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Disasters and crises as a core business

11 January 2021

Traffic accidents on public roads, processing plant failures, fire damages... These are no small tasks, but not for the men at ADJ Milieutechniek as they are specialists in environmental incidents. Their red trucks are called out from Werkendam around 3,000 times a year to tackle industrial cleaning, transport, incident and waste management. They have resolved many an environmental issue for the Dutch Ministry of Waterways and Public Works, the Dutch Ministry of Defence, water boards and commercial businesses.

Chris de Jong modestly brushes off that ADJ Milieutechniek is the largest environmental-incident-recovery organisation in the Netherlands. "It doesn't matter who gets the job done. We believe it's more important that we work together. We all have the same stake in this: to limit environmental damage." Chis and his brother Henri grew up in the family business. They both have entrepreneurship in their blood and were raised in the industrial service branch. Father De Jong has now passed on the baton, but he has not yet fully retired. At the age of 70, he still has a hands-on role in water purification. Mother De Jong on her side, still manages the finances and staff organisation every day.

Customised Service
Henri is now General Manager, and Chris is Operation Manager “I just ensure we provide the right specialists with the right equipment”, says Henri. “We have a team of 35 colleagues, which is surrounded by 20 other people from our stuff. And that is very valuable! In terms of planning, there is no way of knowing what will happen as, by its very nature, our work is unpredictable. Also, no situation is the same. We learnt to improvise with an eye to safety, and we do it well! Our people are passionate about this profession and receive all-round training. They can operate the smallest crane, but also the most advanced disaster trailers we have since they need to remain flexible despite all of the quality, health, safety and environmental standards.” No wonder then that the business works within ISO 9001 and has VCA** [Safety, Health and Environment Checklist for Contractors, ed.] and process certification for tank cleaning and decontamination.

When Worst Comes to Worst
In practice, the De Jong brothers also regularly roll up their sleeves and work in the emergency response service. “We are available 24/7 on our emergency number,” says Chris. “Reports of environmental incidents come into the control room; from there, we can respond quickly. In that sense, we are like a fire department: our trucks are parked facing outside, with the equipment ready. But there is a special dynamic to customer contact. What the customer sees and experiences as a disaster, is regular business for us.”

ADJ Milieutechniek’s fleet has 100 units: from oil skimmer boats to road surface cleaners. “We have special disaster units to clean contaminated sites along with several mobile storage facilities. We also have a 700 cubic metres storage capacity on our site because we always collect and process waste in our work. We treat waste streams such as oil, water, and sludge mixtures in our waste treatment facility. Anything we can’t handle ourselves goes to ATM [a Renewi subsidiary, ed.]; these are usually the bulk and water streams. The acceptance, transport and treatment of waste happen 24/7.”

It must be something to do with the year these two companies were established: ATM and ADJ opened its doors in 1982. To the best of Chris’s knowledge, they have always worked with ATM. “That was already the case when I was a child. ATM has a lot to offer in terms of treatment. They are fast, flexible and Moerdijk is just around the corner for us. The existing contract is good, and we know what to expect from each other.”

Illegal dumps and drug labs
Almost every day, ADJ Milieutechniek is hired to clean up drugs waste. And the environmental professionals have expertise in this area too. “ We are noticing that the number of illegal dumps is rising year after year”, says Chris. “The amounts of hazardous substances are also increasing. And these are therefore indigestible.” Moreover, the environmental problem is not over. In the Netherlands, the synthetic drugs industry has grown over the last few decades into a mega-industry with an annual turnover of almost 20 billion €. Luckily the cabinet has promised extra money and workforce to tackle this problem at the source by halting to the production, trade and criminality that comes with it. ADJ Milieutechniek transports this type of drugs waste to the Renewi CCD site in Moerdijk, and the associated rinse water stream goes to ATM.