Long And Winding Road Brings Chem Waste Home

The hazardous waste industry is anything but stagnant. Through the years, Chemical Waste Management (CWM), one of the nation's leading hazardous waste management firms, has survived the twists and turns of the industry's evolution.

Headquartered in Oak Brook, Ill., the company was formed as a separate division of Waste Management Inc. (WMI) in 1975 and became a wholly-owned subsidiary in 1978.

Chem Waste expanded significantly during the early 80s and became a public company. CWM attributes its growth to regulatory requirements.

In 1984, when the Resource Con-servation and Recovery Act (RCRA) was reauthorized, CWM's facilities passed the stringent hazwaste re-quirements. In contrast, more than 900 of the 1,400 hazardous waste facilities nationwide failed to meet the new standards and were forced to shut down. Cautious measures, such as banning the landfilling of liquid hazardous wastes two years before it was federally mandated, have benefited CWM in the long-run.

Although the industry continued to grow during the following years, several changes began to occur. For example, waste volumes from environmental cleanup projects were de-clining. This was a problem since cleanup projects generate a large portion of hazardous wastes which require off-site treatment and final disposal. Also, the commercial hazardous waste incineration market suffered through a weak period which took its toll on hazwaste companies. Demand was adversely af-fected by uncertainty about the federal government's regulatory direc- tion, environmental clean-up re-quirements and by the efforts of hazardous waste generators to reduce hazardous waste output and to manage those wastes on-site.

Further, the "get-into-compliance" drive which fueled much of the in-dustry's growth in the early 80s lessened by 1993 and, consequently, the incremental demand for hazardous waste disposal services suffered.

It's A New Day "We've had to evolve as the market has evolved," said Pat Payne, chairman of Chemical Waste Manage-ment.

"One of our goals during the past two years was to align the company's cost structure with its base business revenues," he said. "We are now in a position where we can anticipate continuing market changes and be more competitive. As a result, even if the hazardous waste service industry continues to be sluggish, Chem Waste will be focused on emerging stronger and more profitable."

This past January, WMX Techno-logies Inc. (formerly Waste Manage-ment) invested $400 million to ac-quire the remaining shares of Chem Waste, once more making it a wholly-owned subsidiary.

Today, CWM's network of secure landfills stretches from New York throughout the Midwest and South to California and Oregon.

"More than half of our employees are front-line people who work with our customers through direct customer service, laboratory analysis, technical services or sales," CWM President Mike Cole said.

For example, CWM sales people are assigned to one facility and are part of a profit center concept. "This allows us to rapidly respond to the marketplace," said Payne. "We have centralized appropriate functions and decentralized our profit centers. Approvals and scheduling were centralized into one location and CWM facilities became individual profit centers, divided by line of business and geographic areas. The profit center concept is designed to foster a sense of entrepreneurship among our people and allows us to respond to market opportunities."

"To increase the speed and reliability of our service, we implemented a special approvals acceleration project," Cole said. The goal was to re-duce the time it takes to approve a customer's waste stream.

"By streamlining the approval process and modifying our facilities' waste analysis plans, we increased our flexibility."

CWM's network of hazwaste landfills crosses various geographic areas. For example, the Model City, N.Y., facility, serves customers in the Northeast. In Fort Wayne, Chemical Waste Management of Indiana serves the Midwest. Also, landfills in Lake Charles, La., and Emelle, Ala., are near customers in the South-east. On the West coast, two Chem Waste land disposal facilities are located in Kettleman Hills, Calif., and another one is in Arlington, Ore.

Waste minimization strategies and the lack of remediation projects have decreased the volume of wastes sent to landfills. However, a need for hazardous waste landfill capacity will al-ways exist. Stricter environmental regulations have increased the a-mount of waste that must be managed. For example, the Clean Air Act requires manufacturers to use air pollution control equipment to re-duce emissions. This technology, however, leaves behind a hazardous residue that must be treated and landfilled.

"The land-disposal restrictions dictate that hazwaste land-disposal units will become repositories for treatment residuals rather than for original, untreated waste solids or sludges," said Richard Scherr, CWM president of thermal operations. "Incineration then becomes the first step in the treatment and disposal process for many of those wastes."

CWM operates hazardous waste incinerators in Sauget, Ill., and Port Arthur, Texas. "Incinerators destroy hazardous organic compounds and have the capacity to deal with a wide variety - and volume - of wastes," said Scherr.

Types of organic wastes accepted by CWM for incineration include: contaminated soils and debris, in-dustrial process solids, liquids and sludges, pesticides, ignitables, corrosives, commercial chemicals, lab packs, liquid and solid PCB wastes, halogenated and non-halogenated solvents, petroleum refining wastes and paint and ink wastes.

To treat incinerator gases, some of the company's incineration systems use a dry scrubber technology to cool and neutralize the gases. The process is followed by a baghouse to remove particulates.

Other CWM incineration systems use scrubbers to perform the same functions. In a wet system, caustic water quench cools and neutralizes the acid gases. Particulates are re-moved in ionizing wet scrubbers. Wastewater from the wet system is treated on-site.

Since 1971, Chem-Nuclear Sys-tems Inc., (CNSI) a subsidiary of CWM, has provided low-level radio-active waste management services at the Barnwell, S.C., facility.

CNSI services include: transportation, spent fuel management, solidification, liquid waste processing, de-watering, irradiated hardware pro- cessing, volume reduction, specialized disposal and storage containers, decommissioning/decontamination of radioactive/hazardous waste and OSHA and interim storage training.

CNSI currently has contracted with North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Illinois to develop low-level ra-dioactive waste disposal facilities. CNSI is seeking a license for a ra-dioactive waste disposal facility in North Carolina. The licensing process should be complete by 1996. Si-ting in Pennsylvania and Illinois is in various stages of evaluation.

"Environmental excellence in-volves more than complying with the law," said Cole. "It means environmental awareness on the part of our people. This includes efforts to practice reduction, reuse and recycling, conserving natural resources and protecting biodiversity."

To help achieve this goal, CWM in-troduced a comprehensive environmental plan which contained rating criteria based on the company's en-vironmental principles. The plan also included activities to promote environmental awareness.

"We introduced systems to track compliance issues and their resolution, as well as regulations and permit conditions," said Kevin Igli, vice president of environmental health and safety. For example, the Com-pliance Management System (CMS) is a PC-based software package that schedules activities to ensure compliance with permits or federal, state, local and company requirements. All requirements are divided into tasks, assigned a schedule and entered into CMS to be compiled.

In addition to investing in computer-based systems, CWM also has in-creased the staff in its environmental management departments. "At a time when many companies were downsizing, we wanted to keep our top environmental managers [on the job. So we gave them] the necessary resources," Cole said.

CWM has devised environmental plans for all of its divisions. Divi-sions or facilities that demonstrate a commitment to the programs and activities are presented with an award. To win an award, a CWM di-vision is rated against three general criteria: environmental compliance, conservation (waste minimization, reuse and reduction) and environmental awareness. Award-winning divisions must implement programs that go beyond normal regulatory requirements and into the realm of environmental excellence.

The WMX Family Tree Other WMX Technologies companies include Waste Management Inc., Rust International Inc., Wheel-abrator Technologies Inc. and Waste Management International plc.

Through the other subsidiaries of its parent company, Chem Waste provides a gateway into a variety of other environmental services. For example, Rust International offers environmental engineering and consulting, construction and infrastructure services. Waste Management Inc. provides recycling and integrated solid waste management services in North America and Waste Man-agement International provides solid and hazardous waste services in more than 20 countries. In addition to its renewable energy capabilities, Wheelabrator Technologies Inc., a global supplier of process engineered systems, serves municipal and in-dustrial water, wastewater and bio-solids markets. Wheelabrator also offers air quality control systems for industrial and utility applications.

Last summer, WMX began a comprehensive review of its operations. As a result, the company plans to or-ganize globally around four core lines of business: waste management, clean water, clean energy and engineering. The waste management line of business, in which Chemical Waste Management will play an important role, is focused on residential, commercial and industrial customers. "This alignment will allow customers to deal with one company for all their waste management needs. It will be a one-stop shopping approach," said Payne.