Fulfilling a Need

When Phillip McCammon graduated from Texas A&M University with a degree in business management, he had in-depth knowledge of cars and the wastewater industry from helping his dad and uncle at their liquid haul company in Austin, Texas. He wanted to build a business within the industry but didn’t want to compete with his dad and uncle. Knowing that disposal was a major problem within the industry, he focused his research there.

McCammon visited different dewatering sites to learn about their set up, and researched dewatering methods online. “There are several different dewatering methods such as a screw press, and others, but the belt press and centrifuge are the most common,” says McCammon. He determined that the belt press was the best way for him to go.

He approached a wastewater treatment plant in a nearby town about their dewatering needs. The small suburban town had a centrifuge but it was too small to meet their growing population. McCammon bought an Envirex belt press at a surplus auction in New Jersey, refurbished it, mounted it to a trailer and took it to the wastewater treatment plant to fill the gap.

While most plants pay Sheridan Environmental to bring the press in and dewater, there is one exception. “I pay the city a per gallon rate to dewater,” explains McCammon. “In turn, outside liquid haulers are allowed to bring in waste to the plant. We pay the plant to treat the water that comes off the belt press. I process it and pay for labor, chemicals, hauling to our compost site and disposal. We do a lot of volume–about 2 million gallons per month. One belt press runs five days a week and we do 40 yards a day.”

McCammon continued the same set up with small cities, municipalities and waste management companies around the Greater Austin area with his mobile belt presses.

“We started off a dewatering company, then we got into hauling dry waste and eventually opened a composting site, Walker Aero Environmental. Now, dewatering is about 25 percent of what we do.”

Disposal Solutions
“We had issues with the local landfill–they couldn’t take the waste anymore because it caused sink holes, or they didn’t have the trash to cover it and it causes an odor. When they quit taking it, it created a bigger need in the market. We are the biggest in town and needed a place to dispose of dry sludge. Some guys started hauling to Temple or New Braunfels, but then there were issues there.
“We found a primitive site and I brought on a business partner. We started composting in March of this year.
“By building our own, it also helped out the guys on the septic and grease pumping side because there was only one place in town that accepted that and they were at capacity and charging a premium. Those guys were driving to San Antonio and Stephenville until it went under. It was a scramble to find alternatives.”

McCammon and his team at Walker Aero Environmental turn the waste into compost and sell it to landscape supply companies, home builders and others who need to buy in bulk. “We want to sell 1,000 yards not 1-2 yards,” says McCammon. “Selling the compost doesn’t bring in enough money to market it. Most communities have a problem with it and it’s expensive to educate a population about the benefits. We are fortunate that the Austin market is educated about how it’s recycled, good for the environment and good for the sod.

Quality Control
“Another major issue that so many had was logistics,” says McCammon. “Haulers would show up when they wanted to. We would have boxes waiting to go with the whole operation held up until the hauler would show up an hour or more late. Once you get the process started, you don’t want to have to stop and wait. Now that we control the whole process, we have a dispatcher who communicates with everyone.

“Our belt press operator will let the dispatcher know when he starts and when he expects the first box to be ready. She’ll schedule the truck to be there a few minutes before that time, so they can swap out the full box with an empty box. It takes no more than 15 minutes to do that. While that happens, the operator of the press checks the belt press, the polymer, and greases the bearings if needed.

“We have 24 hour access to the plants and start our trucks at 2 a.m. We swap boxes and schedule box swaps throughout the day because if a plant can’t get rid of solids because the hauler doesn’t show up then the quality of the water suffers.

“Doing all of it allows us to maintain quality control. We have a lot of people that have a lot of experience in the industry, specifically on the sludge side as well as hauling, disposal and dewatering.”

Growth
Just by solving their own problems, McCammon and his 22 companies and four employees have solved problems across the Greater Austin area for many businesses. “We went from one truck in 2010 to five trucks in 2013 and run all seven boxes a day,” he says. “We grew quickly by providing good service and showing up on time.

McCammon’s team services just about every plant around Austin except Austin, which has their own operation. “Once our customers get to know us and know that we go that extra mile, then it helps when there are any hiccups. If we ever get behind, I’ll get behind a truck and the operator sees me and knows we are doing all we can. One time we had four trucks break down. But, since we provide good customer service, the customer understands when things go awry.”

He adds that having equipment is also key. “We service our boxes regularly, and replace the wheels at least once per year. If one wheel is worn, it can break their wench, or pull it out of the concrete. The boxes weigh 30,000 lbs once loaded.” Their full-time welder performs this and other duties.

At each company, McCammon tries to create a family atmosphere. “My dad is now the general manager, my sister is the dispatcher and a few people who I’ve known for a long time work for me and keep the best interest of the company in mind.

“I try to convey that with our new guys. When something breaks, it’s coming out of my pocket. So I try to make a point that it’s important to take care of the equipment. In turn, I understand when there are personal issues the guys have to take care of. Most people are responsible and the operators hold the truck drivers accountable.

As McCammon and his team continue to fulfill customer needs and exceed expectations, we can’t wait to see what they’ll tackle next.

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