Frontrunners in the water and waste-water industry
By: Mudeeha Yousaf
What started as a small-scale operation of integrated engineering, ecological and marine services in 1987, ASI Group grew into a global service provider with a focus on all aspects of underwater infrastructure inspections as well as the design, build and operation of water and wastewater treatment facilities. The company handles everything from the initial problem identification to providing the right solution, and use the latest technologies to offer engineering excellence to the global industry. With over 25 years of experience, the Ontario-based company has expanded its services and caters to an array of global clients who seek the deployment of a safe and rigorous project every step of the way.
Previously known as Aquatic Sciences, ASI specializes in the design and use of remotely operated vehicles (ROV), which has secured the company a place in the Guinness World Book of Records and “is something no one else has done,” according to ASI’s Business Development Manager Marshal Deane who found his way to the business 13 years ago. “I came to ASI to explore more of a project management role, but after being with the company I gained an understanding of all aspects of project development from initial proposals, all the way through to final project closeout.”
The firm prides itself on taking a hands-on approach to any project. Their success only grew after a pre-emptive response to the zebra mussel – a small freshwater mussel – infestation in the Great Lakes, and was the first to provide a chlorination treatment in North America. Their commercial divers also performed Canada’s first nuclear dive where they dove into a radioactive spent fuel bay. “It’s only been done in the states and a few other countries around the world, and we were the first to do it in Canada… it was a significant feat and allowed for potential cost savings for the nuclear industry when it comes to repairs and inspections,” says Deane.
Just recently the company was awarded a project with the Munsee Delaware First Nations Community. The project included the design and construction of a small communal drinking water project, and was a part of the Canada-Ontario First Nations Drinking Water Improvement Initiative. With the support of Provincial and Federal funding, the project was a pilot to explore private design build project delivery, requiring innovative thought in order to make it financially viable, and ASI was elated to take on that challenge. “We pride ourselves in being innovative and practical to provide the full design-build, operate, holistic service for water and wastewater, and this was one of the first ones that came out in Ontario that allowed us to do that. It really allowed us to shine with what we can bring to the table, so by getting that proved that there is still an opportunity for innovative thought left in projects. It’s one we’re quite proud of.”
The company is providing a brand new plant, new infrastructure and will also provide oversight operations of the facility for three years. ASI bestows recognition on to their many partnerships who aid in their project accomplishments, such as Adedge, a company out of Georgia, who provided the turnkey package and membrane water treatment system used. “We wouldn’t be anywhere without our partners in the technology industry… we take their technology and bundle it up in a way that our clients would want to use.” The team is completing the much anticipated venture by March of this year.
The establishment takes all precautions in order to battle Canada’s harsh climate. “We’ve been slowly getting ourselves up north in mining communities, providing water and wastewater systems there as well, and we’re working with different companies that are building their technology based more around the harsh winter conditions up north,” says Deane. “The design-build concept alone is not a technical challenge but a policy and perception challenge allowing companies to take over the responsibility of operating water and waste water systems. It’s always been done by the municipality with which they’re in or local government, but nowadays with lack of money and a lot of infrastructure required it’s a challenge for us to get people to understand the private industry is no different than the public sector. We’re burdened with the same requirements of environmental regulations and the same business problems… It’s no different other than we look at it like a business, and a municipality looks at it as a right. But sometimes the right runs out of money if it’s not managed properly.”
The company has recently expanded into the United States, and when asked how the Canadian and American markets compare, Deane replies “In Canada, the engineering quality is some of the best in the world but a little diluted with so many people, as compared to the states that has opportunity and a lot less people that are specialized in those skills, so it’s harder in Canada, not to find good engineers but good engineers to find good jobs.” The marine side of their business is global and expansion plans for the rest of the services are slowly but surely expanding across the nation. “We’re starting to get some footholds in the states, but as far as competing globally, I don’t see that happening any time soon… As for quality in these services, everyone has been on the same playing field over the last 10 years. People are educated all over the world, and the quality of education and skillset is somewhat similar.”
As of March of this year, ASI will remain the corporate name, but will be adding two divisions under its belt. ASI Marine will specialize in commercial diving and ROV services, and ASI water will carry out in-house engineering services, regulatory approvals, construction management and operation and maintenance services. In terms of how they stay competitive in this vast industry, the environmentally-focused engineers actively sit on a lot of associations across North America and attend 20-30 conferences per year, and use their skilled team of 120 to always stay ahead of the game.
Deane concludes, “The nature of how we’ve been successful over the past 25 years is being at the forefront of technology and understanding how our service is going to change. We always look for what we can add to our repertoire to keep us relevant in the world.”
For more information on ASI Group, visit http://www.asi-group.com/