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Company Reports - HEPACO  


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HEPACO: Emergency Response Specialist and Environmental Contractor

Kevin Doyle, Senior Editor

HEPACO headquartered in Charlotte, NC is first on the scene to remediate a calamity's aftermath and also manages every day environmental service activity
HEPACO: Emergency Response Specialist and Environmental Contractor

Well-regarded as a premier emergency response and environmental specialist with capabilities across multiple sectors, HEPACO is at its very best when confronted with the most dire of incidents such as oil and chemical spills, chemical fires and transportation disasters.  HEPACO’s specialty extends beyond emergency response expertise to provide scheduled environmental service projects to their clients.


Founded in 1984 by CEO Ron Horton Sr., the Charlotte, NC-based company now numbers 23 locations across the Southeast, stretching into the Mid-Atlantic region and as far north as New York and has  safely completed more than  28,000 projects.


Ron Horton Jr., the company’s second-generation president, as often as not can be found mentoring in the field, along with the rest of HEPACO’s management team and is personally invested in HEPACO’s responsibilities to its clients and the public.


“This company is very important to me and my family. As a high-quality provider of emergency response and environmental services, I believe in what we do. To instill a culture of excellence, I believe you have to roll up your sleeves and be involved with everyone else on the HEPACO team,” Horton explains.


Not surprisingly, the company’s reputation is growing. “We’ve become a nation-wide company providing international assistance as well,” notes Joe Opatkiewicz, HEPACO’s Director of Business Development.


HEPACO differentiates itself from others in its field in a number of ways. “We have a tenacious approach to safety and are a very safe company to work with. By virtue of that I think that clients also see that we’re trustworthy. We also have a great network of vendors and partners and our clients benefit from those strong relationships,” Horton says. “Finally, we have a great track record. We’ve been in business for 28 years and have been able to take on a number of unique projects and provide solutions and remedies that people see as innovative.”



HEPACO manages projects in the transportation, communication, petroleum, energy, manufacturing, commercial and institutional industries. The company’s specific services include hazardous material spill response and restoration, marine oil spill response and restoration, transportation incident response, train derailments, chemical transfers, reactive/explosive stabilization, natural disaster response, biological incidents, industrial maintenance, remedial activity, asbestos/lead/mold abatement, waste transportation and disposal, and environmental training and consulting.


“In terms of our service operations, about half are emergency response based and the other half are scheduled environmental maintenance work for specific companies,” Horton says.


HEPACO was involved in the response to a significant oil spill in international waters in 2010. In July of that year, the company remediated an oil spill in Michigan that released 819,000 gallons of crude into a tributary of the Kalamazoo River.  HEPACO’s access to personnel and equipment provided the mechanism to safely complete both projects in the same timeframe.


“We also responded to a hazardous waste incinerator fire in Arkansas a few years back in a drum storage area. Several drums leaked and there was a chemical soup mixture with a lot of bad actors. We completed the project on time, on budget and without accidents,” says Horton. “And we were simultaneously on site at a large train derailment that had fatalities and was very challenging.”


HEPACO established a Major Incident Strike Team (MIST) in the late 1990s. The team consists of individuals with expertise in various disciplines. The unit is mobilized as needed and meshes with local responders. “We put together individuals who have specialized technological expertise, knowledge of accounting, a particular hazard we’re dealing with, or specific technology or machinery we’re using,” Horton says.


The company owns and maintains a fleet that includes dozens of vacuum trucks, more than 100 boats and backhoes, tractors and front-end loaders.


HEPACO benefits from affiliations with associations such as the SCAA and Transcaer. “One of the biggest benefits is joining together as a community within our industry to advocate on issues from a regulatory and training standpoint. People can bounce ideas off each other and we can move forward by developing better practices,” Horton says.


People and Training

HEPACO employs a full-time Safety Officer and augments OSHA, DOT and EPA standards with its own advanced in-house training programs. “We invest a great deal of time and resources each year in training. Obviously there is compliance training driven by the regulatory agencies, but we also do specialized training that isn’t required. For example, we’ll do rail specific training because we do a lot of work in that industry. We have internal programs and do joint training with clients as well,” Horton says.


The company works aggressively to recruit new personnel directly from colleges and is a proponent of organic growth. “We like to get folks right from college and teach them the HEPACO way. Occasionally we will recruit talented people from competitors and other times we use a recruiter,” Horton says.


“The stability and growth of any company relies on its ability to retain quality employees. The atmosphere and the culture in this company are outstanding and it’s rewarding to be part of the HEPACO team,” Opatkiewicz adds.


Looking Ahead

In addition to targeted organic growth, HEPACO is in talks with potential acquisition candidates. Horton expects the company to double in size within the next five years.


“I wouldn’t say there are any new types of disasters we could anticipate, but there will always be pipeline ruptures, oil well explosions, plant fires, industrial accidents, and natural disasters. Unfortunately, these situations occur routinely” Horton says.


Fortunately, HEPACO has the experience and solutions to safely clean them up.

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