As the winter months approach and the brilliant warm colors of autumn fade from the hillsides, the brown landscape will turn white with snow where foliage has been ripped from a hillside. But occasionally there is an area of green. This isn’t grass trying to grow through the snow. It’s a polypropylene erosion blanket and it’s playing a very important role in saving the landscape during the gas drilling that is taking place in our area.
Ferguson Waterworks, located in Mansfield, is providing contractors with those polypropylene erosion blankets, along with other water-related materials and products.
Ferguson Waterworks supplies contractors with building materials, specializing in three main areas: geotextiles, erosion control products and high density polyethylene (HDPE) materials.
Geotextiles, which can be woven or non-woven, are used for separation, filtration, drainage or reinforcement of soil. Geotextiles, which come in different thicknesses, prevent rocks from settling and help with drainage.
Erosion control products include matting, which comes in different size rolls. They can be single or double net mats made of straw, coconut or polypropylene (the bright green ones), which are used on the steeper slopes. They all act as erosion blankets. Some are biodegradable with different timetables for biodegrading. They come in different thicknesses. They help the ground cover re-grow, at the same time preventing erosion. They have become popular with landscapers as well as contractors.
“It’s a very specialized, very specific product that’s being used all over,” said Mike Belosky, Mansfield branch manager of Ferguson Waterworks.
Belosky continued to explain how environmentally friendly these erosion control mats are. They are held down with large staples. Some of the staples are made of steel, but some are made of biodegradable material. These are used in areas where steel shouldn’t be left behind after a well pad is gone, such as farmland where animals graze. Land owners don’t want their animals eating or stepping on steel staples.
In some areas where mats can’t be rolled out, another erosion control product, ground control hydraulically-applied mulch, is blown into place. It comes in bags or truckloads. It can be different materials, depending on the slope where it has to be used. Other erosion control products include safety fencing, snow fencing, drain inlet protection, which keeps run-off from entering the pipe system that’s being built, and silt soxx and fences, which prevent materials from going into storm drains.
The third product line that Ferguson carries is the HDPE materials. The main product in this line is the fusible water pipe, which can be used for drainage as well. According to Belosky, for many of the gas companies in this area, this is their pipe choice for water transfer. The 10” to 16” pipe can be used to transfer water from a pond to a well pad, making it an alternative to using water trucks to haul water. In some cases the pipe method is less expensive than running trucks. For this use, the pipes are temporarily set up above ground during the hydraulic fracturing process. They can also be used as a permanent pipe, such as water/sewer mains or storm drains, which would be placed underground.
Ferguson also carries HDPE culvert pipe, which is mainly used for drainage.
“Before all the drilling takes place the infrastructure of the well pad has to be put into place,” Belosky said.
Belosky is originally from Horseheads, N.Y. After graduating from Horseheads High School, he started college at Radford University in Virginia. After two years he transferred to Arizona State University, graduating in 2005 with a degree in business management and a minor in international business. Right out of school, he started working for the Ferguson branch in Phoenix. In 2010, he transferred to the Philadelphia branch office, working his way toward home. In 2012, he made it “home,” transferring to Mansfield when they opened that branch in June.
From a geographical standpoint, Ferguson Waterworks felt that they needed to open a branch in Mansfield because there was a need to service customers in the Twin Tiers area. As a company that supplies all types of contractors, those who do site work, as well as those who do municipal work, Belosky said, “It just happens that a lot of our materials are needed by the professional contractors out there. Those are the contractors that are working in the oil and gas industry in this area.”
Ferguson was founded by Charlie Ferguson, Ralph Lenz and Johnny Smithers in 1953 as a small plumbing supply house. In 1982, it was bought out by Wolseley, located in the United Kingdom, which is still its “mother company.” It has several divisions, selling plumbing and other supplies to both contractors and the do-it-yourself home remodeler. Over the years, Ferguson has grown tremendously. Today, according to several trade publications, it is known as the largest distributor of plumbing supplies and pipe, valves and fittings. It is the second largest company within the waterworks industry. Ferguson offers its sales and services to utility contractors, municipalities, plant contractors, and site work contractors. 
The Mansfield branch has four additional employees who work with Mike Belosky. Evan Joseph, in sales, focuses on the professional contractors. Theresa Mochan, in sales, focuses on the municipalities. Gary Canuso is their product specialist. Brian Clark is their main driver and warehouse associate. 
“Our sole purpose is for underground infrastructure of any kind. It just happens that it’s needed by the oil and gas industry that’s here,” Belosky said. “We’re here for the community; the contractors who need us.”