Latest Midwest Soil Remediation News

Driven To Decontaminate

Posted on Tue, Jun 30, 2015

Mobile equipment helps Midwest Soil Remediation treat contaminated soil at industrial sites throughout the U.S.

June 2014 Cover Story for "Gas, Oil, and Mining Contractor Magazine"

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To the unfamiliar eye, the phrase “soil cleanup” might at first glance seem an oxymoron. After all, soil is supposed to be dirty.

And yet, soil cleanup and remediation is a $7 billion industry that grows by approximately 6 percent each year. These companies do the dirty work of cleaning up the toxic substances left behind by generations of industrial activity.

One of those soil-cleanup firms is Midwest Soil Remediation Services of Ingleside, Illinois. Since its founding in 1991, Midwest Soil has successfully remedied 1 million tons of soil at more than 125 toxic waste sites. The company uses a process known as ex situ thermal treatment — “ex situ” meaning the soil is excavated for treatment.

“Depending on the concentration of toxins in the soil, we can treat anywhere from 8 tons of soil per hour up to 25 tons per hour,” says Mike Fetherling, the company’s vice president of operations. “Ours is a relatively new technology and we operate in a relatively small, tight-knit industry that a lot of people don’t even know about.”

Soil remediation first came into its own with the Superfund bill of 1980, which covered hundreds of toxic waste sites throughout the U.S. The two most well-publicized disasters were Love Canal in New York and Times Beach in Missouri. With the stroke of a pen, the U.S. Congress dedicated billions to remedying those and other sites throughout the country. The Superfund work continues to this day.

Today, companies are more environmentally responsible and better aware of the need to guard against accidental spills than they were in the past. They’re also well informed on what to do when accidents do occur. In such situations, most companies are quick to contain accidental spills of
toxic material.

Still, spills do happen. Companies and municipalities must also continue to deal with toxins that were dumped as many as 100 years ago. Through relationships formed over the past two decades with environmental officials and consulting firms, Midwest Soil Remediation stays busy making these sites pure and pristine.


After Superfund’s creation, it was only a matter of time before companies sprang up offering different types of soil remediation services tailored to the location of toxins, the type of soil and the proximity of water sources.

Midwest Soil pioneered a technology known as thermal desorption to successfully treat contaminated soil. As the name denotes, the technology utilizes heat. In the desorption process, organic compounds are extracted from the soil. A secondary process is then used to neutralize or destroy them.

Other remediation companies utilize either chemical-based processes or biological methods to treat soil. The advantage of thermal desorption is its ability to achieve dramatic results — soil that is within a tiny fraction of 100 percent pure — within a relatively short period of time.

There is also a significant cost advantage in on-site soil remediation. The client saves money that would have otherwise been spent on hauling massive loads of dirt somewhere else for cleansing or replacement. In addition, the process is by nature less time consuming than most in-situ soil treatments, a process through which the soil is not removed.

The company was started by Fetherling’s uncle, Dean Fetherling, in 1991, and was one of the first to enter into the thermal marketplace. “By and large, most soil-remediation service companies don’t have the same capabilities that we offer,” Fetherling says.


“We’re in a small industry where everyone knows one another,” says Fetherling. In fact, with the exception of about five permanent office staff, virtually all of Midwest Soil’s technicians are contract employees. They go from project to project and company to company as job requirements dictate, much the same as oilfield workers do in locations such as western North Dakota or aerospace engineers do in Southern California.

“This is a small, specialized industry and virtually nobody ever walks in here and says ‘I want to be a soil remediation technician,’” says Fetherling. Instead, people are often referred to Fetherling by other companies or by existing employees.

These were all characteristics and skills that described Mike Fetherling at age 21, when his uncle Dean invited him to join his new company — and he accepted. “When a new hire is brought on board, he’ll be assigned to a well-seasoned employee for on-site training,” Fetherling says. “Our formal training focuses heavily on safety.”

The training covers health and safety rules and regulations, handling potentially dangerous substances, machine-specific heavy equipment training and the types of safety equipment required by different levels of jobs. At some job sites, a Level B full body suit with supplied air is necessary equipment. But not at all sites.

Two important elements of training are OSHA’s 40-hour Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response Standard (HAZWOPER) course and the OSHA 10-hour General Industry Training Program. In addition, the training outlines the company’s safety procedures and emphasizes the proper way to communicate with other employees. Lessons in first aid and CPR, working in confined spaces and hazard communication are also training priorities.


All of Midwest Soil’s equipment is designed to be portable — although “portability” in this case is a rather expansive concept. Thermal desorption equipment can be huge, and quite often multiple tractor-trailer trips are needed to haul it to the client’s site. Fetherling points out that Midwest Soil does not own any of its trucks; they are all leased.

Three thermal desorption systems factor heavily in Midwest Soil’s cleanup projects. Equipment is designed to be matched to the volume required and the type of desorption (whether direct or indirect fired).

The 525d Direct Fired Thermal Desorption System can process a maximum of 25 tons of soil per hour. As the term “direct fired” denotes, it operates by means of a flame at one end that heats the soil to extract contaminants. This particular system is tailor-made for sites containing petroleum or petrochemicals. An auxiliary scrubber works in tandem with the desorption system for projects involving chemicals such as pesticides.

The 420d Direct Fired Thermal Desorption System has a bigger footprint (75 by 45 feet, versus 60 by 30 feet) than the 525d, and processes a maximum of 15 tons per hour.  This system is geared toward sites contaminated with chlorinated solvents.

The 432i Solvent Extraction System is an indirect-fired system that utilizes steam for soil cleanup. Of the three systems it is the quickest to set up and disassemble and usually requires a less arduous state and local permit process. It processes a maximum of 16 cubic yards per hour and is targeted at sites containing hazardous chlorinated solvents.

In most cleanup jobs, the company will remain on site for several weeks to months. “It’s difficult to pinpoint an average length of time because all cleanup sites are quite different,” Fetherling says.

Two variables that affect the speed of cleanups are soil type and the presence of shallow groundwater. Soils in which dense, wet clays predominate can be slower to work through and remediate.

In addition to desorption systems, other equipment in Midwest Soil’s fleet includes tracked excavators, wheel and tracked loaders, screening equipment, compactors, generators, pumps and water treatment equipment. Any of these pieces of equipment can be brought to a site, depending on the nature of the cleanup.


“The most challenging job our firm has faced over the years was the cleanup of the William Dick Lagoons in Chester County, Pennsylvania,” Fetherling says. This was a designated Superfund site where a former trucking company had used a depot to clean liquid-asphalt trucks. High amounts of chlorinated solvents were used in the cleaning process.

This left behind a gooey mass of both tar and toxic levels of chlorine, which helped put the site on the Superfund list. Midwest Soil Remediation kept at this messy job for slightly more than three months. “This certainly wasn’t our biggest site, but because of the combination of these substances, the cleanup was quite difficult,” Fetherling says.

One of its longest-duration projects was the cleanup of the Warren County Landfill in northeastern North Carolina, a large Superfund site. The landfill was, in fact, created to house PCBs that once lined roadsides in North Carolina. The toxic roadside materials were painstakingly removed and trucked to the Warren County Landfill for storage. Public pressure prompted the remediation of this soil.

For a 13-month period, Midwest Soil Remediation operated a toxic cleanup operation at the landfill. Thanks to a state training grant, approximately half of the people who staffed the facility were hired locally.

Midwest’s ability to do its work on site is quite often a key advantage in securing a job. This was a big advantage on a series of jobs in the Piceance Basin region near Rifle in western Colorado. The highly active oil and gas producing region is extremely mountainous with limited road access.

Soils in the area had become contaminated by drill cuttings and residues from oil and gas drilling processes, and would have been enormously expensive to haul to a different location for remediation. In some cases, the areas requiring soil remediation were extremely high in elevation, which exacerbated this issue. Midwest Soil was able to perform its cleanups on site, with no soil removal required.


Most of Midwest Soil Remediation’s work focuses on sites that have either been operational for several decades or have been abandoned and are now being repurposed.

Similarly, Fetherling doesn’t anticipate the proposed Keystone Pipeline to have much of an impact on his company’s work. “The way oil and gas are being drilled today eliminates a lot of the potential for environmental issues,” says Fetherling. “My hat is off to those guys — we all have to live on this planet, and they are doing a great job at protecting the environment. In the meantime, there are plenty of legacy sites to keep us busy.”

Many such jobs are as near as the corner store. The U.S. is dotted with hundreds of thousands of gasoline stations, many of which have aging, underground storage tanks. As they get replaced with newer, rustproof tanks, many sites require remediation — and Fetherling’s company stands ready to serve.

What’s the key to staying successful? A steady pipeline of new business certainly helps. New jobs come in through a network of environmental consultants, attorneys, business people and others who are familiar with Midwest’s cleanup processes, and more importantly, know its reputation for excellence and dependability.

“Our business model is very simple,” Fetherling says. “When we contract a job, we guarantee 100 percent performance and completion on schedule. In the 24 years we’ve been in business, we’ve always been able to achieve that. For any business, that kind of reputation is a great thing to have.”

Topics: thermal desorption, drill cuttings, Superfund, hazardous waste, soil remediation experts, Colorado

CVOC Soil Remediation: When only a home run will do...

Posted on Mon, Aug 18, 2014

Unfortunately, Magic Dust Does Not Exist

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We all know all so well that no single method of soil remediation is appropriate for every situation. It makes perfect sense that sites need to be properly evaluated where soil types, groundwater, contaminants and concentrations are taken into account. Once this information is obtained, remedial alternatives can be assessed for cleanup effectiveness, schedule, and cost.

When You Can't Afford to Guess on Performance

Although there are always "cheaper" ways of dealing with problems, sometimes projects do not have the time to experiment with passive, in-situ methods. We come in contact with many projects that are up against regulatory pressure or are motivated by a pending real estate transaction. These are cases where property owners are less willing to roll the dice on a remediation method that either takes a long time to work, or does not come with a guarantee of success.

Lean on our Experience and Track Record

We at Midwest Soil Remediation are heavily focused upon providing highly effective ex-situ based solutions for projects that require a guaranteed solutuion at a guaranteed price. Our remedial alternatives are proven, and we have the experience and track record to back it up.

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Solvent Extraction: Quick, Effective & Economical

Our 432i is a high performance solvent extraction system designed to remove hazardous chlorinated solvents from soil. This process reduces organic contaminant concentrations to below site specific cleanup standards, and eliminates the need for disposal or further remedial action.

This system typically processes 8 cubic yards of material per hour, and can be operated 24 hours per day if required. Contaminants are extracted from the soil, and collected on liquid phase activated carbon for off-site disposal.

Following the extraction process, samples of the treated soils are sent to a laboratory to verify meeting cleanup standards.

Is Solvent Extraction Right for your Project?

Please call or send us an email, we want to learn more about your project specifics. In turn, we will provide you information regarding what our process can do for you at your site.

Topics: hazardous waste

Another New York State Superfund Site Completed!

Posted on Mon, Jan 6, 2014

Midwest Soil Remediation is pleased to announce that it has successfully completed another New York State Superfund Site utilizing our mobile thermal soil remediation technology.

Superfund thermal desorption unit

MSR 420D Thermal Desorption Unit

Frontier Chemical Site - Niagara Falls, New York

The Frontier Chemical Superfund Site is Midwest Soil Remediation's fifth thermal soil remediation project conducted in the State of New York. Our prior work in the State has included three other Superfund Sites:

American Valve Superfund Site - Coxsackie, NY

National Pipe Superfund Site - Vestal, NY

Sweeden-3 Chapman Site - Sweeden, NY

This latest project in Niagara Falls involved the on-site thermal treatment of soils contaminated with various VOC's including monochlorotoluene, tetrachloroethene, chlorobenzene, dichlorobenzene, trichlorobenzene, dichloroethane, trichloroethene, toluene, and benzene.

An extensive stack emissions characterization program was conducted in August which confirmed the equipment satisfied all operating criteria and demonstrated destruction removal efficiencies exceeding 99.999%.

Thermal processing began in July, 2013 and was complete early December, 2013.

A total of over 42,000 tons were processed successfully.

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Topics: thermal desorption, Superfund, hazardous waste

MSR Expands Mobile Thermal Treatment Operations Into Wyoming

Posted on Mon, Oct 7, 2013

Wyoming is our 22nd Permitted State!

Midwest Soil Remediation is happy to announce expanding its Oil & Gas services into the State of Wyoming. 

Wyoming Drill Cuttings Remediation

Providing an alternative to landfilling, Midwest Soil Remediation is conducting thermal treatment operations in Wyoming; providing Oil & Gas operators with permanent on-site solutions to managing contaminated pit contents.

Liability Eliminated

We provide a permanent solution that eliminates any future liability.

Cost Competitive

We can lower your remediation costs. Let us show you how economical thermal treatment can be.

On-Site Solution

We clean soil on location. No more heavy truck traffic or need to import backfill.

Guaranteed Results

The price we quote is the price you pay, and we guarantee meeting site specific treatment criteria.

About Midwest Soil Remediation...

Midwest Soil Remediation has been an owner-operator of various thermal desorption systems and technologies since 1991. Typical clients include various government agencies, Oil & Gas producers, consulting firms, industrial manufacturing and commercial businesses.

Topics: thermal desorption, drill cuttings

Upstream Oil & Gas Locations Remediated in Colorado

Posted on Tue, Aug 13, 2013

Midwest Soil Remediation has successfully remediated 8 well pads for a major Oil & Gas company that is currently conducting natural gas operations in Western Colorado.

drill cuttings thermal desorption

The Midwest Soil Remediation drill cuttings remediation project pictured above was performed utilizing our 525D portable Low Temperature Thermal Desorption Unit.

This system consistently provides Oil and Gas producers with a fast, effective, guaranteed remedial solution to contaminated pit contents. Our thermal desorption processes are environmentally friendly and offer an economically competitive alternative to transportation & disposal options. Moreover, our thermal soil remediation services are a permantant solution that eliminates the potential liability associated with hauling to landfills.

The Midwest Soil Remediation thermal desorption process is safe and simple. Drill cuttings are stabilized on an as needed basis and fed to the thermal desorption system which rejects debris greater than 3”. Contaminated materials are heated only to the temperatures necessary to volatilize and separate organics from the solid matrix. Vaporized organics are safely destroyed in downstream air pollution control equipment, and clean, remediated solids are discharged and stockpiled for analytical testing. Treated cuttings are analyzed for volatiles and semi-volatiles to verify compliance with organic compound limits specified in Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission Table 910-1.

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Following laboratory verification of meeting these cleanup objectives, processed material are returned to the excavations and utilized as backfill.

Although more stringent objectives are routinely obtained, pit contents are guaranteed to be remediated to below cleanup objectives contained in Table 910-1, which allows for unrestricted on-site reuse of the material.

Further enhancing our environmental and economic advantage, these systems utilize “field gas” when operating at actively producing well pads which satisfies all fuel requirements for the electrical generator and thermal desorption unit burner systems. The only supplemental fuel required is the off-road diesel consumed by heavy equipment.

These projects are performed under a portable permit issued by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Division of Air.

Click here to learn more about our Oil & Gas Services.

Topics: thermal desorption, drill cuttings, Colorado

420D Performance Enhancements Complete!

Posted on Mon, Jun 17, 2013

We have just completed an extensive 3-month redesign/rebuild of our 420D Thermal Desorption system. This equipment has undergone many improvements over the years, but none have been as significant as this latest effort.

continuous improvement

As part of our commitment to the continuous improvement of our remediation systems, we have substantially rebuilt our 420D thermal desorption unit, which is now anticipated to achieve an overall 30% increase in production capacity and a 15% improved operating factor.

These highlights of these modifications include:

  • New Fuel Trains - This equipment has historically been fired on Liquefied Petroleum, but has been converted to Natural Gas. Although Natural Gas is now the preferred fuel, Liquefied Petroleum may still be utilized at sites where natural gas is unavailable.
  • Updated Control System - We removed every wire, and started from scratch! Back in the day, our operators would operate this equipment from outdoor control centers. Now, this equipment will be operated from a climate controlled operations center that houses a state-of-the-art Human Machine Interface that provides precision control of the thermal process. 
  • Larger Baghouse - A long time bottleneck of this system that limited production has been the size of the baghouse. We opened the flood gates by increasing the quantity of bags from 78 up to 125...a 60% increase in capacity.
  • Reconfigured Quench & Scrubber - A new high efficiency air atomizing quench nozzle and in-line axial fan positioned at the outlet of the scrubber will make the off gas system more efficient and virtually maintenance free.
  • Increased Oxidizer Burner  - To deal with up to 35% increase in gas flow, we have replaced the oxidizer burner with a model providing 40% more thermal capacity.
  • Larger Scrubber Bed - Anticipating high chlorine concentrations in contaminated feed soils, we fabricated a new stainless steel scrubber with 50% more packing than the original design to ensure optimum removal efficiencies.

These changes combined with dozens of other system "tweaks", we think will result in a better, faster, more economically system that has many tons of soil to remediate in the future!

MSR Awarded Contract for New York State Superfund Project

Posted on Thu, Mar 14, 2013

Midwest Soil Remediation, Inc. has been awarded a contract to perform Low Temperature Thermal Desorption services at a New York State Superfund Site. This project is scheduled to start in July, 2013.

New York State Superfund

This project will involve mobilization of our High Performance 420D thermal desorption unit, Proof of Performance demonstration testing, and thermal processing of approximately 22,000 tons of hazardous contaminated soils.

Contaminated soil will be excavated, thermally processed on site, and analytically tested prior to re-use as backfill. The 420D thermal desorption unit will remediate contaminated soils in a rotating counter-flow desorber. Contaminant laden gases will exit the desorber and pass through a fabric filter bag-house where particulate are removed. Particulate free gases will then be routed to a thermal oxidizer followed by a rapid quench and packed bed scrubber.

A third party will be contracted to conduct Proof of Process testing of the systems performance and demonstrate compliance with all applicable regulatory standards. 

Soil contaminants include: trichlorobenzene, dichlorobenzene, chlorobenzene, PCE, TCE, acetone, benzene, toluene, chlorotoluene, phenol, dichlorophenol and other compounds.

This will be our 5th project performed within the State of New York, 3 of which were also Superfund Sites:

American Valve Superfund Site - Coxsackie, NY

National Pipe Superfund Site - Vestal, NY

Sweden-3 Chapman Superfund Site - Sweden, NY

Topics: thermal desorption, Superfund, hazardous waste

Colorado State: Portable Permit Issued

Posted on Tue, Jul 10, 2012

Midwest Soil Remediation (MSR) is excited to announce receipt of a Initial Permit for our 525d system in the State of Colorado. This is a portable permit, allowing MSR to conduct thermal soil treatment operations on a State wide basis. Due to the terms of this permit MSR can respond quickly to customer needs, avoiding typical permitting delays. Currently operating in the Piceance Basin Oil & Gas sector, Midwest Soil Remediation will be looking to expand operations to additional regions within the State.

525d air permit

Topics: thermal desorption, Colorado

20-Years Providing Thermal Soil Remediation

Posted on Mon, Oct 17, 2011

Midwest Soil Remediation, Inc. Celebrates 20-Years of Excellence

Incorporated in the State of Illinois in May of 1991, Midwest Soil Remediation, Inc. has had the opportunity to own and operate a total of six thermal soil treatment systems and operate at over 110 mobile sites. Having processed nearly 1-million tons of soil, Midwest Soil Remediation is proud of having never failed to meet its contractual obligations, nor have we ever received any Notices of Violation from any department of Government.

Midwest Soil Remediation, Inc. is very fortunate to have been blessed with such skilled employees and strong leadership. We are very grateful for the support of our customers past and present, and look forward to continuing to bringing environmental solutions to the world for many years to come.

MSR 20-year logo

Topics: thermal desorption, soil remediation experts

Full Scale Pilot Test: Drill Cuttings Remediation

Posted on Mon, Jun 13, 2011

Full Scale Pilot Test: Drill Cuttings Remediation

Midwest Soil Remediation is currently conducting a full-scale pilot demonstrating the effectiveness of utilizing Low Temperature Thermal Desorption for the treatment of drill cuttings.

Operating in the Piceance Basin of Western Colorado, Midwest Soil Remediation is using its 525D thermal desorber to process drill cuttings impacted with petroleum hydrocarbons from the development of natural gas production wells. 

While utilizing natural gas produced on site to fuel the thermal desorber and electrical generator, contaminant concentrations are being sucessfully reduced to levels meeting the requirements of Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission Table 910.1.

The 525D thermal desorber is comprised of two interconnected portable trailers, and is processing drill cuttings at approximately 18 tons per hour. A third trailer has been mobilized to provide office space and house supplies due to the remote location of the project. 

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Topics: thermal desorption, drill cuttings, Colorado