’re ready to get to work.”

C Company was profiled in the December 2014 issue of Gas, Oil & Mining Contractor magazine. That profile can be found here.

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