January 17, 2020, marked the 25th anniversary for Baton Rouge, Louisiana-based Compliance EnviroSystems LLC (CES). CES was formed in 1995 at a time when the federal government began working with sewer system owners on consent decrees to clean up the nation’s waterways by curtailing sewer overflows.
CES started by initially offering smoke testing and manhole inspections, then quickly added cleaning trucks and CCTV equipment to its fleet and offerings.
“From smoke testing we moved into cleaning and CCTV trucks and we’ve added complementary services such as flow monitoring over the years,” says David Guillory, vice president of business development. “We’re still headquartered in Baton Rouge and our work is mainly in the Southeast.”
The company is privately-owned, and the bulk of its work is in the sewer system evaluation and surveying (SSES) sector. However, CES has greatly expanded its offerings to include cross-bore locating, disaster recovery, and SSES in off-road and difficult to access areas.
To cover all these services, the company has grown from four employees to more than 170 with offices in Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Georgia. In 2019, it was recognized by the Greater Baton Rouge Business Report as one of the Top 100 private companies in Baton Rouge.
“Our growth has been steady and organic, as we focused on doing a few things really well, in the safest manner possible. Safety is our number one priority in everything that we do,” says Guillory. “The additional services were added based on customers’ requests and CES’s quality work and reputation.”
One of the keys to helping foster this growth is the dedication and teamwork of the entire staff at CES, says Brad Dutruch, president of CES. “This growth did not happen overnight. I learned early on that to strategically expand a business; you need to make sure you never outgrow the people you hire to manage the work,” Dutruch stated in a press release about the company’s 25th anniversary. “Integrity in the work we do means we need the best people and the necessary equipment to get every job done right. We hire strong people and provide opportunities for them to reach their personal goals while bringing the vision of CES
Since the company’s inception it has cleaned and inspected more than 100 million ft of sewer pipe. Guillory notes that there is no exact number but estimates that crews clean and assess more than 5 million ft a year.
“I would say that the biggest problems we find while cleaning pipe are related to root intrusion and fats, oils and grease (FOG). Root intrusion and FOG are huge contributors to infiltration and inflow in municipal sewer systems, both can cause major problems in a system,” he says. “One of the more recent problems we have begun to encounter are related to flushable wipes, while they are advertised as “flushable” they do not break down in the same manner as toilet paper and they have the tendency to hang up on any obstruction in a collection system therefore causing blockages in the pipe.”
Up for the Challenge
“A lot of our work is repeat business with clients because of the quality of our deliverable,” Guillory says. “A lot of consent decree related sewer programs can last five to ten years. Some years we assess a lot of smaller diameter sewers and others it’s the larger trunk sewers.”
Notably, in the early 2000s, CES was selected as one of the consultants to perform SSES work for the City of Atlanta on its consent decree program; and 15 years following the devastation of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the company continues to play a key role in the clean-up of New Orleans’ storm drains and sanitary sewer infrastructure. It’s for New Orleans, that CES not only earned a regional construction award, but national exposure for the amount of Mardi Gras beads it recovered.
Following a state of emergency-scale rain event in 2017 that overwhelmed the City’s drainage system and caused damages to hundreds of properties, the City’s Public Works Department proposed an emergency catch basin cleaning program. It was to be a massive undertaking with 15,000 catch basins cleaned in
The program began on Sept. 26, 2017, and by the Jan. 23, 2018 end date, CES and its subcontractor partners successfully cleaned 15,300 catch basins and removed 7.2 million lbs of debris. Of that, 98,000 lbs were Mardi Gras beads. For its efforts, the Construction Management Association of America (CMAA), Gulf Coast Chapter, presented CES, Royal Engineers & Consultants and the City of New Orleans Department of Public Works with the 2018 Project Achievement Award for the program at its 2018 Regional Infrastructure Conference.
Guillory recalls a project in Hawaii in 2016 that involved cleaning and assessing a storm and sanitary collection system in the lower level of a very large parking garage. Because of the location and height restrictions, CES could not take its normal combination cleaners to the site. CES workers were able to retrofit a low-profile cleaning and vacuum unit on the back of a smaller ATV-style vehicle to gain access.
CES prides itself on being able to tackle these unique assignments, as well as the more run-of-the-mill cleaning and inspection work. By having the right equipment and the expertise, the company can tackle this wide variety of work.
Technology and Training
One of the ways it fosters growth and hones its operators’ expertise is through NASSCO, whose certification programs CES whole-heartedly supports. All CES operators are NASSCO-certified, and that starts at the top. Dutruch served as the NASSCO president in 2010 and CES has a NASSCO certified PACP trainer, Nick Spano.
Guillory says that by being involved with NASSCO, CES can keep up with the latest information from the industry. This is important especially as technologies advance seemingly every year.
“We’ve seen advancements on the combination trucks with more efficient nozzles and water recycle capabilities but where the technology has really advanced is in CCTV cameras and software,” he says. “The high definition images are higher quality and we can record and transmit data in real-time to the client. It’s heads and tails over where it was 10 years ago.”
Having improved imagery and data is important because multi-million-dollar rehabilitation programs are based on the data CES provides. “Sewers are out of sight and out of mind. It’s not usually a problem until it starts affecting residents and businesses,” Guillory says.
While the award-winning New Orleans project was an emergency situation and the tonnage of beads was an anomaly, Guillory says that the company has seen systems improve over the years as more and more system owners take a proactive, programmatic approach to their system maintenance.
“We’ve found that if the city has problems with the EPA, the system is in bad shape and in need of routine maintenance. We’ve worked in systems where there has been no maintenance in 20 plus years and you can tell,” he says. “On the other hand, we have clients who are serious about their maintenance and inspection and those systems tend to operate more efficiently.”
Engineers and municipalities understand this and work with CES to help setup long-term preventative maintenance programs because in the long run, maintaining a system is less expensive than reacting to problems. CES prides itself on delivering the highest quality data to it clients. Information that is essential to multi-million-dollar rehabilitation contracts.