Pouring Concrete

By Joanne Ray | September 28, 2010

Since 1980, Independent Concrete Pumping has completed thousands of pours so it was no surprise that the company showed up at the Upper Blackstone Water Pollution Abatement District recently.

There, with the help of Aggregate Industries, Independent worker David Healy operated a Schwing 1220 42-meter concrete pump and directed a 300-yard pour with a 4000 three-quarters mix.

Blackstone is in phase two of a four-phase $187.1 million dollar plant improvement project and Independent was hired out by general contractor Walsh Construction to do the concrete pour.

"We have finished construction of the first phase of our four-phased plant improvement project and have started construction of phase II," said District Engineer Karla H. Sangrey, P.E. "The project is the result of a comprehensive capitol improvement plan developed through district facilities planning to identify the most cost-effective approach to modernizing the district's aging plant. The plan also includes achieving stringent air and water quality standards imposed by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency."

Sangrey said the plan envisions completion of the advanced treatment facilities needed to achieve current permit standards by August 2009 with design and construction of other facilities occurring on an as-needed basis. This results in the following four-phased approach to construction of the facilities:

Phase I: Peak flow management, head-works, primary treatment, disinfection, odor control and incinerator improvements, (approximately $61.7 million.)

Phase II: Advanced treatment facilities required for projected 2010 flows: advanced activated sludge (biological) process expansion for nutrient reduction, (approximately $85.4 million). The process includes building a new aeration tank, modifying three existing aeration tanks and building two new final settling tanks and modifying six existing tanks.

Phase III: Solids management facilities, (approximately $25 million)

Phase IV: Facilities required for future flows (beyond 2010, approximately $15 million).

The costs for Phases I and II are based on actual bid prices. The referenced costs for Phases III and IV are planning level estimates escalated to the mid point of construction of each phase. The total cost of all four phases is estimated to be $187.1 million. The district is fulfilling the requirements of a 2001 consent agreement with DEP and EPA to complete the first two phases of the project in order to achieve revised discharge standards by August of 2009. Phase I is complete and Phase II is on schedule for on-time completion. Design of the Phase III solids management improvements will be initiated in 2008. Phase IV facilities would only be completed if sufficient regional growth occurs to warrant their construction.

"By phasing project completion, we have been able to maintain plant performance during construction, reduce rate shock by increasing the period of time over which rates must be increased to pay for the improvements and increase our chances of receiving SRF funding, thereby minimizing borrowing costs," Sangrey said. "If we receive maximum state loans, we will need to increase annual rates (for treatment only) to approximately $160 per household if all facilities are designed and constructed."

Boasting the largest concrete pumping company in New England, Independent is likely to show up on many job sites.

It was more than 28 years ago that Jim Toothaker — then in his early 20's — started his own local concrete company.

"There were several concrete pumping companies in the Boston area at the time Independent started," Toothaker said. "I felt the market for concrete pumping was expanding and would support the addition of a new company in the area. Things were pretty slow the first year. I got pumping business only about two days a week."

By 1982 the company had five pumps — the fifth being a 28-meter Schwing pump. Recently, Independent purchased four new Schwing pumps — a 17-meter, 28-meter, 34-meter and a truck-mounted unit bringing the total number of pumps purchased over the years to more than 100.

"We operate 30 pumps and we do 40 to 50 jobs a day," said Toothaker. "It is like a chess game. We never know where we are going until the day before."

All of the phone calls that come in go through a dispatch program and concrete pumping machines are dispatched from facilities in Wakefield and Milford, Mass. and New Ipswich, N.H.

The system uses a Navtrack GPS system and mapping software. Dispatchers can locate where the call is coming from and find the closest facility so delivery of the requested pump can be made without delay.

The computer system also keeps track of all the pump trucks, pinpoints the exact location of any vehicle at anytime, determines their status and provides instant contact with vehicle operators.