January 12, 2016

Cleaning Up

Environmental cleanup is a dirty job, but somebody's gotta do it. And as environmental standards become more stringent and the economy grows greener, it's also becoming big business. Companies like KG Services in Brantford, Ontario are cleaning up – literally and figuratively.

When Kris Gaal, president and CEO of KG Services started his company 10 years ago as a general excavator, he would have a hard time finding much work in site remediation and spill cleanup. But every year, environmental regulations from Canada's Ministry of Standards become stricter and stricter. Gaal knew a good business opportunity when he saw one, so he seized the occasion. "The government is doing everything it can to protect our future, so the regulations are always changing."

KG Services restores sites that have been contaminated by industrial activity to a level safe for humans and wildlife. Before the recent wave of environmental regulations, many companies dumped hazardous chemicals onto unused land. Or sites became polluted through accidents or improperly functioning equipment. Removing contaminants such as oil, pesticides, or other pollutants can be a complex and expensive process. KG Services has the skills and licensing to handle certain types of soils and chemicals.

The company's typical jobsites include old gas stations, residential areas where old fuel tanks have been left for years, old factories closing down, or industrial cleanups. Customers range from real estate developers or landowners looking to sell property, to factories and other business that have had accidents or spills. Jobs can take anywhere from a day for a small car accident or truck rollover to several years for a large remediation project.

The company's biggest project was a grocery store that was putting in an addition. Approximately 20,000 metric tons of dirt had to be removed because it was contaminated with hydrocarbons. "They found three or four fuel tanks that had been leaking since the 1960s," explains Gaal. "We opened up a three-acre parcel of ground, and it took us about two-and-a-half years to characterize, clean, backfill, and re-asphalt the site."

Lean, mean, cleaning machines

KG Services performs most of its work around Toronto, about an hour and 15 minutes to the northeast of Brantford. At any given time the company might handle one or two big jobs, or from five to seven smaller jobs. To get the work done, it runs a large fleet of John Deere equipment ranging from compact track loaders (CTLs) and compact excavators up to wheel loaders, crawler dozers, and midsize and large excavators.

The excavators provide the main muscle for removing contaminated material. "We've had zero issues with our excavators," says Gaal. "We've only done our scheduled maintenance and daily greasing, and changed filters. We've had no breakdowns or malfunctions."

The company's John Deere 544K Wheel Loader is used mainly for shuttling material from stockpiles and loading it for disposal in trucks and trailers. The machine also hauls aggregate when material is reinstalled.

"It's our material mover," says Gaal. "The cab is extremely comfortable, so there's no fatigue even over 12-to 15-hour days. I love the heated seat in the wintertime. You sit up high – all-around visibility is great. And the reach for loading large dump trucks is excellent too."

Gaal appreciates the ample horsepower of the 544K and automatic differential lock, which engages as soon as a tire begins to slip. Optional spin control boosts productivity by improving traction in trouble some material or underfoot conditions.

Worksite Pro quick-couplers make attachment switchover push-button easy. "The operator can switch from buckets to forks without leaving the cab, and that's nice for moving drainage or sewer pipes."

Like all Deere machines, the 544K is easy to service. "Open the service doors, and all your filters and service points are easy to reach from ground level. The cooling system provides wide-open access to both sides of the cooler, so things are easy to clean."

Remediate immediately

KG Services' local John Deere dealer understands the company's unique needs. "If we need parts, you're not talking a day. It's within the hour. And that means a lot to us because we have a lot of people to answer to and don't need site engineers and property owners standing there looking over our shoulder if we have an issue."

The dealer does everything it can to ensure the machines stay up and running. "Our dealer is very accommodating. On a couple of small warranty issues, they arranged for a replacement machine right away, even taking a brand-new machine off the front lot."

Not that KG Services experiences many problems. The company's oldest Deere machine was purchased in 2003 and has almost 6,500 hours on it. "We haven't had any large repair bills on it at all. Warranty issues have been minimal. I've had no serious issues with any of our Deere machines. I have total faith in everything we own, from the smallest to largest Deere machine."

Gaal finances much of his equipment through John Deere Financial. "They have some attractive rates that allow us to grow our fleet without cutting into our working capital. Our local banker is upset. He comes around once in a while and asks where we finance our equipment. He always ends up leaving, complaining he can't match the rates.

"It's nice to have a company that provides a one-stop shot that has the right machine for your needs, offers financing, and then gives you the support you need. That's what I found with John Deere."

Gaal takes a lot of pride in his company and works hard to maintain a positive image. "It says a lot about your company when you show up with machines that are well taken care of. It conveys the impression that if you care about your machines, you'll care about the job. That's why we use clean, reliable, well-maintained equipment from John Deere."