Nature’s fury: Hurricane
Sandy caused the Hackensack and Passaic rivers in New Jersey to
rise nearly 7 feet above the 100-year flood level, wreaking havoc
on businesses along the two waterfronts.
Pool chemical manufacturer Alden Leeds sustained heavy damage to
its facility during Hurricane Sandy, but unlike many businesses
nearby, it managed to survive.
“There were a number of miracles that occurred, things
that you would not expect,” recalled Larry Epstein, who owns
the firm along with his three brothers, Andy, Mark and Steven.
“Considering everything, it could have been worse. There are
many people in the New York/New Jersey area who are out of
Alden Leeds was founded in 1959 by their father, Edward Epstein,
and began manufacturing in Kearny, N.J., in 1974. The company also
has a facility in Enid, Okla.
Today two buildings -- a 20,000-square-foot plant and a
135,000-square-foot warehouse, shipping/ receiving area -- operate
out of Kearny.
During the storm, approximately 3 feet of brackish water flooded
both one-story buildings, but somehow spared the company’s
offices. This enabled the firm to continue operations at satellite
locations and ship all products needed without any disruption,
Though submerged under 7 feet of water, Alden Leeds’ fleet of
trucks even started without any problems and, after getting oil
changes, ran normally.
Several machines related to manufacturing were unharmed despite
the flooding, and some inventory that got wet was salvageable as
“By nature, pool chemicals are in waterproof packaging, so
there wasn’t the reaction you would expect from a packaged
pool chemical going under water,” Epstein explained.
Unfortunately, the company’s electrical system
didn’t fare as well and it’s expected to cost $750,000
to replace nine main transformers and up to 50 motors that run the
facility’s machinery. Additionally, the flooding necessitated
cleanup and reorganization.
“When you are in this business, you plan for the worst
possible scenarios, and flooding is not usually one of them,”
A fire also broke out, most likely caused by an electrical
source, but by the time the fire department arrived, the blaze had
been suppressed by the building’s sprinkler system. However,
the fire is estimated to have caused $3.5 million in damage, which
is covered by insurance, said Epstein.
“We have been through low points and high points, so
it’s another low point we weren’t looking forward to
dealing with, but we are stoic about these things and we like to
pick up and get going again,” Epstein said. “We have
machines ready to go now and if anyone needs anything, we can ship
it immediately. Productive capacity is back,” he said.
However, some industry members heard that the company was not
functioning, a rumor that Alden Leeds officials quickly
“Some of our customers came to us at the show asking,
‘What’s happening? We heard you can’t
ship.’ It’s easy to imagine that unscrupulous
salespeople would say we are out of business, but our customers
know we are fine,” he said. “We are one of the few in
the country that has two factories, so at no time was our
production affected [in a major way].”