Supporting crews of backpack applicators as they walk under power lines across some 28 states could be a logistics nightmare. Progressive Solutions LLC, the 2011 Land Management Environmental Respect Award National Winner, has mastered the task. The company annually trains and supplies an army of 500 backpack applicators, each spraying some 50 gallons of a water and herbicide mixture every working day from April to early November.
Business partners Lee Atkins and Mike Economopoulos formed Progressive Solutions in 2002. It has grown into one of the largest vegetation management companies in the U.S.
The company’s herbicide inventory is kept in enclosed trailers capable of supporting 24 spray workers with all the necessary materials and personal protective equipment. These trailers follow about 10 workers to a central area around a work site. “Our system includes two crew trucks to each mobile storage trailer,” explains Atkins. “We are re-supplying the trailers about every 10 to 14 days. The storage trailer has the products and personal protection equipment under lock and key. The trailers even have portable rest room facilities right on board.”
Employee training is an ongoing event at Progressive Solutions. Each crew member, depending upon past experience with the company, receives from three to five days of basic training. “Our people are trained in proper application, mixing, non-target plant identification, sensitive area recognition, field data recording and dealing with the public,” says Atkins. The crews only deal with herbicides and that means handling potential chemical spills is critical.
“People are surprised at how much ground our applicators can cover on foot with back pack sprayers,” he says. “More importantly, our people are trained to recognize the tree and noxious weed species we want to eliminate. Our goal is selective application. We help to maintain habitat protection and food for the birds, insects and small mammals that thrive in the lower vegetation that does not interfere with the power lines overhead.”
Atkins’ view of environmental respect is very straightforward, “When I face my maker and I’m asked ‘what did you do with what I gave you?’ I would hate to say I didn’t do the best I could to steward what I was given to manage,” he says. “We are managing something that is on loan to us.”