Sugar Run Spills works from Pittsburgh to Harrisburg

Sugar Run Spills has been cleaning up messes for a long time.

Founded in 1991 by former Allegheny Township Fire Chief Walt Nichols, Sugar Run Spills is an environmental hazmat response team that specializes in hazardous and nonhazardous spill removal.

“When I retired after 27 years as fire chief, I saw there was a need for this type of business,” Walt Nichols said.

Walt Nichols and his son, Dave Nichols, who serves as general manager, operate the business out of the Walt’s Garage building at 1009 Burns Ave.

Sugar Run Spills works in cooperation with the Altoona Hazmat Team.

“Anytime we have called them, they have helped support us in a timely and professional manner. We mitigate the damage and stop it, and they clean it up,” said Altoona Fire Chief Tim Hileman, who is also the city’s emergency management director. “They are certainly a reputable business that has been helping to take care of the county for a long time.”

Walt Nichols said the company cleans up everything from an 8,500-gallon gasoline tanker to 50 gallons of diesel fuel on the road.

“We need to get it contained and keep it out of streams and away from streams,” he said.

The goal is to return the site to its original state. He said the company has never had a complaint about a cleanup.

If Sugar Run Spills removes damaged soil, the company replaces it with good soil. It then plants grass seed and places straw over the grass seed. The damaged soil is tested and then taken to a landfill.

“If trees are damaged, we replant trees,” Dave Nichols said.

The amount of time at the scene of a cleanup depends on the size of the spill, he said.

Walt Nichols said he puts in additional time if necessary to make sure the site is restored to its original condition.

“I would rather do it right the first time. I am very conscious of the environment,” Walt Nichols said.

Sugar Run Spills responds to spills across a wide area – as far as Pittsburgh, Somerset, Harrisburg and Bradford. The company also gets calls to respond to fuel spills from accidents on Interstate 80.

“We get called to scenes by the 911 center, the Department of Environmental Protection or the trucking company involved in an accident,” Dave Nichols said.

“We can take care of about anything. One year we were called for a gas well fire near Cherry Tree and had it out in 45 seconds,” Walt Nichols said.

Sugar Run Spills is well known in Bedford County.

“I’ve had pretty good success with them. They are a reputable company,” said Dave Cubbison, Bedford County Emergency Services director. “They have done good work. They are always complete and keep me in the loop. They put things back the way they were before the spill.”

Sugar Run Spills has six trucks with different kinds of equipment on each one.

Walt and Dave Nichols are the company’s two full-time employees, and they have a crew of six people who are always on call. The equipment taken to each incident depends on the size of the spill.

“We only take what is needed,” Dave Nichols said.

A lot of maintenance work is involved.

“We are on call 24/7. We have to make sure the equipment is working and everything is up to date,” Walt Nichols said. “If we get a call, it better be running.”

Sugar Run Spills also tests water and soil samples, checks fuel oil tanks and sells pads, booms, pillows, socks, barrel top pads and rolls of absorbent material to homeowners and businesses.

Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.