Built To Surpass

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Ritter fuel tanks

For visitors to Ritter Crop Services, Inc. in West Ridge, AR, finding the outlet isn’t that hard. After exiting I-55 and passing by fields of rice and soybeans for a couple of miles, a pair of structures loom in the distance. One is an old barn, populated by various pieces of farm equipment placed here and there. Directly across the road is a brand new building, surrounded by a security fence and numerous safety signs. This is Ritter’s West Ridge facility. For miles in any direction, no other houses or buildings are visible.

Despite its remote location, Facility Manager Lynn Skaggs says the outlet was built with an eye toward safeguarding its surroundings and neighbors. “As an outdoorsman, I know the importance of respect for the environment,” says Skaggs. “We consider it a partnership with the grower to care for our natural resources. The preservation of these resources is the most important step our company can take in assuring our future.”

With this philosophy in play, the Ritter West Ridge facility has been named a regional winner in the 2008 Environmental Respect Awards program. “I was surprised that we won, but it feels great,” he says of the honor. “As a company, Ritter has done a lot with the environmental business each year, and we have done what we could to follow through on that approach.”

Going Above And Beyond

To illustrate this point, Skaggs points to the construction of the West Ridge outlet itself. When it was first being built in 2006, Ritter went out of its way to make the facility environmentally friendly. “This location was designed to exceed current EPA and Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality regulations,” he says. “All the concrete floors are sealed with an impervious coating to prevent any spilled chemicals from being absorbed. All materials transfers of non-bulk chemicals to and from the warehouse, bulk chemical transfers from the tank to the mini-bulk shuttles, and even seed transfers are conducted on concrete pads, and floors. Outside the warehouse, all transfers of chemicals to the trucks are completed on concrete pads and seed treated with chemicals are transferred with closed conveyors with concrete pads under both for easy clean-up and to prevent accidental chemical release into the soil or groundwater.”

Earlier this year, the facility added a 1,600-gallon bulk chemical tank in its warehouse, complete with a spill bucket and extra absorbent nearby. The tank itself will soon be installed with an overfill alarm. Another recent addition is the installation of a pair of double-walled fuel storage tanks, which do not require National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits as a result of their design.

Besides crop protection products, seed, and fuel, Ritter West Ridge also serves as a water depot for its grower-customers. At the front of the property sits a water filling station, connected to the nearby Little River Community Water System. Even here, says Skaggs, the environmental aspects of this service are considered. “To prevent potential cross-contamination to the water supply, an air brake is used when customers fill their water wagons or buggies,” he says.

Elsewhere in the community, Ritter West Ridge works with the fire departments of the nearby towns of Etowah and Keiser to hold drills and discuss the company’s Emer­gency Action and Fire Prevention Plan. The outlet has also partnered with Delta Plastics to serve as a recycling collection site for poly tubing, which helps to reduce on-farm burning of these products.

“By showing respect for the environment, we assume a role of caretaker for the land, water, and air,” concludes Skaggs. “The Earth should be treated as an item that we have borrowed from someone. We should take care of it and be sure to pass it to the next owner in better shape than when we received it. Environmental respect is an investment in everyone’s future as well as our company’s.”

Sfiligoj is the Editor for both CropLife and CropLife IRON magazines. He travels regularly to cover industry events and has been dedicated to the ag retail industry since he joined the staff in 2000.
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