Sept. 08--The family business isn't like the founding grandfather's enterprise at Davy Engineering Co. in La Crosse these days.
"I remember when we used to have six people," manager Tom Davy said of the business his grandfather, Frank, founded in 1929.
The 50 employees now include not only consulting engineers but also surveyors and geologists, as well as chemists and biologists for Davy Laboratories, founded in 1975 as an independent division to analyze water, groundwater and wastewater treatment.
Back in the day, consulting firms didn't pay much attention to environmental issues, while that is one of their major focuses these days.
"The majority of what we do is environment-related," Davy said. "Our primary thrust is toward public utilities. We design and point out potential problems with projects."
The company also does site design work throughout the tri-state area for real estate and residential developers and companies such as Menards, Target, Ashley and Home Depot, as well as hospital building projects, he said.
"We do the site development plan, and somebody else builds," Davy said.
"We create more green areas to control the flow of stormwater and provide proper drainage," he said.
"You get into a lot of variety of terrain in the Coulee Region because of its bluffs and valleys," he said. "It affects the stability of construction and runoff."
The terrain also affects water storage.
"Most water towers around here are built right into the bluffs. You get the same pressure, with less maintenance" than the traditional water tower setups, he said.
Analyzing drinking water also is one of the company's major undertakings because "it's a huge thing across the country," Davy said.
The company tests wells not only for municipalities but also for individuals, he said.
Lead and copper pipes were major concerns 20 years ago, with corrosion often forcing replacement of those elements, he said.
Consultants such as Davy Engineering help clients navigate the morass of regulations imposed by the federal Environmental Protection Agency and state natural resources departments.
"Most people are not knowledgeable about those," Davy said, "but we maintain the expertise to help them."
Financing is another daunting task for utilities and developers, so Davy Engineering often handles that process.
"Nowadays, you don't just go to a job," Davy said. "You have to help them find money, too. The paperwork is too technical."
Another area company with an environmental arm is METCO, a Hillsboro-based firm that has been installing and servicing fueling systems for
35 years. It has customers ranging from convenience stores/gas stations to commercial fleets to government agencies to farms to marinas to schools and a host of other clients.
In 1990, METCO added an environmental arm in La Crosse to address contamination from old gas stations' leaky underground storage tanks.
"We mostly dominate at leaking tank issues, which is one of the biggest environmental issues in Wisconsin," said Ron Anderson, manager of the La Crosse branch.
"That's not to imply that present gas stations are leaking, because they are not," he said. "They all have to meet federal and Wisconsin regulations.
"Essentially, they now are all corrosion proof," compared with bare steel common decades ago, Anderson said.
"Back in those days, they could lose a half gallon a day out of a 5,000-gallon tank and never know they lost it when they were just measuring with those big dipsticks," he said.
"Every town has six or so old gas stations," he said.
METCO evaluates such sites to determine whether there is contamination and, if so, help the owner clean it up to meet state and federal standards.
"The state requires cleanup only if there is a risk in the petroleum because it's expensive," he said.