Erosion control with big-picture mentality
April 27, 2012By Samantha Freda
Russ Britton, CEO
Year founded: 2003
Its work ethic, broad project capabilities and proprietary organic compost have helped EcoExpress become a preferred provider of erosion control.
After working as a stockbroker most of his life, North Carolina native Russ Britton left his job to pursue a career far from the cubicle. In 2003 Britton established EcoExpress, an erosion control and storm water management company.
“I saw a need for a better erosion control company,” said Britton, who grew up farming and was a science major in college. “One of my friends was having a hard time getting quality work done. I looked into it and started learning about compost stabilization—I realized that developers getting hit by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) needed a company to help them get things done the right way.”
In the state’s coastal region there is a particular need for erosion and storm water control, between rapid development in the last decade and the region’s proximity to major waterways and wetlands.
"The days of the local farmer being responsible for the runoff on a multimillion-dollar site are over," Britton said.
According to Britton, the effectiveness of EcoExpress is due to its organization: showing up on time with the right equipment to get the job done. What makes EcoExpress' method stand out as environmentally friendly is that its primary product – compost -- is 100 percent organic. The compost, layered onto berms and other protective soil formations, promotes rapid growth of groundcover to stabilize the earth and absorb runoff.
"It has taken a lot of work and a lot of money to get the facilities to make the right product,” Britton said. The company’s compost is made of products entirely from North Carolina, and because it's organic it does not cause algae blooms in the water.
With just over 30 people on his staff, Britton began with projects as simple as a silt fence, eventually advancing his company’s capability to take on specialty design systems. Originally EcoExpress was mostly doing private jobs, such as housing developments. However when the housing boom evaporated, Britton’s company was ready to take on work of a larger scale.
“We over-prepared ourselves for the private market,” Britton explained. “We had all the licensing to be considered competent. With our expertise, job tracking, documentation and bonding capabilities, when the housing market died we were able to be approved as vendors for major projects.”
One such venture was actually the biggest erosion control job in South Carolina that year, the widening of Highway 17 outside Charleston.
More recently, EcoExpress has worked with the North Carolina Department of Transportation, contributing first on the Oak Island Bridge and currently on the Wilmington bypass that is extending I-40.
"Oak Island was the first job where NCDOT used compost as a main application. We basically brought that product to N.C. and after we finished the Oak Island side (the only part for which EcoExpress was contracted) [DOT was] convinced we had to do the entire project," Britton said.
After witnessing this success, the DOT allowed EcoExpress to work on what Britton claims to be an even better design for the Wilmington bypass.
“I attribute a lot of my success to the guys working for me,” Britton said. “We have a mixed group of people with different attributes, a good balance of dedicated guys.”
The focus of EcoExpress is to reduce its carbon footprint and manage a property more effectively so that down the line, preventive erosion control methods result in reduced costs. In the future Britton hopes to expand into other industries and bring what he believes to be better solutions to erosion control.