Savys' Success Proves the Power of Positive Thinking

Optimistic attitudes allow infrastructure restoration company to work well under pressure.

Savys' Success Proves the Power of Positive Thinking

Savy & Sons team members dispatched for a CIPP lining job in Storrs, Connecticut, include, from left, field technician Jonathan Sartori, camera/robotics technician Ryan Spalla, company co-owner Travis Savy, pipe lining technician Adam Casale and sales and service representative Gino Padewski.

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A deteriorating chlorine contact chamber in a wastewater treatment plant, a broken large-diameter sanitary sewer mainline, a rusting pump deep inside a dam and a failing wooden water tower don’t appear to have a lot in common.

However, they do for Savy & Sons, an infrastructure-restoration company that has leveraged decades of experience and know-how and advanced technology — plus a relentlessly positive, can-do company culture — to resolve these challenging problems and many others since 2008.

“If you want the best in the industry, you hire us,” says Travis Savy, a third-generation co-owner of the family company along with his brother, Ralph Savy III. “We’re professionals and we hold ourselves to a higher standard.”

What’s the secret sauce that transformed the Connecticut-based company from primarily a masonry-repair outfit into a full-service business that does waterproofing, epoxy coating, pipe lining, media-blasting, and water and wastewater infrastructure rehabilitation? A big part of the recipe is a great work environment that helps employees reach their full potential, Savy says.

“We help them become more than they ever thought possible because there’s no ceiling here. We need those kind of people to be the kind of company we are.”

From performance bonuses to weekly meetings where employees discus assigned motivational books and videos, the company strives to retain employees and help them unlock their potential.

“It’s all about building a certain culture,” Savy says. “For the last three years or so, we’ve invested significant time, money and effort into hiring and retaining people. We’re not looking for anyone less than great.”

Savy candidly concedes it all might sound a little hokey to some people, especially for employees in a construction-related company. “We absolutely go against the grain,” he says.

And what if employees don’t like this approach? “They’re no longer with us,” he says matter-of-factly. “For a majority of people, it’s not a good fit. But you’re either in or you’re in the way. We’re not looking to drag a donkey up a hill.” 

Company built brick by brick

Based in Amston, Savy & Sons started out as Ralph Savy Sr. & Sons Masonry, founded by the brothers’ grandfather, Ralph Savy Sr., in 1972. The brothers assumed ownership after their father, Ralph Savy Jr., died in 2007.

The duo rebranded the company as Savy & Sons in 2018. Marketing efforts to drive that new brand awareness include social media (including Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and Instagram), radio advertising, email blasts and vinyl wraps on service vehicles, he says.

The company also partners with municipalities, engineering firms, general contractors, property management and water and wastewater management companies. Savy & Sons also attends trade shows and belongs to water and wastewater associations.

Statistics show that third-generation-owned companies are more prone to fail than to succeed. But the Savy brothers apparently didn’t get the memo. And ironically enough, a major catalyst for the company’s growth was the great economic recession that hit in 2008 and 2009, Savy says.

“We were doing a lot of construction-related masonry and waterproofing at the time. But when the recession hit, we had to pull back, be resourceful and think about what we needed to do to keep working.

“We decided that restoring municipal infrastructure was where we wanted to be, so we dove in harder,” he says. “In the end, we decided to envelop that space so we could be a one-stop shop for customers.”

The strategy has worked well, Savy says, pointing to an estimated tenfold increase in gross revenue since 2008.

“We’re doing better than ever,” he says. “We take a lot of pride in upholding and improving the value of the company’s name.”

Equipment investments

That decision to provide multiple services required considerable investments in equipment and systems. “We need to be able to provide whatever our customers need,” Savy says.

To prepare pipelines for lining or coating, the company owns a truck-mounted water jetter built by Jetters Northwest and one self-fabricated trailer-mounted jetter.

The company also has invested in a Brute portable cart-mounted jetter (4,000 psi at 12 gpm), manufactured by Jetters Northwest; drain cleaning and milling machines from Picote Solutions and GI Industries; a portable vacuum unit from GI Industries; and two mainline-inspection crawler cameras from CUES.

For lining pipes, the company primarily uses a system built by Perma-Liner Industries. The business also owns a custom-built spraying rig manufactured by Spray-Quip with a Graco dual-piston pump, used to apply epoxy coatings, along with an EcoQuip media-blasting unit built by Graco and powered by a Sullivan-Palatek air compressor.

For epoxy-coating projects, the company prefers products made by Epoxytec.

Emergency service

Savy & Sons often gets calls for tough emergency jobs. That was the case in August 2020 when a 42-inch-diameter concrete sanitary sewer line — laid in 1966 and corroded by sulfuric acid — broke in New Haven, Connecticut.

As a result, before city officials installed an emergency bypass, about 2.1 million gallons of raw sewage spilled onto city streets and into the nearby Mill River, which flows into Long Island Sound. The line reportedly carries an average of 3 mgd.

To repair the 100-foot-long section of damaged pipe, Savy crews worked for 20 hours straight. While employees jetted the line to loosen and collect debris, a subcontractor used a vacuum truck to remove it from the line, says Ralph Savy.

The crew then applied an industrial-grade, high-density, cementitious mortar product called Mortartec Silicate, made by Epoxytec.

“We spray-applied the product from ½ to 4 inches thick,” he says. “You can hang it in ‘lifts’ up to 2 inches thick, otherwise it sags. Then you wait about 15 minutes before applying the second pass in the areas with bigger chunks of concrete missing.

“It was a really bad situation that we had to take care of quickly with a fast-curing product to get the bypass pumps offline,” he adds. “This was affecting probably tens of thousands of homes and businesses.”

Pump rehab required

Another incident that exemplifies the company’s versatility involved rehabilitating a rusting pump inside the 400-foot-long Charles River Dam in Boston. The dam provides flood-protection for the Charles River basin via six large, critically important “bell” pumps (so named because of their shape), which help control the river’s water level by pumping excess volume in the basin into the city’s harbor.

When the dam was built nearly 50 years ago, the pumps were coated inside and out with a thick layer of coal tar to protect them from corrosion. But on one of the giant pumps — which are about 35 feet tall and roughly 30 feet in diameter — that coating was failing due to corrosion from salt and other elements, Ralph Savy says.

The pump is more or less built into the dam, making it nearly impossible to remove for rehabilitation. So Savy & Sons got the call to media-blast the coal tar down to an extremely high industry standard called a “near-white metal” level before applying a new protective coating.

“It was the middle of winter, so we had to heat the area with massive space heaters, as well as use a giant dehumidifier,” he says. “The water level was 38 feet above where we were working, so they installed stoplogs to prevent water from coming down into the pump.”

First the four-man crew had to rebuild parts of the degraded pump with an industrial-grade, ceramic-filled and epoxy-based metal-filler product made by Belzona International. Then they vapor-blasted the pump with garnet media, using the EcoQuip media-blasting unit, he says.

A subcontractor with a vacuum truck collected the debris.

The last step involved coating the pump with an immersion-grade, high-performance, two-part epoxy coating, also made by Belzona. 

“The total coverage inside and outside the pump was about 4,000 square feet,” Ralph Savy says. “That may not sound like a ton, but let me tell you, when you’re inside a dam working on a project like that, it feels absolutely massive. It took two months to complete the job.”

Working under pressure

In another under-the-gun project in July 2019, the company was asked to rehabilitate a badly deteriorating concrete chlorine contact chamber at a wastewater treatment plant in New Haven, Connecticut. Finishing the eight-day job quickly was critical in order to minimize plant downtime, Travis Savy notes.

“We had to use a 135-foot boom lift to get the hoses up and over into the tank,” he says. “We also had to set up scaffolding because the tank was about 25 feet deep.”

The tank was divided into two sections. The company used pumps to divert wastewater flow from one half into the other one in order to keep one half dry during the rehab process, then reversed the process to work on the second half, he says.

“If it rained, we were in trouble because the flow would increase and overflow into the half of the tank where we were working,” says Travis Savy. As it turned out, it did rain during the first phase of the project, which forced the crew to start over and reprep the half of the tank on which they were working.

“At that point, the customer didn’t expect us to meet the deadline. But we worked over the Memorial Day holiday weekend and finished the project on time.”

The job entailed rehabbing about 24,000 square feet of concrete. The eight-man crew cut out or jackhammered any failing concrete and repaired those areas with two Epoxytec products — one an industrial-grade cementitious mortar and the other an epoxy-modified mortar. Then they spray-applied a 125-millimeter-thick coating of a moisture-insensitive, chemical-resistant, reinforced epoxy product, also made by Epoxytec, he says.

Water-tight solutions

Savy & Sons handles a lot of conventional projects, too, such as lining municipal sewer lines or coating manholes to stop inflow and infiltration. But the company embraces unusual challenges, as well.

“We love to solve severe problems for people by providing solutions that, in a lot of cases, they didn’t even know existed,” Travis Savy says.

Take the nearly 100-year-old wooden water tower that provides potable water to campers at historic Camp Kinder Ring in Hopewell Junction, New York. The tower’s wooden walls were failing and replacing it would’ve cost up to $500,000, a significant cost for the owners, who opened the children’s summer camp back in 1927.

But Savy & Sons rehabbed the tank for significantly less money and with just three months of downtime, he says.

After waterjetting the interior of the tank and vacuuming up the debris, workers used trowels and putty knives to fill gaps and voids in the tank’s wooden walls with an eco-friendly epoxy paste made by Epoxytec. Then they applied a 125 mm thick, water-tight coating of another Epoxytec product, a fiber-reinforced polymer epoxy that’s compatible with potable water, he says.

Projects like these burnish the company’s reputation and help it move toward its long-term goal: To be known as a company that’s not afraid to take on the most challenging jobs, Travis Savy says.

“We want to keep building our brand as a company that does superior work — fills that niche for tackling the toughest and highest-profile jobs. And if anyone can do it, it’s our guys.” 


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