Safe Handling Intermodal Facility Designed for Environmental Care
Dec 1, 1998 12:00 PM
When Ford Reiche and Paul Turina constructed the $10-million intermodal facilities for Safe Handling Inc in Auburn, Maine, they invested $1 million in a state-of-the-art infrastructure that they hope will never be used. The infrastructure is designed to accommodate hazardous materials spills should they occur at the truck and rail bulk transfer station. About 80% of the product transfer involves tank trucks.
"It's all focused on prevention," says Turina, an environmental specialist. He and his partner, an attorney, established the company in 1990 after they realized there was a market for bulk transloading of chemicals in the Maine papermill industry.
"Bulk transloading was a back yard operation at that time," says Reiche. "Most of it was done on the side of other businesses. It wasn't warehousing that Maine needed. It was transferring of hazardous materials."
Specializing in bulk transloading, repackaging, and distribution services, Safe Handling operates in northern New England and eastern Canada. About 21,000 to 25,000 trailer loads leave three terminals annually, the majority traveling in a 200-mile radius of the terminals. Some make deliveries as far as 600 miles. Papermills served by the company include Georgia Pacific, International Paper Company, Great Northern, and Mead Paper Company.
In the beginning, Reiche and Turina decided on the venture and selected its serving carrier, the St Lawrence and Atlantic Railroad Company that runs from Portland, Maine, to Montreal, Quebec, Canada. "We picked the railroad before we chose the site," says Reiche. "We knew they were aggressive and customer oriented. We are new business for the railroad and a way for them to serve off-line customers."
The partners conducted a site search from the air, looking for an appropriate railhead location where there was no ground water and where highways were nearby. The search paid off when Reiche and Turina found an old inactive spur 20 miles north of Portland and 2.5 miles north of Exit 12 of the Maine Turnpike. Owned by the City of Auburn, the spur is leased to the railroad. The men reached an agreement with the city and the railroad cleared the track and rebuilt it.
Own Expense "We laid two miles of track at our own expense," says Reiche. But, it is the sophisticated hazmat infrastructure that points out the company's dedication to safety, a philosophy especially appealing to shippers and customers involved in public safety and meeting environmental rules and regulations. The intermodal facility sits over four separate below grade concrete containment tanks that would collect spilled product from either the loading racks or in other areas of the yard and warehouse.
The 37,000-sq-ft warehouse is divided into six sections with a pitched floor to move product into drains. Chemicals can be separated if they aren't compatible. In further safety measures, rail cars are pressurized to discharge from top valves during loading and unloading to prevent bottom drainage. Loading rack valves are operated by remote control devices.
"We overbuilt so dramatically because of Paul's background and the advice from my dad, who is a retired papermill manager," says Reiche. "We realize we surpass industry's standards. It set us up perfectly to handle chemicals. Our liability insurance cost was cut by 30%, but the biggest payoff is in the comfort level we are able to provide the chemical shipper."
However, safety precautions don't stop with infrastructure. Turina meets once a week with loading rack employees and company drivers to discuss accident prevention. An emergency training drill is conducted and includes local fire department and rescue units.
"At the weekly meetings, we review action items to be sure that they have been addressed," says Turina. "We also have a 'what if' session to discuss procedures that would be required for certain accidents. We give workers an update on the business so they know exactly where we are at any given time, financially. Our goal is for our people to understand the philosophy of this company and to be aware of our standards for customer service."
Technological Support Traditional customer service such as on-time delivery and around-the-clock availability is a priority at Safe Handling. With technological advances, the services have been expanded via the Internet. A web page is available for customer information (www.safehandling.com). Customers can also enter a password to receive specific confidential information about their shipments and invoices.
"We have provided this secure, password protected program to allow our customers 24-hour access to our database," says Turina. "Once they register, they can check on particular railcars, shipments, or even recent transaction history. Our commitment to customer service means that not only will customers get their order delivered on time but also that they get the information whenever they need it."
Customer and public service are also present in two historical relics restored by the company. An old railroad station is on the site and available for tours. It is listed in the National Historic Register and is believed to be the oldest railroad structure in the United States. A caboose has been restored and is used for entertaining customers and for public tours.
About $5 million in annual revenue is generated from handling about 7,000 rail cars and 750,000 tons of product. Although the Auburn facility is the largest, the Canadian and Portland units are busy. Operations in Montreal coordinate rail transfers for Cargoflo, a Canadian National Railroad subsidiary, at its intermodal terminal. The small Portland facility is dedicated to transferring heavy heating oil for papermills' boilers.
"When the company was founded, papermills were in a downturn, so managers were looking for efficient intermodal service," says Turina. "At the same time, railroad services improved for long-distance shippers, but short-haul trucking was retained. This all combined to enhance our business."
Product Transfer Today, the 55-acre Auburn site has nine sections of track where about 60% of the product transferred is hazardous materials. A 1,500-ft track is also dedicated for foodgrade transfer. Loading stations, built for top loading vehicles, have small heated rooms for personnel safety and comfort away from the weather. All loading is done by Safe Handling employees.
A 70-ft truck scale is available for company or carrier use. Steam or recirculated hot water system for railcar heating is also on the site. Video cameras provide full-time security.
Bulk cargoes handled at the Auburn transfer facility include hydrogen peroxide, sulfuric acid, hydrochloric acid, sodium hydroxide, sodium hydrosulfide, waste oil, latex emulsions, soda ash, polyethylene terephthalate pellets, and titanium dioxide. A small portion of the business is involved in clay slurry, telephone poles, talc, and wheat flour.
In Montreal, products include a variety of plastic resin pellets, and foodgrade products such as granular sugar, liquid sugar, talc, and cornstarch.
The Montreal location has seven sections of track with 168 car spots. Equipment includes a truck scale, six high-speed vacuum pneumatic transfer units, and a steam heating system. Computerized inventory control and railcar tracing networks also are in force. About 3,000 rail cars and 300,000 tons of product pass through the facility every year.
Papermill Aids At the Auburn warehouse and distribution services, the company handles various pulp and paper products for Nalco Chemical - polymer sizing and retention agents, silicate drainage aids, boiler feed water chemicals, pulp biocides, wastewater treatment polymers, and cleaners. Products also include granular adipic acid and maleic anhydride.
The 31,000-sq-ft heated, chemical warehouse at the Auburn location contains a full sprinkler protection rated for combustible chemicals, 200,000-gallon enclosed spill containment, six railcar spots, a hot water system for railcar heating, and a quality assurance laboratory. Safe Handling can provide local delivery with temperature-controlled trailers. Like many companies that are taking advantage of the growing tote industry, Safe Handling loads, cleans, inspects, certifies, and delivers intermediate bulk containers.
Totes, dedicated rail cars, and trailers are steam cleaned with a Landa pressure washer, Sellers Cleaning Systems spinners, and a Columbia boiler.
A DMP Corporation BT2000 wastewater treatment system separates liquids from solids, which are then treated. "We have our own recipe for mixing the chemical agents, combining the waste streams to simplify our wastewater treatment," says Turina. After treatment, wastewater is discharged to the municipal waste treatment facility in compliance with Safe Handling's discharge permit. Waste filter press sludge is transported to a licensed landfill.
Although the partners planned the facility infrastructure, developed customers, and conducted operations, they hadn't expected to get into the tank truck business. But recognizing a market that a small fleet could service, they employed drivers, leased two tractors, and purchased three tank trailers.
The tank trailers are manufactured by Bedard, a Canadian company in Toronto, Ontario.
Two vehicles are dedicated to talc slurry, and one is used for delivering heating oil. Trailers have Holland landing gear and Pro-Par axles.
Tractor Specs The Freightliner tractors are powered by 370-horsepower Cummins engines. Fuller transmissions are 10-speed. Drive tandems are supplied by Meritor, and front axles are made by Spicer.
Safe Handling's two mechanics provide preventive maintenance of tank trailers but send trailers to outside vendors for major repairs. Tractors come with a repair and maintenance program provided by the leasing company.
The company's owners don't plan further tank truck expansion, preferring to work with independent carriers. A few of the carriers use the Auburn facility as a parking site and their drivers, as well as those employed by Safe Handling, are dispatched from there. A computerized vehicle inventory control and tracing program is used to track the tank trucks and rail cars.
In addition to establishing a fleet, the company recently developed, at customer request, a hydrogen peroxide and dilution service and a talc slurry processing facility. "We provide expertise to operate these processes, and we also provide laboratory analysis," says Turina. "We do whatever the paper companies want."
"Someone is always coming up with a new product that calls for chemicals," says Reiche. "We expect to expand our services as new products reach the market while providing our current customers with all that they request, which includes peace of mind in the handling of hazardous materials."
The emphasis that Safe Handling placed on safety and environmental control when the company was begun, and its continued activity in operating in a conscientious manner, means the philosophy will continue into the future, the owners say.
What exists today was created with careful planning and obtaining one customer at a time, one loan at a time, says Reiche. "Everything we built was built with growth in mind."
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