Among the clients who have hired the services of this company to remove asbestos and other hazardous materials are the Navy, the federal Environmental Protection Agency and major public utilities.
Why is this small company in such demand by such large entities?
It has to do with negative pressure, a patented filtration system and four- yard woven polypropylene bags, according to Charles W. Davis, an inventor and supervisor who has been with the company for about 18 years.
For many of the cleanups, the firm uses a vacuum truck that it modified, Davis said. The truck-mounted system creates negative pressure in an area where hazardous materials such as asbestos or PCBs are being removed. The materials are sucked up by a vacuum so powerful it can lift cobblestones off city streets, he said.
The vacuum sucks up any airborne materials, such as asbestos, which is stirred up by the system. It is especially effective for asbestos because the substance is so light. One fiber of asbestos 2 centimeters long can remain airborne in a sealed jar for eight hours under normal pressure, Davis said.
The vacuum system also enables the company to remove asbestos using fewer people, he said. Instead of being bagged and carted to a truck, the material is sucked directly into it. Thus, an asbestos-removal job that would have required about 30 people now can be done by as few as five.
The technology reduces cost, time, and liability, Davis said. Liability is reduced because fewer workers are exposed to the materials for shorter periods of time. The truck does most of the work.
"Trucks and equipment don't get sick," Davis said. "They break down. So you fix them. People get sick."
The heavier bags, for which the company is seeking a patent, and a system for sliding the bags off the truck into a landfill "like cookies coming off a cookie sheet," also reduce liability on the road and at the landfill, said Davis. If a bag should fall off a truck, it is unlikely to break.
AAXON was founded 21 years ago in North Jersey as a sewer-cleaning business, specializing in such work for municipalities. The company is celebrating its 10th anniversary in the toxic waste-removal business this year.
The company became more involved in cleanups of hazardous materials as concern about such pollution increased.
Davis said that many of the innovations the company uses, such as the heavier bags, are just common sense. Davis said that though the bags are not currently required by state and federal environmental regulation agencies, they soon may be.
The bags now required by law for asbestos disposal can easily break if they fall off a truck or are dropped, he said. The heavier bags can be hit with a sledgehammer and not break.
"If something bothers you, and you are in this business, you know that sooner or later it is going to bother other people too," he said. "We try to stay ahead.
"The British knew in 1934 that asbestos was a problem. If you know something such as that, you can see that sooner or later people here are going to come to the same conclusion, too."