Wastewater Pond Dredging—One Scoop at a Time

July 3, 2014

At a mill wastewater treatment facility in Louisiana, Andrew Bain looks on as a Volvo EC240C long-reach excavator sits on a barge scooping sediment from a deepwater pond.

Bain is job superintendent for SFC Contract Services Inc., a general contractor established in 1985 that has learned to specialize in a variety of different areas. Like many businesses in the industry, SFC covers a range of applications from road construction to excavating and dredging.

Today the job finds Bain overseeing a levee system reconfiguration and dredging the mill’s wastewater ponds, a two-year process that began in 2012. At an average depth of 18 to 20 feet, the ponds contain approximately 625,000 yards of sedimentary waste. The sediment removed from the ponds is taken to reclamation and also used at a green site where new trees are planted. The pond project improves the wastewater handling of the mill and lowers the impact on local waterways.

Reconfiguring a system such as this is not a quick proposition; neither is it an easy one. It takes many long hours and equipment that can reliably stand up to the rigors of wet, hot, and rugged conditions, reaching deep into the depths of the ponds. That’s one reason the folks at SFC turned to equipment made by  Volvo.

In addition to the Volvo EC240CLR scooping the sediment atop the barge, SFC runs two Volvo EC250DLR long-reach excavators and two Volvo A25F articulated haulers, which are being used to haul dirt to build new levees onsite.

Made for heavy-duty production, the Volvo excavators excel at applications that require brute force earthmoving and heavy craning. These machines rely on powerful hydraulic excavator performance-ideally suited for the deep digging and lifting that SFC requires. With a max digging depth of 47 feet, these excavators capably scoop sediment from the pond floor and place it into the dewatering cells. With extraordinary stability, SFC is able to float the excavators into the middle of the large ponds and work safely and efficiently. The weight of the machines is built into the undercarriage, not into a rear counterweight as with some other excavator brands.

Volvo articulated haulers monitor and adapt to road conditions. Whether empty or full, the haulers travel up to 33 mph, increasing SFC’s productivity on the job site. With long days and a demanding work load, the consistent performance and reliable fuel consumption top SFC’s list of priorities.

Typically, SFC runs its equipment for 12-hour days. But as is often the case in the world of heavy-duty jobs, they occasionally have to run around the clock for three or four days at a time.

“The fuel consumption of our Volvo equipment is very important to us,” Bain says. “It’s excellent. It can’t be touched. I’ve been running equipment for several years, and I haven’t seen anything that can compete with Volvo fuel consumption.”

As for most businesses in the industry, fuel is one of the largest operating expenses for SFC. The cost is twofold. There are the obvious expenses associated with the price of fuel. And then there is the downtime it takes a piece of equipment to be off the job site for refueling. With Volvo fuel-efficient machines, SFC is able to reduce its overall fuel consumption, thereby lowering the amount it spends on fuel. It is also able to reduce the frequency of fill-ups-reducing downtime and improving uptime.

Also in the interest of keeping the machines up and running, SFC participates in the Volvo CareTrack program. CareTrack is the Volvo Construction Equipment telematics system that provides a wide range of machine monitoring information-information that is used to make the right decisions concerning the equipment. Intended to reduce fuel costs, optimize performance, and manage service plans, CareTrack is helping SFC keep the equipment in peak working order.

“The CareTrack system helps us out because we have mechanics of our own,” Bain says, “and they get an e-mail when a service code pops up on a piece of equipment. It helps us to track service and time periods, and when something goes wrong and a mechanic comes to a site, he knows what he needs to bring along.”

Companies like SFC that use CareTrack track their machines through GPS, acquire machine-operating data, acquire daily usage reports, and receive service reminders and parts planning, among a variety of other reports. All of this is designed to keep equipment performing at optimum levels-reducing downtime and increasing the time their machines are working for them.

When companies like SFC spend as much time in and around their equipment as they do, they demand that they perform well and perform consistently. It’s important that the owners and the foremen like Bain like the equipment, but it’s also important that the operators feel they get the best performance available.

“Everyone says they like the Volvo equipment,” Bain says. “The excavators are comfortable. They’re very operator friendly.”

SFC’s excavators feature a robust undercarriage and a reinforced boom arm and superstructure. Safety, efficiency, and durability feature heavily in the design and construction of these machines. An easy-to-read color LCD display, multi-adjustable seat and joystick, and rear view camera keep the operator informed, comfortable, and in control. High breakout and crowding force is supported by an advanced hydraulic system that enables smooth, responsive digging and lifting. And when you’re digging and lifting on a barge surrounded by water, those things can be very important.

“The long-stick excavators-I haven’t found anything on the market that can compete with them,” Bain says. “They’re fast, they’re operator friendly, and they’re efficient. The reliability of the Volvo equipment is excellent.”

Back on land, the Volvo articulated haulers also impress Bain and his crew. In creating the mill’s new levee system they require consistent performance over the course of many long shifts. When running around the clock, comfort and performance become less of a luxury and more of a necessity for the ability to deliver top-notch service to the customer.

“From what the operators tell me, they’re the Cadillac of trucks,” Bain says. “The cab is operator friendly. It’s safe. It’s very comfortable. It’s quiet.”

Across the board, SFC Contract Services Inc. uses all its Volvo equipment to keep the job site humming and the project moving forward. As the pond’s clarification increases, SFC can take pride in helping the customer responsibly manage waste and improve the water system. Until then, the big excavator floating on that barge will continue hauling sediment-finishing the job one scoop at a time.