How Davis & Floyd Balances Sustainability with Reality 

Sustainability seems to be the buzzword of this era with increasing awareness of recycling, climate change, and development of efficient industry processes that protect the environment.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to protect the world we live in. But have we set the standards too high?

If any team members at Davis & Floyd (D|F) have their knees deep in sustainability, it is our environmental engineers. They handle a wide range of projects from solid waste design and permitting to environmental compliance and implementation for industrial clients.

“There are problems with everything,” says Thomas (Tommy) Jordan, Vice President and Environmental Manager at D|F. “We try to be as green as much as the next person, especially in our line of work, but we also try to maintain reasonable expectations.”

Our environmental team often collaborates with a wide range of industries to design and permit facilities as well as help maintain environmental compliance once these facilities are in operation.

A prime example is the Langley Methane Extraction System. Davis & Floyd’s engineers developed creative solutions to a complex problem. Methane from a landfill was leaving the property at levels exceeding the lower explosive limit. DHEC required the landfill operator to mitigate the excessive limits.

Instead of the landfill owner’s spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to put in and operate a methane extraction system, our engineering team members looked across the street. Together, they helped the landfill owner partner with the neighboring industry by capturing the methane and using it as a fuel source, solving the landfill’s problems altogether.

“We learned the clay plant across the street was spending $90,000 a month on natural gas for their dryers,” recounts Tommy. “We suggested sending the extracted methane over to the clay plant. The industry paid to construct the methane extraction system and was able to save $78,000 a month in fuel cost for their dryers with a return on investment in just over a year.

As part of the agreement, the industry operated the system saving the landfill owner even more money and we didn’t waste the methane removed from the landfill which was a win – win.”

Our team members also site asphalt plants after conducting air modeling to determine how far back the plant should set from the property line. They develop site-specific environmental plans to manage stormwater and oil storage for these facilities too.

Despite all the hard work done for these plants to be as sustainable as possible, limitations come down to what technology can do.

“Sustainability is taught everywhere, but I think we’re heading down a path where we’ve over-adjusted the thermostat,” shares Tommy. “It’s so hot that nobody’s happy.”

Wastewater treatment plants are designed and built to remove pollutants from the water either as pretreatment plant before being released to a publicly owned treatment works (POTW) or to a level that can be discharged directly into a waterbody, river, or stream.

Each POTW has different discharge limits, which determine how low the pollutant level needs to be based on the size or flow rate of the receiving body. However, environmental regulators frequently require POTWs to lower their discharge limits. POTWs pass reductions on to their industrial contributors who often find it very difficult to meet the new limits.

“We can’t regulate what we can’t manage,” comments Tommy. “As technology improves, discharge limits are often lowered, but it shouldn’t be beyond what the technology can handle. If the plant can’t treat it to the level for the area, they may be forced to go out of business.”

New low limits for discharge caused one facility to respond by relocating the entire plant.

Davis & Floyd’s environmental team helped find a new location for the plant in an area with a POTW that had more favorable discharge limits in accordance with designing and permitting a new pretreatment facility with the latest, most efficient technological capabilities.

Being environmentally conscious is important. We all want the best for the world we have been given and to take care of it—but we need to be reasonable on what is capable right now.

Consider what industries maintain and contend with in meeting regulations, requirements, and consumer demands on top of sustainability. As technology improves, companies’ sustainability practices will improve.

As a part of looking forward, Davis & Floyd is proud to be a Fellow of the Sustainability Leadership Initiative (SLI) with Sustain SC and their mission of developing leadership skills and opening conversations of sustainability investments in South Carolina.

“There are problems with everything, but if we manage it, it’s not as bad,” Tommy shares. “Control the environment and create solutions that are environmentally conscious.”