HazChem received a phone call at 2:05 p.m. on August 24. An Operations Manager of one of the largest freight transfer companies in the Midwest had an emergency. A 275-gallon tote filled with Glycol Ether was on one of the company trucks, and the tote was punctured at its top.
The truck was parked in Cuba City, Wisconsin.
Cuba City, about a 20-minute drive from Dubuque, Iowa, is 153 miles from HazChem’s home base in Addison, Illinois.
“We felt very flattered as a company that we were chosen to handle this emergency,” said Alan Shapiro, Co-Owner of HazChem. “We know there are a couple of waste-disposal companies that are closer to Cuba City than we are. But I was told that HazChem was being chosen because we ‘Get things done correctly, send the proper amount of technicians and charge a fair price.’ These were very nice things to hear — and we immediately got right down to business.”
Shapiro and two of his employees, each five-year workers at HazChem, loaded a HazChem Emergency Truck with a brand new 275-gallon tote (made by Mauser Packaging Solutions), a tote transfer kit and plenty of oil dry, among other helpful items.
Shapiro decided a three-man crew would be sufficient.
“I’ve been in this business for 30 years and one of the worst comments I hear about some of our competitors is that they send eight people on a job when four would do,” Shapiro said. “Or they’ll send 10 people when only five are needed. I know it’s appreciated that we only send the proper amount of guys—this keeps our customers’ price down and keeps them using our services again and again.”
Shapiro decided to personally go on this emergency spill call.
“Our customers sometimes are surprised when they see Alan Shapiro or myself at a job,” said Chris Johnson, Co-Owner of HazChem. “But Alan and I still like to go on the jobs, get our hands dirty, stay active. It impresses our clients and reminds our own employees that the two owners only ask of others what we are still more than willing to do.”
Shapiro started at HazChem in 1991, working in the warehouse and learning how to become a technician. By 1997, Shapiro had moved into a management position at HazChem and Johnson was working as a truck driver for another company, making frequent delivery and pickup stops at HazChem.
“I would end up talking with Chris Johnson about the operations end of the waste-disposal business and I could tell he just had a unique knack for how to do things properly,” Shapiro recalled. “I wanted someone like him at HazChem.”
Soon after, Johnson was hired as HazChem Director of Operations.
And over the next two decades, Johnson and Shapiro developed a uniquely strong bond. Six years ago, the two ended up purchasing HazChem together.
“It was a dream-come-true for both of us,” Shapiro said.
And ever since, HazChem has enjoyed six consecutive years of non-stop growth, each subsequent year bringing in a new record for sales.
“But we haven’t forgot where we came from,” Shapiro said. “And so I was glad to be a part of this three-man crew handling this emergency in Cuba City, Wisconsin.”
And in Cuba City, employing a forklift and pallet jack, the HazChem crew moved the freight around on the parked truck of HazChem’s client.
“That went very smoothly,” said E.N, one of the HazChem crew members Shapiro took with him to Cuba City . “We were able to get to the punctured tote relatively quickly.”
Operating the forklift, E.N. moved the tote off the truck and then the three-man crew set things up for the tote transfer.
And keep in mind: Glycol Ether isn’t something to mess around with. Even short-term exposure can cause sever liver and kidney damage in humans. More rare, but still possible, are neurological damage, tremor and anemia.
Shapiro instructed his crew to wear Level “C” Tyvec Suits with Air Purifying Respirators.
“The Number One thing that Alan Shapiro and I will always stress with our employees,” said Johnson, “is safety. On this job, I know Alan made sure the driver stayed very far away while the tote transfer was being conducted and we made sure the suits and respirators were used by our team until the transfer was fully complete.”
The transfer did go very smoothly.
Prior to the transfer, the HazChem crew made sure the client’s truck was completely clean. Some Glycol Ether had spilled on the trailer floor, and the HazChem crew absorbed and cleaned that solvent with oil dry. The waste was then promptly put into one of the 55-gallon Open-Top-Steel drums HazChem had brought to the spill site.
The new tote, now safely containing the Glycol Ether, was forklifted back onto the parked truck and, soon after, the happy truck driver was back on his way to his deliveries.
“We were pleased that their truck driver was so grateful for our help,” Shapiro said.
The HazChem crew took the damaged tote back to the HazChem shop to be cut up and properly disposed. “We are honored that so many companies in Illinois, Wisconsin and Iowa, among other states, continue to call us for their emergency needs,” Shapiro said. “Many of these companies also use us for their more routine waste-disposal needs, too. It’s great to hear from others that HazChem is excellent at both of those parts of this business — waste-disposal needs and emergency responses.”