Wastewater Company Attains Flexible, Safe Transportation with Bulk Express Intermodal


A sprinkler sprays water onto flames

To save buildings — and lives — firefighters rely on more than just water from a firehose. Today’s firefighters use special tools and products to put out blazes quickly and safely. A manufacturer in Wisconsin creates a specialized product that deploys via sprinkler systems in the crucial moments during a fire: aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF), a water-based synthetic foam. The foam coats the fire, cooling it and preventing its contact with oxygen.

While AFFF is an effective firefighting tool, its production creates wastewater, which can be harmful to the environment and surrounding communities. To prevent this byproduct from creating an emergency of its own, the manufacturer enlisted an environmental engineering company based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to help safely dispose of the wastewater. The manufacturer charged the company with coordinating wastewater transportation services from its manufacturing center in northern Wisconsin to treatment facilities located in Texas and Oregon.


Manufacturer produced 30,000-60,000 gallons of wastewater per week

Once on the job, the environmental engineering company began looking for a bulk liquid carrier that could transport the wastewater across the country. That was easier said than done, as the nature of the wastewater production and treatment made it a challenge to move efficiently. As production schedules for the fire protection equipment varied, so did the production of the wastewater. In a typical week, the manufacturer may produce anywhere from 30,000 to more than 60,000 gallons of wastewater. The environmental engineering company would need to find a carrier that could flex its service to accommodate the varying capacity.

Another challenge was the routes the wastewater would need to take to arrive at treatment facilities. Many of these facilities are located in places that have little to no demand for return trips. That meant that an over-the-road wastewater transportation service would be costly — trucks would be out of market for their trips back.

As project manager, the environmental engineering company needed a communicative and collaborative transportation provider that would allow the company to maintain its high standards of customer service. Lastly, the company needed to work within its customer’s budget.

It reached out to Schneider to see what was possible.


Schneider devised a unique bulk transportation solution that would allow the environmental engineering company to move the wastewater safely and efficiently by utilizing Schneider’s Bulk Express Intermodal service. Schneider would drop bulk intermodal containers off at the manufacturing site, creating a staging site. Because Schneider owns a large quantity of containers, the transportation provider could maintain a steady drop-trailer pool — the company wouldn’t be stuck waiting for more containers to become available. The company designed a pump that would allow the wastewater to be pumped into the containers as needed. Once the containers were filled, Schneider would pick them up and transport them to Chicago, where they would move to rail and travel to their final destination in Texas or Oregon.

Containers move to rail in Chicago and head to their final destination in Texas or Oregon.


The environmental engineering company was able to keep the wastewater moving and avoid project delays. The bulk intermodal solution had other benefits as well.

Containers move to rail in Chicago and head to their final destination in Texas or Oregon.

Cost Savings: Because the company didn’t have to worry about the inefficiency of return trips as it would have with an over-the-road wastewater transportation service, a bulk intermodal solution provided significant cost savings.

Containers move to rail in Chicago and head to their final destination in Texas or Oregon.

Sustainable Solution: According to the Association of American Railroads, moving freight by rail instead of truck lowers greenhouse gas emissions by 75%. Both the environmental engineering company and the manufacturer could feel good about this eco-friendly solution.

Containers move to rail in Chicago and head to their final destination in Texas or Oregon.

Visibility: In addition to providing the customer service and flexibility that the company was looking for, Schneider also delivered visibility. Its containers are trackable, so the company always knew where its shipments were, and Schneider was available to troubleshoot any issues that arose.

Containers move to rail in Chicago and head to their final destination in Texas or Oregon.

Easy Invoicing: Schneider billed the environmental engineering company with one simple invoice, unlike other bulk liquid carriers that include long lists of accessorials. This made it easier for the company to calculate costs and manage budgets. The project even opened up more potential business opportunities for the company. No longer constrained by an inefficient over-the-road solution, it is able to take on similar projects for more clients.

The manufacturer is in the business of saving the day when it comes to extinguishing fires, but it looked to the environmental engineering company to be the hero in the disposal process. By enlisting Schneider’s help, the company did just that. The manufacturer was able to dispose of its wastewater responsibly and efficiently — while staying within budget.

Looking for a flexible bulk transportation solution that can adjust to your needs without compromising safety? Contact solutions@schneider.com.


Published April 2020