Bob Jordan – Covalen
At an industry trade show this past October, the manager of a Midwest municipal utility approached the Covalen booth with some welcome news about where much of his budget for wastewater system upgrades would be going.
“I am tired of not having you involved in these processes,” he told a few Covalen executives, among them Bob Jordan, vice president of sales for the Indianapolis-based company, whose expertise includes the most efficient, reliant and environmentally friendly wastewater collection and treatment systems. “That is about to change.”
The Covalen crew had heard such positive feedback before. Reputations, after all, spread fast in the public sector, and with the company well-known for creative, solution-based approaches to wastewater management and other complex operations, an ever-growing list of cities, counties and utility operators have been seeking Covalen’s services.
“Our opportunity for growth is based on our ability to apply effective, efficient reliable solutions for our clients,” says company president Bob Jacobi.
Indeed, the company that initially operated mostly in Indiana, Illinois and Ohio has expanded to the Carolinas, and its footprint outside the Midwest is likely to keep growing.
“Our reputation carries us,” says Sam Jacobi, the ever on-the-road environmental sales manager. “Communities in Ohio told us, ‘You’re doing such a good job in Indiana, we need you here.’ Often-times they’re not satisfied with whoever’s managing their wastewater systems, and approach us.”
Iowa, Missouri and Kentucky are among the states Covalen is now focusing on for water treatment, while the Carolinas have been added for collection and treatment systems, as well.
Ties that bind
The company’s name derives from the science term covalent bond, which describes the link between atoms involved in the sharing of electron pairs. As Jacobi explains, the company itself bonds a lot of things in order to find solutions unique to the client’s needs. Those bonds may include different products, applications, systems, techniques, relationships and designs to assemble the best approach for a utility manager.
The Twin Lakes Regional Sewer District’s needs were unique enough in the early 2000s when it entrusted Covalen—then still a fairly young company—to find a way to save a couple of beloved waterways in north-central Indiana.
Lakes Freeman and Shafer, both reservoirs on the Tippecanoe River, had been so despoiled by aging, failing and leaking septic systems with poor soil quality, that “Swim at your own risk” signs were marking the shorelines. Lakefront cottages and impressive year-round homes were in danger of falling property values, contaminated water affected recreational markets, and an amusement park and cruise boat were becoming less appealing. It was a job for a specialist, one that could commit to multiphase mitigation efforts while working closely with various public and private entities.
Covalen proved more than equal to a task that would go on for six years. Working with Environment One (E/One), a grinder pump manufacturer well-versed in specialty pumping systems, a gravity-independent operation was completed in 2012 and the lakes have since been considerably cleaner.
With nearly 6,000 E/One grinder pumps in place, household waste is pulverized into a fine slurry and moved via low pressure through small diameter pumps to three treatment facilities located around Freeman and Shafer. The process is enabled by seven Gorman-Rupp self-priming lift stations, two sewage-booster packages and over 180 miles of directional boring that traverses both lakes eight times and the Tippecanoe River three times.
Around 7,000 antiquated and deficient septic systems around the lakes were eliminated. The work was done on time and within budget, and seemed to impress other public entities in need of wastewater management know-how that goes beyond the gravity method. Most of the homes on the water’s edge had significant elevation, making a simple gravity system impractical.
“The Twin Lakes Regional Sewer District is very happy with the system we installed,” Sam Jacobi says. “It functions great, had a light touch on the land and only requires six technicians to operate. With a mean time of service of 10 to 12 years after installation, the district can manage its expenses very well.”
Covalen has since been called upon to replace 12,000 septic systems in Indianapolis, as well as field calls for similar work well outside the company’s Hoosier Heartland home turf.
A fixture in the Midwest’s water and HVAC industries since its 1992 inception, Covalen maintains close ties with multiple engineers and manufacturers for designing, installing and servicing new infrastructure construction. Covalen Service Group handles all retrofits and upgrades for existing customers. While the public sector is its most reliable client, Covalen also handles water-related projects for manufacturing plants, hospitals, schools and universities, farms and food-processing facilities, pharmaceutical plants and residential developers. It’s fair to say that Covalen can tackle most any sort of hydraulic situation, and the company’s projects regularly draw plaudits from trade associations and government.
In 2007, when the Brown County Water Utility needed increased capacity for its operations in southern Indiana, it contracted with Covalen to buy Aqua-Store storage tanks with bolt caps. Long since in place, the system conserves 120,000 gallons per month with its backwash system that’s proved to be the most cost-effective method of protecting and improving water quality.
With demand for its services expanding down South, Covalen has been appointed E/One Sewer Systems distributor for the Carolinas. Covalen’s new Southeast base is in Loris, South Carolina, and offers full service and repair. Jordan, the vice president of sales, anticipates that the growth will continue.
And Sam Jacobi, well he’s finding himself on the road more and more these days, meeting with prospective clients unhappy with their present operations and looking to Covalen to be their trusted adviser to the most high-stakes projects.
“We’ve got over 150 years of industry knowledge and a diverse team that can work with any type of client,” Sam Jacobi says. “Our representatives are continually working with engineers, operators, funding agencies and regulators to explore ways to more efficiently overcome today’s challenging issues in the water and wastewater industry.”
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