October 25, 2013

Ecolab all about cleaner, safer world | Martinsburg Journal

MARTINSBURG - While touring the Ecolab plant in Martinsburg Thursday, U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., wanted to know what is the local facility's biggest challenge.

"Finding enough employees that can work here," Jonathan Gavlinski, plant manager, answered unhesitantly.

However, Gavlinski told Manchin that the plant works with Blue Ridge Community and Technological College to train employees. Ecolab helps with tuition and students can get two-year degrees and go on to four-year bachelor degrees.

The plant has about 185 employees and about 15 contract employees, working three shifts five days a week, Gavlinski said.

Ecolab mixes, packages and distributes cleaning fluids for commercial customers at the Martinsburg plant, which opened in 2001.

The 90-year-old, worldwide company, with corporate headquarters in St. Paul, Minn., is a $13 billion business. The company also has units specializing in food service and hospitality; commercial kitchen repair and maintenance; food safety; pest elimination; laundries; and other commercial and industrial areas.

Ecolab recently bought Nalco, which specializes in paper products, clean water, clean energy and air protection technologies.

Gavlinski said the local Ecolab plant produced nearly 300 million pounds of product last year. The plant's production has doubled since 2006.

"Because Ecolab is wildly successful, the company has invested $3 million in the plant and the company consolidated operations at an Ohio plant to here," he said.

Manchin also wanted to know how the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency affects the local Ecolab plant.

"The EPA is good for us," Gavlinski said. "The EPA is all about a clean environment, and that is what we're all about. And they've treated us more than fairly."

He added that the biggest impact the EPA has had on the local plant is the EPA's Chesapeake Bay restoration program.

"We've removed all the nitrogen and phosphorus from our waste stream," Gavlinski said. "We've met the EPA's Chesapeake Bay requirements. Out industrial waste stream is pretreated at a plant on site before going to the (Berkeley County Public Service Sewer District's) Baker Heights plant."

The EPA mandated dramatic reductions in the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus - known as nutrients - that can get into the Chesapeake Bay via its tributaries. Nutrients are blamed for causing algal blooms in the bay that rob the water of oxygen, killing aquatic life.

Martinsburg and Berkeley County are in the Potomac River watershed. The Potomac is one of the bay's main tributaries.

Ecolab and the local plant are well known for its charitable work in the community. Since opening, the Martinsburg plant has donated about $1 million to local charities, including $500,000 to local schools, Gavlinski said.

After the tour, Manchin talked with about 30 Ecolab employees. He praised the employees and pointed out that West Virginia has a reputation for a good, strong work force.

"We need to find balance in life," Manchin said. "Economy and ecology go hand in hand."

With which Gavlinski agreed.

"Our world is about a cleaner, safer world," he said.

By:  John McVey