fb pixel

Log In

Reset Password

Garris recycles toxic goo

White City company uses creativity to find ways to make old substances usable

WHITE CITY ' The office decor at Garris Environmental Services isn't exactly trendy. Its walls are papered with Department of Environmental Quality licenses and certificates.

But that's to be expected for a company whose business it is to get rid of other people's toxic waste.

A decade ago, Matt Garris saw an opportunity to make a buck disposing of the Texaco lubricants he once sold while working for Rogue Valley Oil.

I realized there was a real need that wasn't taken care of, says the 48-year-old Phoenix resident.

So his old customers became new customers as he launched an oil recycling enterprise. It has grown into an all-encompassing industrial waste recycling venture that also does dust control on unpaved roadways.

For every gallon or pound of sludge, antifreeze or oil filters that Garris Environmental collects, eight state and federal environmental agencies that follow toxic substances to their end mandate careful documentation of how it was processed and where it ultimately goes.

Garris Environmental's &

36;2 million spill-prevention insurance policy, with an annual premium of &

36;35,000, testifies to the rigors.

People think you make money hand over fist, Garris says. But you spend hours every day just checking and double-checking. It got to the point where I had to hire someone who was licensed just to monitor compliance.

Back in 1992, it was a somewhat simpler operation. Garris collected oil from businesses and stored it until there was enough to truck it up Interstate 5. The first month, the company transported 17,000 gallons to the Portland shipyards, where it was mixed with a bunker-grade C oil and used to run shipboard steam generators.

the end of the first year, the company was running as much as 23,000 gallons of oil to Portland monthly.

About two years into it, we realized the market for used oil was really good, Garris says.

But as the firm ramped up, oil prices sank more than 80 percent from 32 cents a gallon to 6 cents.

Shipping companies weren't taking as much, because they wanted cleaner oil. When that happened the market went into a slump. There was a large supply of oil with not enough people to burn it. People who would take it wouldn't give you anything for it.

then, however, Garris Environmental had begun branching out.

It had begun a dust control operation, using an oil and wax mixture. Today, it sells 200,000 gallons of the concentrate during its May-to-September application season. A seal coating to protect asphalt was introduced in 1995 with as much as 100,000 gallons sold per year.

Events also led to recycling oil filters and antifreeze. Garris Environmental crushes 40 tons worth of oil filters annually, with 98 percent of the oil removed. The metal is melted down by Schnitzer Steel in Portland.

Antifreeze is shipped to DeMenno/Kerdoon in Compton, Calif., which removes the glycol additive and sends usable antifreeze back to Garris Environmental for resale.

In 1996, Garris added a &

36;135,000 vacuum truck, known as The Dominator, to suck up most any kind of waste, including hazardous spills. The truck brings the load back to the 535 Industrial Circle plant, where it is unloaded into trays. Solid elements are tested for metal, petroleum and gasoline content.

Of late, Garris Environmental has begun dealing with wastewater through evaporation ' drawing 135,000 gallons annually through a thermal oxidizer that heats up to 1,400 degrees Fahrenheit. The machine evaporates one gallon per hour without emissions.

The hydrocarbons completely ignite and anything left over is left in ash form, Garris says. Theoretically, it's supposed to be clean enough for the local landfill. But it has to be analyzed and documented first.

The company recently began dealing with private parties wanting to get rid of household toxic materials ' paints and thinners, for example ' from their garages or boat motors.

We just got the license, he says.


John Pehowic of Garris Environmental Services in White City drains a vacuum truck of sludge washed down from an auto service station. The sludge is separated into components that can be reused. Mail Tribune / Roy Musitelli - Mail Tribune Roy Musitelli