Hard work gets Pedricktown Tank Wash online in just 90 days
Mar 1, 2011 12:00 PM, By Charles E Wilson
Until recently, Bryan Wood and Brad Holmes were the entire tank cleaning crew at Pedricktown Tank Wash in Pedricktown NJ. Holmes owns the wash rack with his wife Pamela, and Wood is the wash rack supervisor. The four-bay chemical wash rack opened for business in February after a grueling 90-day renovation.
IT WAS like “Extreme Home Makeover” for wash racks. That is how Brad Holmes describes the 90-day scramble to get Pedricktown Tank Wash operational in time for a February 1 reopening.
Making the achievement more noteworthy was the fact that Holmes brought the wash rack back online with minimal staff and limited financial resources. Even more challenging: He started with a facility that had been idle for the past eight years and was missing some critical equipment.
“We started this project November 1 (2010) and spent $200,000 on it,” Holmes says. “We got a lot of help from friends in the industry and in the Pedricktown area. Even so, it was tough completing this rebuild effort on schedule during one of the worst winters this region has seen in recent years. We had to do it, though, because we needed to start generating revenue.
“We still have a lot of work ahead, but the wash rack is up and running. Our cleaning volumes are increasing slowly, but steadily, and we've already had to hire an additional wash worker to keep up with business. We're on the right track.”
Pedricktown Tank Wash sits on 8.9 acres at 8A Route 130 in Pedricktown, New Jersey, across the Delaware River not far from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The wash rack focuses on cleaning chemical tank trailers and has two enclosed bays and two outside. Cleaning services are available 24/7 as needed by customers. Services include secure trailer parking, office space for customers, and tractor and trailer repairs.
For Brad Holmes, opening Pedricktown Tank Wash is a return to the commercial tank cleaning sector. He grew up in the industry working with his father, Jack Holmes, who founded Vanguard Trucking in the 1960s. The tank truck carrier built one of the period's most sophisticated tank wash racks in the industry in Carteret, New Jersey.
Brad joined the company full time in 1973 after serving in the US Navy. During his tenure at Vanguard, the company continued to expand the Carteret operation and bought the wash rack in Pedricktown from another tank truck carrier.
The Holmes family sold Vanguard to Chemical Leaman Tank Lines Inc in 1986. The family kept the tank cleaning facility in Carteret and renamed it Gateway Terminal Services Corp. The Pedricktown wash rack was handed off to Chemical Leaman under a 15-year lease.
The Gateway Terminal operation thrived under a partnership that included Jack and Brad Holmes and John Pontecorvo. The company developed a computerized wash management application that included cleaning recipes and handling requirements for more than 5,000 chemical products.
By 1996, Jack wanted to retire, and Gateway Terminal was sold to US Liquid. The Pedricktown facility was still under long-term lease to Chemical Leaman and later Quality Carriers. Even after the wash rack was shut down in 2003, Quality Carriers continued to use the facility for trailer parking and storage.
Following the sale of Gateway Terminal, Brad retired for a short time. That didn't last. He went back to work, first in marketing and sales for Hibrett PuraTex, a supplier of cleaning chemicals to the wash rack sector. That was followed by a stint at Corrosion Technologies, a water treatment specialist.
“Even though I was working in other businesses after we sold Gateway Terminal, my dream was to reopen the Pedricktown wash rack,” Brad says. “I even bought a house in the area 14 years ago and put down roots.”
The opportunity arrived last year when Quality Carriers' lease of the Pedricktown facility finally ended. Brad arranged to buy out Pontecorvo's interest, and the scramble began to get the wash rack back into operation.
“Quality Carriers was very helpful in letting us launch the rebuild project even before the lease ended,” Brad says. “Quality also became one of our first clients to sign a contract with Pedricktown Tank Wash.”
The effort to restore and reopen the wash rack was nothing short of arduous. During a very short 90-day period, Brad and a small team of contractors repaired eroded concrete flooring and rebuilt and refurbished equipment and systems throughout the facility. “Some of our contractors were involved in the original construction of this wash rack,” Brad says.
In the wash bays, workers fixed damaged flooring and replaced the steel grating over the floor drains. Halogen and mercury vapor lighting fixtures and wiring were repaired and updated. A friend of Brad's rebuilt the Goulds pumps over Christmas.
“Couplings in the pumps were shot, and some of the pumps had broken loose from their mountings,” Brad says. “We also replaced the three-inch gate valves used with the cleaning system. We purchased Sellers spinners from J-Tech, and we bought new hoses and spinner cones from Hart Industries Inc.”
“This is great technology that electrically charges water to remove iron,” Brad says. “Iron is the biggest water problem we have in this area. Because the system doesn't use salt like most water softener units, clean water can be returned to the ground without any special treatment.
Brad spent $60,000 to refurbish and update the vat-style wash system. The system consists of two 3,600-gallon tanks, each of which is divided into three compartments used for hot caustic, detergent, and hot and cold water.
“We cut open each vat and shoveled out built-up cleaning chemical sludge,” he says. “We collected eight drums of sludge in all. We cut sampling ports in the tanks to make it easy to test the strength of the cleaning chemicals. We also installed new heating coils and controls to maintain tank temperature at 150°F to 180°F.”
Brad scrapped the 90-horsepower boiler that was already in place at the wash rack and replaced it with a rebuilt 150-hp York Shipley boiler built in 1995. Workers poured a new concrete slab for the boiler.
Boiler condensate is collected across the operation and returned to the boiler, and that condensate is very tightly controlled. “That is one way we are trying to lower operating costs,” Brad says. “In addition, if you can control condensate return, you can control chemical costs for the boiler.”
Controlling those factors included installing a water cooling sampler from OrChem Pumps and a small softener unit just for the boiler water. “The OrChem unit is the best way to sample and test boiler water,” Brad says. “That is one of the things I learned while working at the water treatment product company.”
The wastewater pre-treatment system was overhauled. The oil/water separator was updated with new valves, and workers fixed some leaks in the wastewater tank. Curbs for containment were added the pad on which the treatment system sits.
To make it easier to move trailers around the yard, Brad acquired a 1995 yard tractor. He spent $11,000 to paint and make the yard tractor operational.
Perhaps most importantly, Brad spent $20,000 to acquire the rights to the chemical product and cleaning recipe software that his father developed during the 1980s. That is one of many factors he believes will make Pedricktown Tank Wash a very competitive operation in an area that already has a fair amount of commercial tank cleaning capacity.
At least four other commercial wash racks are operating within 20 miles of Pedricktown Tank Wash. At the same time, there is a large concentration of tank truck fleets in the area, and tank truck traffic through the area is heavy.
“I know this industry,” he says. “I grew up in it, and I know what it takes to be competitive. I know cleaning chemicals very well, and we blend our own caustic and other solutions, which helps reduce operating costs.
“We're starting to build a core of customers, and our cleaning volumes are growing. We're able to clean up to 30 tanks a day with our four wash bays. I am optimistic that we are going to hit that level in the not-too-distant future. We are going to make this facility a success.”
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