From the types of equipment used, to the partnership with Strongco and Volvo, the Ontario remediation contractor is all about a thought-out, team approach

When equipment manufacturers started promoting the use of excavators and articulated haulers together as earthmoving teams, they found a firm believer in The Cannington Group President David McCrossan.

The Cannington Group, a family-owned contracting firm in the Greater Toronto Area, McCrossan said the combination of Volvo crawler excavators and articulated “rock” trucks sourced from Strongco is the only way to do it here.

The “here,” is a 75-acre parcel of prime land on the shore of Lake Ontario in the resurgent Port Credit area of Mississauga. The long-time former home of a bulk oil storage facility, the property will eventually be developed as a prime residential community.

As a specialist in soil remediation and other environmental applications, The Cannington Group is currently on site for 14 months in what McCrossan describes as “a surgical excavation” project.

“We’re excavating, stockpiling, segregating and hauling off soils that exceed the site criteria. In some areas, we are taking 2 feet of dirt off; in some areas, we are taking 3, 4, even 10 feet off. The depth is all over the place,” he said.

“Scrapers just wouldn’t work here with the select areas we have to excavate and the varying corresponding depths. This is not a bulk excavation job.”

Cannington group volvo strongcoEquipment research

Having worked in various sectors and company configurations over the years, The Cannington Group is now in the business of working equipment, not fixing equipment, McCrossan explained. That is what makes the relationship with Strongco and key account manager Daniel Hili important to the success of the specialized contracting company.

“We do a lot of research on the equipment,” McCrossan said. “It’s my job in the company to A: get the work; and B: provide the guys with the right tools to get that work done.”

The Volvo excavators and articulated haulers have not only earned a collective thumbs-up from his operators for ergonomics and ease of operation, but also McCrossan’s own top grade for meeting their fuel efficiency and cost of operation claims.

Some pieces in The Cannington Group’s Volvo fleet were procured specifically for the Mississauga job.

“But we’ve also had long-term and multiple leases,” McCrossan said. “It’s a long-term relationship that we’re in with Strongco, and it’s going to continue.”

Cannington group volvo strongcoStaying lean and flexible

Along with a 38 tonne class Volvo EC380E and two 22 tonne class Volvo EC220E excavators on the Mississauga soil remediation job, The Cannington Group added one of its two new 48 tonne class Volvo EC480E excavators specifically for the project.

“We wanted to have the biggest excavators that are going to be usable on other jobsites as well,” McCrossan said. As one of the larger excavators you’ll find in a relatively urban construction setting, “the EC480E is pretty well the biggest one you can float in without having to take it apart.”

It is expected the Mississauga work will wind down around Christmas of this year.

“Most of the work we do will be smaller jobs after this, until we get that next big project,” McCrossan said. As such, the equipment “needs to be flexible and available” to be dropped off, put right to work and picked back up again every few weeks.

The choice of teammates for the various Volvo excavators on the Mississauga site was likewise strategic, albeit for different reasons. All four of the Volvo articulated haulers are 25-ton A25G models.

“We did the numbers on 30-ton rock trucks, even 40-ton rock trucks, and we found the 25s with the low ground pressure are just the ones to go here,” McCrossan said. “It’s a smallish site, there’s close dumping, so there just wasn’t any advantage in using bigger, costlier trucks that also cost more to run.”

Having owned and managed a fleet of articulated haulers during one of The Cannington Group’s earlier eras as a larger sewer and watermain contractor, “we’re very familiar with how to use them, and the best uses for them,” McCrossan said, “and this is the perfect application.”

Cannington group volvo strongcoSurgical excavation

Unlike the mass excavation of virgin or agricultural land for future development, a remediation jobsite almost becomes dozens if not hundreds of small excavations of varying widths and depths.

“There are other contractors who have priced this as a bulk excavation job, and they were actually cheaper than us,” McCrossan said. “But the client went with us because of our experience with remediation and what is basically a surgical excavation. It’s slow, it’s methodical and there is a lot of direction in field from the consultants.

“You can’t just haul away clean materials as impacted. It’s just too expensive.”

The remediation contractor is continually dealing with different contaminants, different depths of contamination and different types of soil, along with the seasonal factors of rain, snow and frost that left the Mississauga site almost bog-like in the spring.

Despite the muddy and even flooded conditions, the Volvo A25E articulated haulers were able to bear down and work their way around the site, and keep the project moving.

“The job changes by the day, sometimes by the minute, and if we’re waiting for samples and we’re waiting for results and the consultant hasn’t gotten back to us, we need to be able to go from one area to the next and keep working,” McCrossan said. “There needs to be a lot of coordination, a lot of flexibility on site, for us to be able to continue to keep moving.”

When the environmental consultants need to do their testing at key excavation spots, the operators can move their machines elsewhere on site and continue being productive with stockpiling or other maintenance duties.

When lining up a job such as this, the remediation contractor is provided the scope of work, including depths of excavation, known locations of contamination and estimated quantities of material, McCrossan explained. “Then it’s up to us as the contractor to look at the resources we need to be able to perform the work,” he said. “With this one, we basically took their 24-month schedule and said, ‘Not a chance. We can do it in 14.’

About five months into the project that spans 75 acres, McCrossan noticed they were working their way out of space.

“The more we excavate, the bigger the piles of clean material get and the less real estate we have to drive on and to stockpile on,” he said. “It’s going to continuously get tighter.”

At home with remediation

With the support of Strongco and Volvo Construction Equipment, McCrossan is right at home doing environmental contracting.

“We’re back to what we do, and what we do well,” he said of The Cannington Group. “It’s a good market, it’s an invited market, so we very rarely need to get into public work. With this field, we’re invited to site meetings, we’re invited to bid jobs and we work on sole-source jobs.

Maximizing the technologies available for its niche work, the company has most recently launched a vibrant UAV or drone program that provides services both on projects in-house and available for outside contract work.

Speaking of being right at home, the site being remediated in Mississauga is one of three conjoined properties, and the Cannington Group worked on preparing the other two properties for their respective next lives.

“It turns out, I knew more about this site than the current owners did,” McCrossan said. “I used to come in here on the knee of my dad in his dump truck.”

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