Morbark, LLC

Maryland firm clears 200 acres for new quarry construction Baltimore-area project demands planning, execution and an arsenal of tree clearing/processing equipment

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Courtesy of Courtesy of Morbark, LLC

In his 28 years in business, Bob Orndorff has done a lot of site prep projects — and his fair share of larger site prep projects. However, he is quick to admit that, until now, he has never cleared a site for construction of a quarry, and the one his is currently doing, in the Baltimore suburb of Jessup, MD, is one of the largest projects he has ever undertaken. His company, RLO Contractors, Inc. is clearing more than 200 acres of wooded land and making it ready for construction of only the second quarry permitted by the state of Maryland in the last 40 years. To tackle the initial clearing, the Elkridge, Md.-based company has brought in an armada of tree and brush processing equipment to get material down and removed from the site so subsequent preparation steps can take place.

All for Hard Rock
As mentioned, urban-based quarry construction is not an everyday occurrence. General reluctance to their presence — the ever-present NIMBY syndrome — has usually relegated quarries to the most remote regions of any geographic area. However, a rich vein of Gabbrow, a silicate mineral ideal for use as an asphalt additive, has prompted the site’s owners, Laurel Sand & Gravel, to push for construction of the new plant. After a mere 15 years of meetings and legislative haggling, the wheels to do so have been set in motion. Charged with getting the site from where it was — a sprawling 200 acres dense with poplar, pines, locus, etc. — to a level site ready for construction of the quarry and adjacent crushing plant, RLO has begun a systematic pattern of cutting and processing.

“There’s no doubt this is an impressive — and challenging — project,” says Bob Orndorff, the company’s president. “We have dedicated a good deal of the forestry and wood waste processing equipment in our fleet to this job and, by so doing, have made serious inroads after only our first month onsite. But it’s a massive job; we are looking at removing better than 200,000 yards of material from the site, much of which is being chipped directly into trailers and shipped for use as boiler fuel. However, a good portion of it is being primary-ground at the site through either a Morbark Model 6600 Wood Hog or a Morbark Model 1400 tub grinder, then sent to our recycling center in nearby Elkridge for secondary grinding in an identical 6600 to create a high-quality mulch and other products.”

The Fleet is In
The full range of equipment to which Orndorff refers is an onsite arsenal of Morbark forestry and processing equipment including a Wolverine 20” Rapid Buncher Saw Head, a Model 23 Whole Tree Chipper, the Model 6600 Wood Hog, and the Model 1400 tub grinder. Other equipment, including a John Deere 548G-III Grapple Skidder, Cat dozers, John Deere excavators and Hitachi excavators equipped with stump shears, was also used at various parts of the project’s early stages.

“At this point, the tree clearing is taking precedence over anything else,” says Orndorff. “We are working in such a manner as to allow the crews in charge of earthwork and sediment control to come right behind us, thereby alleviating any risk of the site being damaged by runoff. This is a concern that has become all too real, given the unusually heavy rainfall the last few years. The site design calls for a series of multiple retention ponds, earth berms, and other erosion control measures.

According to Orndorff, the clearing process is simple: his crew fells the trees, cuts out and remove logs which are hauled away for lumber, drags the tops and the smaller trees to the chipper, and stockpiles the stumps, loose limbs and broken material for steady feeding to the tub grinder. ”This will go on, non-stop, until the site is clear.”

Putting Waste to Work
As is often the case with larger contractors, RLO’s beginnings were modest. Orndorff says he grew the company from a utilities installation firm with a single backhoe, to its present size: employing more than 125 personnel. Getting there has taken strategic planning and a good deal of patience, he says.

“The temptation to grow too quickly is always there. We’ve been careful about what moves we make to grow the business. The recycling facet of our operation is a good example of that. We knew we had to do something with the green and wood waste we were generating from our clearing projects. In the past, we were forced to either give it away, or pay someone to haul it away. While some of it was being chipped directly into trailers onsite and sent off for fuel, the rest was a real problem. In March of 2002, we found a site that previously housed a traditional recycling center and we began to modify it for our use as a green waste processing site.”

Today the 8-acre RLO Products Division site, operated by Ryan Orndorff, Bob’s son, takes in primary ground mulch from RLO’s jobs and screens it to remove dirt and other impurities, then regrinds it — and colorizes it if necessary —for use as a landscaping mulch. Chipped material taken is also secondarily ground and used as a playground cover material. Even the fines from the screening process are secondarily screened and marketed to area landscapers for use as topsoil.

“The Morbark 6600 is the workhorse of this operation,”’ says Ryan Orndorff. “We are still learning how to do things better and more efficiently but already we are seeing sales volumes of 60,000 yards of mulch and 20,000 yards of chips per year. And that number is far higher when you factor in all the material that is chipped and loaded out directly at the site. We have been cautious to control our growth but we now offer a nice range of products and we are always looking into additional possibilities.”

Alternate Plans
While Orndorff’s crew has the quarry clearing process literally down to a science, there are, as always, some exceptions to the rules. One particular area of the site was found to be extremely wet due to recent rainfall and water accumulation, making access impossible for most equipment.

“In that case we had to resort to ‘Plan B,’ says Bob Sylvis, RLO’s Clearing Superintendent. “We had members of the clearing crew chainsaw the trees then, once down, we had stump shear-equipped excavators downsize them in preparation for haul out to the chipper and grinder. It’s not as efficient a process as we normally do but it works and, most importantly, it keeps us moving along.”

Success in Preparation
Orndorff says the site prep portion of the project, which alone carries a $850,000 price tag, is slated to wrap up in spring of 2005 with construction of the crushing plant to start immediately afterwards. Laurel Sand & Gravel expects to start production in 2006.

“The time frame is definitely tight; that’s why we have all that iron at work out there,” he says. “We are fortunate, however, that the quarry project is in the heart of the area we serve — about a 40-mile radius — so we can bring equipment and crews in quickly and still maintain schedules on our other projects. We’ve really put everything we have into this job, but having the right equipment, both to handle the clearing itself and to cost-effectively handle the huge volumes of material from the site, has really made all the difference.”

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