In Franklin, Louisiana, Richard Hammond teamed up with the family-run crew at D&L Salvage. Here, Lance Ortemond, who oversees the day-to-day operations, and John LeBlanc, who handles all government and employee operations, chat about the biggest challenge in their line of work and how Richard surprised them during his visit.
What does a regular day look like at D & L Salvage?
John LeBlanc: It can vary. We do salvage operations but we do a lot of construction whether it be building off-shore platforms or pipelines. We also do some removals of those things. In the summer, the crews work up to 12 to 14 hour a day. Obviously in the winter months because of daylight, it’s normally 12 hours a day.
How did you get involved in this line of work?
Lance Ortemond: You’re kind of born into this industry down here. My dad did it, my grandfather did it.
So how many years do you have in experience?
LeBlanc: I’ve been doing this for about five years.
Ortemond: I’ve been doing this for about 15 years.
Can you detail some of the materials you’re working with?
Ortemond: Mainly, what we salvage is offshore structures. It’s all going to be steel and some concrete depending on what we work with.
After you collect those materials, what happens to them?
LeBlanc: Everything is recycled. Steel mills re-melt the metal from what we cut up.
What would you say is the biggest challenge in your line of work?
LeBlanc: Permits—there’s so much red tape. You can’t remove a structure without getting approval to remove it. You have to apply and go through a process, and sometimes these companies have to block out permits and they go to different departments, whether it be Wildlife and Fishery or the Department of Natural Resources, and they have to review your plan and determine if that plan is suitable. At that point, they issue a permit to the owner of the property and that’s usually where we come in and remove it.
What do you think is the biggest misconception of your job?
LeBlanc: Probably that we’re unfriendly to the environment. When you think about it, we probably go through more bureaucracy to get a project completed more than anything. Basically, what we do is good for the environment because we take something that’s going to be reused for something else.
What do you love best about your job?
Ortemond: I love working with John and my family.
What’s the strangest piece of salvage you’ve ever come across in your line of work?
Ortemond: One time we were laying a pipeline in a marsh in Louisiana, and we accidentally hit a tractor underwater.
What was it like working with Richard?
LeBlanc: He’s pretty legit. I don’t know if he told you, but during filming, there was a tropical storm coming through here. The last day that we filmed, we all got pretty wet from the rain.
Ortemond: He was a good sport.
What did you learn from your experience working with Richard?
Ortemond: For a guy to go from operating a sports car to a piece of heavy machinery… wow, he’s a clever guy.