Spotlight on Terra Contracting

Terra Contracting, LLC, a Kalamazoo, Michigan based company follows six basic principles when conducting their business. Integrity, Safety, Customer Focus, Intensity, Training and Teamwork are all there in the story of how the company came to be, as well as the story of who they are as a company today.

Company founder Al Taplin bought the original company, then called A&B for $800 in 1952. Moonlighting as a machine operator, he worked two jobs until the sewer and drain company that is now one of several companies under the Terra Companies banner turned into a thriving business that his sons and grandchildren not only currently work at and operate, but that they can be proud of. One of those companies, Terra Contracting was named one of 2009’s “50 companies to watch” in Michigan.

Terra can handle just about any waste issue, and they are called in to remedy such issues as emergency sewer backups and flooding at construction sites after rain events. Terra Contracting President, Steve Taplin says, “In these times, we are called in to remove sand and sediment from storm structures washed in from rain events.” Terra also deals with sink hole investigations, preventative maintenance on collection systems to assist municipalities with annual requirements associated with collection system maintenance and hydro-excavation to assist with emergency water main breaks.

Taplin follows a sage piece of advice that he gleaned from his father, “Be proud enough of your work to put your name on it even if you’re the only one who sees it.” The elder Taplin became well known for his visible work, though, as well. Most notably he became known for his ability to put in a septic tank without leaving a mark on the lawn. He learned to make the first cut into the customer’s lawn, what he called “the key,” in such a way that when the sod was put back in place, there was no sign that any digging had occurred. Further, he would lay down plywood on the lawn so that the backhoe and trucks wouldn’t leave tire tracks. His attention to detail was impeccable. When he bought new trucks, he always picked white because the dirt would show easily and would serve as a glaring reminder that they needed to be washed. His trucks always gleamed as they rolled down streets and roads.

Many of those trucks come from Jack Doheny Supplies. The equipment is used virtually in all aspects of their business. Terra favors the Vactor combo unit, designed for vacuuming and jetting simultaneously. Typical uses include municipal sanitary/storm sewer cleaning, catch basin/storm drywell cleaning and wet well cleaning, to name a few. Taplin says, “From an industrial cleaning perspective, this machine can also be used for cleaning industrial process lines, perform miscellaneous wet vacuum services in any industrial setting.”

Taplin says, “For our environmental and remediation part of the business, the combination unit is a very useful tool for spill response, cleaning leachate collection lines in landfills and, in some cases, can be used as a component with Terra’s patented Sed-Vac® operation.”

Terra’s Sed-Vac® is a system for removing sediment and oil from water using industrial cleaning technology. Most notably, Sed-Vac® uses industrial vacuum loaders capable of pulling 5,300 cubic feet per minute at up to 28 inches of vacuum. The technology removes sediment with precision, automatically separates heavy solids, is able to work around debris and is quick to set-up.

Stanley Easement Machines are hydraulic driven units designed for accessing manholes in remote locations (backyards, fields, inside factories, basements of industrial plants, etc). These pieces of equipment work in tandem with the Vactor Combination Unit. It is a self propelled machine that allows the operator to clean sewer at remote locations without having to build roads and/or restore property as a result of driving large equipment across these areas.

As with the combination unit, IBAK CCTV equipment is used mostly for the municipal industry for televising sewer lines. The equipment is designed with a locator and inclinometer modules for measuring gradient of the pipe and to identify at the ground surface exactly where defects exist. Each unit is equipped with Pipeline Assessment & Certification Program (PACP) certified software to comply with the National Association of Sewer Service Company (NASSCO)’s standards for defect reporting.

Terra also uses Guzzler high velocity industrial vacuum loaders that are equipped with bag houses and positive displacement blowers designed for pulling wet or dry material and capable of pulling 27” of mercury at high CFM. Taplin says, “As with much of the equipment that Terra owns or rents, these machines are also used in every aspect of our business.” That includes WWTP vacuum work and industrial plant cleaning. “This equipment is a key component to Terra’s patented Sed-Vac® operation due to the distances and depths it is capable of pulling from,” Taplin adds.

No matter what the unit is, Terra’s machines are equipped to be diverse in their applications and outfitted with options like high dump chassis, large hose reels, additional tool storage and complete nozzle packages so that when the machine leaves the yard, it is ready to handle most projects without the need to run back to the shop to get the right equipment.

For more information on Terra Contracting visit or call 866.354.8963.

Story by Megan McClure

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