ENVIRONMENT: EPI’s products really hold water

MANCELONA – Environmental Protection, Inc. has a product that, if all goes according to plan, you’ll never see.

The Mancelona-based company fabricates flexible geomembrane liners for a variety of water and waste containment applications. Their work can’t be seen locally at Treetops Golf Course in Gaylord, the Antrim/Kalkaska County Landfill and Grand Traverse Crossings in Traverse City.

Dan Rohe, son of president Fred Rohe, was recently named executive vice president and will oversee the day-to-day operations of the company.

“EPI services customers with projects ranging from 40-acre landfill projects to the average backyard pond,” Dan said.

Their recent work at Ken’s Landfill in Traverse City, for example, involves working with Waste Management to provide a six-acre liner to act as a closure over the landfill. This will prevent rain and surface water from going down through the landfill and causing pollutants to leak in the ground water.

“Our mission is to protect and preserve water resources,” Dan explained. “We use the highest quality raw materials we can obtain.”

Dan’s move to vice president is the first step to eventual ownership of the family-run company that began in 1980.

Dan obtained his bachelor’s degree in Environmental Policy from Michigan State University and has been working at EPI off and on since he was 15 years old. Long-term plans include Dan eventually taking over ownership of EPI.

“As always with new leadership, I think the company will see the rewards of a new viewpoint and fresh thinking,” said Dan, who’s also now in charge of sales.

Dan’s wife, Kelly, oversees advertising and public relations, while Fred has switched his focus to sales, dealer relationships and Web site development.

Their interactive Web site, located at www.geomembrane.com, offers an extensive background on the company and products, including case studies of their work all over the world.

Customers can also order a CD with videos of installations, welding, testing, interviews, plus photos, case studies, and technical papers.

“The Web site has been an incredible benefit to EPI,” Dan noted. “We have made sales in Mexico, Kazakhstan, Ecuador, the Philippines and many others from inquiries at our Web site. We’re averaging over 1,000 hits per month–this is astounding to me because it’s such a specialized industry.”

EPI uses the most extensive quality control program of any PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride) fabricator in the United States, according to Fred. In fact, EPI is known as a “PVC specialist.” The PVC liners it fabricates are single-ply construction manufactured from the principle polymer, Polyvinyl Chloride, and they use only first quality virgin resins. For this reason, all materials fabricated at EPI exceed the PVC Geomembrane Institute standards for flexible membrane liners, according to Fred.

“We pride ourselves in specializing in just a few materials rather than trying to be a ‘jack of all trades’ company,” Dan said. “This concentrated focus has allowed us to be a leader in improved technology and product enhancements.”

EPI also sells many grades of potable water grade material that has been certified safe for use in food production and drinking water storage by the National Sanitation Foundation.

“We even sell brine pit liners to local cherry processors,” Dan said.

EPI liners are typically built 200-feet wide, but they have fabricated one-piece PVC panels of more than one acre in size. In fact, size is generally limited only by what panel weight can be efficiently handled in the field.

Common competitors of PVC include polyethylene and natural clay liners. EPI’s Web site compares each liner type. For example, EPI notes that to install a 100,000 square-foot pond, a PVC liner can be laid in one day. Polyethylene takes 8-15 days and clay 14-28 days. According to the Web site, PVC is designed to provide strength and three-dimensional elongation without requiring the added thickness necessary to accommodate the grinding and welding procedures associated with polyethylene.

EPI works through both direct sales and a dealer network. Their dealer in Michigan is Price & Company.

EPI custom builds every liner and ships most within 72 hours, Dan noted. They also offer full installation and a representative to help the contractor’s crew install the material as needed.

“Our success and reputation is focused on quality note volume,” Fred noted. “The consequences of poor quality are not acceptable in our business. Ninety percent of our customers are repeat customers.” BN