Safety First

Remedial Construction Services, L.P.
Written by Nate Hendley

Remedial Construction Services, L.P. (“RECON”) is an environmental remediation, civil site preparation and geotechnical construction company based in Houston, Texas. RECON serves a variety of industries including energy/power, oil/gas, mining/minerals, chemicals, government and waste management. The main services it provides are site development/stabilization, geotechnical construction, environmental remediation and civil construction, almost all of which have a unique technological twist.
RECON is proud of its skill in cleaning up contaminated soil and water while maintaining a stellar safety record. “Our success is based on using innovative technologies and methods to solve our customers’ toughest environmental problems. Our guiding principles are centered around safety – above all else – a strong work ethic, innovation and exceptional performance,” says Richard Jordan, Senior Vice-president of Business Development at RECON.

RECON was founded in 1989 and currently has more than 400 employees. With corporate headquarters in Houston, Texas, RECON has six offices nationally, including Cincinnati, Ohio, Irvine, California, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and an operating company in Canada. Revenues were around $150 million last year with projected revenues for 2016 of more than $180 million. An impressive 85 percent of its work is with repeat customers.

The firm states that it has successfully completed more than 6,000 projects since its founding. To this end, RECON has stabilized over 12 million cubic yards of contaminated soil and sludge, built over 11.8 million square feet of slurry trenches, treated more than 45 million gallons of hazardous liquids and remediated over 25 Federal Superfund sites.

As a site development contractor, it has completed seven projects since 2006 with capital budgets ranging from $1.5 billion to $12 billion, and it has stabilized and repurposed over 1,500 acres.

When it comes to geotechnical construction, the company specializes in soil modification, groundwater controls, deep foundations (to support structural loads) and earth retention systems. In the environmental remediation segment, RECON does thermal desorption, bioremediation, chemical oxidation, groundwater controls and cutoff walls, groundwater treatment/remediation, sludge solidification, environmental dredging and decontamination. The company’s civil construction work covers drainage systems, underground utilities, site preparation and structural concrete.

RECON utilizes a variety of techniques from biopolymer trenches to chemical, jet and permeation grouting processes as well as reactive barrier walls, slurry walls and radioactive soil sorting and mixing techniques. “Biopolymer trenches are typically used as an extraction or inceptor trench for the collection of and/or removal of groundwater or as dewatering devices. They are installed using similar construction techniques as slurry trench/cut-off walls, except once excavated, biopolymer trenches are backfilled with permeable materials such as sands or well-graded gravels,” explains the company.

When RECON takes on a new job, the company first establishes a project execution plan which serves as a way to coordinate the appropriate human, equipment and technology resources. The plan might include benchmarking and lessons learned from previous jobs, as well as engineering and constructability reviews, resource histograms and critical path scheduling analysis. RECON also puts together risk assessments, contingency budgets, budget/cost analysis and construction schedules.

RECON has carried out jobs relating to the closure and capping of storage impoundments for coal combustion residuals (CCRs). When it comes to dealing with CCR, its approach varies based on the situation. RECON can perform traditional cap and close, clean closure via dig and haul, or dewater / stabilize wet CCR materials in-place. RECON also has the ability to expand a facility’s landfill capacity by creating landfill space for dry CCRs above a closed impoundment space.

The company has also done remediation projects involving radioactive soil. Its state-of-the-art technology is used to dig and sort the radioactive soil accurately and swiftly. It can operate up to fifteen feet below the soil surface and sort as much as 300,000 tons of materials. Every part of the process is overseen by a company health physicist and site safety officer.

RECON sets high standards for potential subcontractors and vendors looking to join the company’s supply chain. “We have quite a few strategic relationships in place, but given the nature of our business, not all of them can meet our needs in all situations… like most construction companies, we utilize a number of different subcontractors and vendors in the successful execution of our work. We value vendors and suppliers who share similar cultures to our own and greatly respect individuals who value relationships and excellence in performance,” says Jordan.

In a similar manner, RECON keeps several prerequisites in mind when hiring new workers. “We look for employees who embody our guiding principles… our culture is based on safety being a core value within our employee base. We greatly respect individuals who possess innovative thinking capabilities, a core desire to exceed client and customer expectations, tenacity, a solid work ethic and a desire and willingness to learn and enjoy team work,” says RECON’s President and CEO, Jerry Mason.

The company has over 450 pieces of specialized equipment, worth at least $30 million. RECON’s inventory includes cranes (with hydraulic and mechanical grabs, chisels and drill attachments), industrial low ground pressure (LGP) bulldozers, off-road haul trucks, soil mixing drill rigs, long reach excavators, compaction gear with pad or smooth drums, off-road and on-road heavy trucks, light vehicles and utility trailers.

“We manage our fleet acquisition planning based on upcoming project volumes, sizes, complexity of the work and project durations. We have several strategic rental agreements in place that we additionally leverage as do most owners of fleet equipment. We own some pretty rare equipment that makes up a large portion of this value. The balance of our fleet is common equipment easily found in the marketplace. At this minute, we don’t have any unusual events driving the need for increased ownership needs,” says Mason.

Mason cites several projects of which RECON is particularly proud. It built one of the largest known slurry walls in North America for a Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan, a potash mine site in Saskatchewan. “This wall was twelve kilometers in length, up to 57 meters deep and will protect the local groundwater for years to come,” says Mason.

The company also worked on three phases of a liquefied natural gas (LNG) project in Sabine Pass, Louisiana, run by Cheniere Energy of Houston. “This project is the first LNG export facility to come online in the United States in more than fifty years and required 4.5 million cubic yards of dredge spoil stabilization,” says Mason. The Sabine Pass LNG terminal is situated on the Sabine River on the Louisiana border with Texas.

Another notable project is the McKinley Mine in New Mexico for Chevron of San Ramon, California. “We’re very proud of our work at McKinley Mine for Chevron, where we worked with a local Navajo workforce, many of whom are working for us today throughout North America,” notes the RECON president.

RECON has another reason to feel proud of such projects: the company has a sterling safety record. In addition to standard safety programs for construction and hazardous waste management that are mandated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the company has instituted a behavior-based safety (BBS) program. The latter is a peer-to-peer program intended to drive home a message of safety first. To support BBS, RECON implemented a web-based platform that allows the project management team to input information and record at-risk behavior so managers can analyze workplace safety trends. Other company health/safety measures include site audits and inspections, orientation/training, pre-project/pre-risk planning, job hazard analysis, drug and alcohol testing and first-aid and CPR training.

The intense focus on safety has paid off. As noted in a company press release from May 20, 2016, RECON reached a remarkable achievement in late April of this year. The firm’s employees logged two million man hours of labor without a single recordable injury. “This equates to 918 days and almost 30 consecutive months without a recordable injury as well as zero lost time due to injuries and zero days away from work,” states the press release.

“First and foremost, allow me to brag about RECON recently achieving two million work-hours without an OSHA recordable incident. This is a huge milestone and represents more than two years of working safety. To demonstrate our leadership commitment, I challenged the team by agreeing to shave my head, ‘Kojak bald’ should we achieve the two million work hour record. Needless to say, my head is pretty bald at this very moment,” says Mason, referring to the famous bald television detective from the 1970s.

RECON recently won the National Safety Excellence Merit Award given out by the Associated Builders and Contractors. In 2015, the company was a finalist for the Golden Triangle Business Roundtable Safety Award. RECON was also recognized with two International Safety Training Council Safety Achievement Awards for having worked two years without an OSHA lost workday case involving days away from work and achieving a 100 percent reduction in total recordable incidence rate during 2015, as compared to the average incidence rate for the three previous calendar years.

Mason anticipates a bright future. “RECON will continue to grow without exception. We’ve tripled in size over the past ten years. We have a number of confidential initiatives underway that will certainly complement our ambitions. When you couple these initiatives with our ongoing geographical expansion, it’s hard not to see substantial growth. We care deeply for our employees and strive to treat them with great respect. We value businesses with common cultures and truly wish to exceed every one of our client’s expectations. When you spend as much time as we do investing in company culture, safety, and building relationships, it’s pretty hard not to expect a continuation of our past success,” states the RECON president.



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