Soon after Hurricane Sandy ravaged New Jersey and New York City on Oct. 29, officials there reached all the way to the small northern Michigan village of Kalkaska for assistance.
A two-man work crew from Clean Harbors, at 3300 U.S. 131 in Kalkaska, has been on location out east since early November, pumping sludge and tainted water from the basements of Manhattan skyscrapers and tunnels, according to the branch’s General Manager Charles Weaver.
“Our guys have been there working 12 hours a day, seven days a week for two-and-a-half months,” he tells The Ticker.
One economist in the insurance industry is now estimating the disaster will cost more than the September 11 cleanup. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says damages from the storm are expected to exceed $50 billion.
Headquartered in Norwell, Mass., Clean Harbors does environmental cleanup and energy and industrial services across the U.S., Canada, Mexico and Puerto Rico.
So how did the Kalkaska crew get involved?
The team had a working relationship with Mersino Dewatering, another large cleanup company already working in New York City. The two firms had worked together in the past and when Mersino needed assistance, they reached out to northern Michigan.
The Kalkaska crew, which has rotated during the period, has worked right through Thanksgiving and Christmas and is expected to return home soon. Citing company policy, Weaver declined to identify the workers involved in the cleanup.
That type of half-a-day, every-day work schedule is not unusual for the company which has done remediation and cleanup work at a number of northern Michigan sites.
But the 14-member remediation team doesn’t just work in Michigan. “We have guys on an emergency response right now in southern Indiana,” says Weaver. “In the past year we’ve also done work in Yellowstone (National Park), California, New York, New Jersey and Illinois.”
Weaver got his start in the environmental field working for Great Lakes Carbon Treatment, which was bought by Eveready, a Canadian firm. Clean Harbors purchased that company about four years ago.
Clean Harbors serves thousands of small businesses, Fortune 500 companies and federal, state and local governmental agencies. The Kalkaska site is part of the company’s Industrial Services branch, which provides high-pressure and chemical cleaning, catalyst handling, decoking, material processing and industrial lodging services to refineries, chemical plants, pulp and paper mills and other industrial facilities.