Joe Jordan cleaned up his first environmental mess back in 1978. He was 13 years old. Growing up on the Jersey Shore, he spent his youth “romping in the Manasquan River, fishing, digging clams, having a ball,” he says. One day he and his pals came to the river and found ducks coated in oil. Some were already dead. Others were hobbling along the shore. The smell was overpowering. Oil slicks floated on the water.
Jordan took one of the birds home to clean off. “I still remember him; he was a Canvasback with a red-tufted head,” says Jordan. “He really left a mark on me.” Such a mark, in fact, that Jordan made cleaning up such messes his career. Currently, he is a partner with Enviro Clean Products and Services, with offices in Oklahoma, Panama — and Wappingers Falls.
“I’ve always been interested in the environment,” says Jordan, now 43, who moved to the Hudson Valley at age 15 with his family (and now lives in Clinton with his wife and two children). “When we moved to upstate New York, I sold my fishing tackle and bought a shotgun to go bird hunting. I didn’t know there was so much good fishing up here.”
He took that interest to Paul Smith’s College in the Adirondacks. “It’s smack in the middle of the wilderness,” he says. “We did lake studies, acid rain studies, salmon stocking in Lake Champlain — it was great.” He earned an associate’s degree in ecology and environmental technology, and then earned his BS at Syracuse University’s College of Environmental Science and Forestry. He focused on areas such as urban planning, environmental law, and biochemistry. “I wanted to apply my sensibilities to something that could generate a pretty good income,” he says. “I didn’t want to be in a tree the rest of my life. Not that there’s anything wrong with that — I work with many people like that. They are great. But I wanted a more secure career.” He was asked so often what his plans were after school that his yearbook photo included the caption, “No, I will not be a forest ranger.”
His first job was with a civil engineering company, doing their environmental planning and compliance work. In 1987, he started his own company, J & B Associates, performing environmental studies for real estate developers. Then in 1992 he formed another company, Midlantic Environmental Enterprises, which sold an existing line of products for all areas of environmental cleanup for business and industry.
Along the way, he met another distributor of those products, an Oklahoman named Ken Murphy. Jordan calls Murphy “a former oil man” who saw oil field cleanup and remediation as a business opportunity and had formed Enviro Clean as a service company. The two hit it off and five years ago decided to partner.
Enviro Clean now comprises three companies: Enviro Clean Products, LLC designs and manufactures environmental and industrial chemical products; Enviro Clean Services, LLC provides consulting and remediation services to help business and government customers meet environmental compliance regulations; and Enviro Clean Waste Services, LLC performs hazardous waste management and disposal. Their client list includes the New York City Fire Department and Transit Authority; Dallas Storm Water and Fire departments; Oklahoma City Storm Water Department; Panama Canal Authority; various energy and insurance companies; and national restaurant chains.
Here in the Hudson Valley, they handle cleanup, compliance, and disposal for such companies as Bottini Fuel, Royal Carting Service Co., and Ulster-Greene ARC.
Jordan is in charge of the research, development, manufacturing, and marketing of the company’s line of cleaning products. He’s often the one who steps into the lab, dons the gloves and goggles, and mixes chemicals to create new solutions — both literally and figuratively — for their clients.
Even though he doesn’t have a biochemistry degree, creating these formulations “is actually a bit more art than science,” he says. Over the years, he has learned what goes into various products. “It’s not the ingredients, it’s the recipe,” he says. “You go through a lot of trial and error, cooking up different versions of products. Some work, some don’t. You take them out, try them in the field, tweak them one liter at a time.”
So what does he actually cook up on his Bunsen burner? Well, nothing you’d find at your local Amway. Generally, Enviro Clean’s products are not for individual consumer use, but if you’re, say, a large oil refinery in Texas, they provide special formulations for maintenance and cleanup.
Their EnviroClean product, for instance, is an environmentally friendly, EPA-listed surface washing agent. “It allows nature to accelerate decomposition,” he explains. “It’s like a soap or detergent, not a solvent. It has a neutral pH and is made from water-based ingredients so it doesn’t harm the soil.”
Their cleaning solvents are also bio-friendly. “We make ours from soy, corn, and other organic matter, not from refined hydrocarbons,” Jordan says. Another bestseller is called OLFactor, an odor control agent made from soy-based ingredients. It’s used by veterinary hospitals, kennels, and other animal industries to clean and neutralize what Jordan decorously calls “pet issues.” They also have a line of plumbing and drain treatments that use living microbes to digest oils, greases, and fats, and keep the smell down. (The restaurant chain Kentucky Fried Chicken buys a lot of this stuff.)
The company is doing very well right now, Jordan says. “Many corporations are now ‘going green’ to reduce their carbon footprint and want nontoxic cleaners. We were kind of ahead of the curve on this,” he says. “There’s a big movement for it now, and we are already there.”
“My business is not pretty,” Jordan laughs. Here in the Valley, much of his work involves fuel oil. “It’s a very significant commodity up here,” he says. “There’s a lot around, and occasionally it spills. And there are regulations for storage, transport, and tank removal. If you have an old oil tank in your basement, you can’t just toss it out. We’ll work with you so it’s done legally and safely for the environment.”
It may not be glamorous, but “I love working every day,” he says. “I have seven people in the Hudson Valley office now, up from two. It’s fun. I am very lucky.”
And it all started with a dirty duck. “To be able to provide services and help people make a more environmentally conscious decision,” he says, “is very satisfying.”