Roadbond Service Co.
- Written by: Jim Cavan
- Produced by: Victor Martins
- Estimated reading time: 4 mins
In the early 1980s, long before ROADBOND EN 1 became an industry standard, Ervin Merritt was just trying to keep his family’s cotton farm afloat. As a side business, the elder Merritt had started developing liquid foliar fertilizers.
One day, after applying a new blend to the soil, Merritt noticed something peculiar: not only had the chemical successfully leached elements out of rock; it also made the soil itself extremely hard.
A few years later, Ervin invited his son, Steve, to look at a site he’d treated with ROADBOND.
“There were no potholes, no loose materials,” recalls Steve Merritt. “Just a few hundred feet away, on the section that hadn’t been treated, there were potholes everywhere. The difference was remarkable.”
Steve joined the new family venture shortly thereafter. Jobsite by jobsite, study by study, the product’s profile grew.
Today, Merritt says ROADBOND is beginning to penetrate markets well beyond the Lone Star State, with projects as far afield as Africa and China. In fact, prior to the 2008 Summer Olympics, Chinese officials commissioned ROADBOND for a number of projects in and around Beijing.
“The last time I had my passport stamped, I didn’t have any pages left for a visa,” Merritt quips. “I never expected to be traveling the world, but it’s a testament to how well the product works.”
In September 2017, Ervin Merritt passed away at the age of 86. While Steve Merritt says the loss is one his family still feels today, the legacy his father left behind—hard work, ingenuity, and a gift for thinking outside the box—stands to last even longer.
That’s because for years, the methods used to stabilize roads and highways were temporary, typically ineffective and very often environmentally damaging.
But as ROADBOND continues to prove, sometimes the simplest solutions can yield the biggest, most lasting impacts. And a better environment.
How does it work? In essence, ROADBOND causes clay below the prospective road site to release water, replacing it with strongly ionized sulfate radicals. The ensuing chemical process creates metal hydrates that increase the strength of the clay while reducing its permeability.
According to Merritt, one of the product’s proprietary ingredients comes from a rapidly renewable resource; another component, a byproduct of the ore-smelting process.
The result is a more reliable and stable subgrade structure, creating a stronger road without compromising the surrounding environment. Better still, the product’s durability means reduced maintenance costs and water use, making for an even smaller carbon footprint.
“We’ve worked with everyone from private business to municipalities to state highway departments,” Merritt says. “When we go back and look at a project five or 10 years later, that’s when we see the true impact ROADBOND has had.”
The science of strength
Claiming environmental superiority is one thing; it’s another matter altogether to prove it.
In 2010, the state of Pennsylvania commissioned a comprehensive study to ascertain the product’s potential impact on local trout populations. The conclusion: ROADBOND is as safe as it gets.
Given how widely environmental standards vary from state to state, Merritt says having data has played a big role in his company’s steady expansion.
“We’ve had university research done that basically concludes the same things,” Merritt says. “When you’re working with government agencies, it’s imperative that you have the science to back up your claims.”
Still, Merritt is quick to emphasize that, for most companies, accepting ROADBOND’s green bona fides come with another, equally pressing concern: Does it actually work?
In 1997, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) commissioned the first comprehensive study of ROADBOND’s durability, concluding the product “has been shown to be superior to lime in terms of strength, stiffness, permeability, and swell resistance potential.”
More recently, TxDOT found that an unpaved limestone base treated with ROADBOND saw its strength increase by 400 percent. After the road was completed, crewmembers administered a second test. After 30 days, the section treated with ROADBOND was found to be 26 percent stronger. Five months later, the difference was even more pronounced.
As ROADBOND’s profile has grown, it’s become a go-to product for the oil and gas sectors, where a combination of heavy equipment and all-hours use demand an especially durable infrastructure.
It’s also an industry that’s taken to embracing environmental safeguards wherever and however it can, making ROADBOND an especially attractive alternative.
“In the same way we use it to strengthen roads, we can use ROADBOND to encapsulate and confine oil-base drill cuttings in order to prevent leaching of heavy metals and other harmful materials,” Merritt explains. “It’s an easy solution to what could otherwise be a big problem.”
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