Educated Public Helps Drive Septic Component, Tank Industry

Up until about fifteen years ago, a lot of people had no idea that their sewage went to a septic tank; if they did know, they had no interest in it. Filters, alarms, a maintenance schedule—forget all that. Some people did not even know where they tank was located, let alone how to take care of it.

The shift to a more educated septic-using and septic-owning public began about fifteen years ago, said Gary Koteskey, President of Sim/Tech Filter of Boyne City, Michigan. For one thing, people who were buying homes started needing septic system inspections. In some parts of the country, public health departments required septic pumpers to keep detailed records of systems they pumped, recording the amount of sludge they took from a system and listing their methods of disposal.

Pressure—and education—also came from public interest groups, septic organizations, and others who have worked hard to inform the public about onsite systems. The result is a resurgence in the development of septic components that provide better service and allow better maintenance of drain fields and septic tanks.

One of Sim/Tech Filter’s products is a sludge device called the Trucore sludge sampler, which allows an operator to extract a core of the sludge in the bottom of a tank to determine if it needs to be pumped. Too often, an operator will pump a system only to discover that there is just three inches or so of sludge in the bottom. The rest is water that does not need to be pumped, trucked to a treatment plant, and disposed of; a costly proposal that is entirely unnecessary. With pumping fees increasing dramatically in many areas—from $125 or so where Koteskey lives to $250 or $300—a sludge check can save time and money. The operator can use a pickup truck and make several service calls rather than use a large, fuel-guzzling truck to pump a system that may not need it.

The development of such a device is one example Koteskey uses to show how consumers and operators alike are becoming better educated about septic systems and their components.

Sim/Tech has developed several  other new products in that area. One is the company’s Sure-Set system that guides multi-sectioned septic systems into place. Using four corner guides on the bottom tank section, the Sure-Set allows an operator to feed the top component onto the bottom, ensuring an even and water-tight seal on the butyl ribbon that locks the pieces into place.

“What we were seeing in the industry was these tanks would be bouncing and swinging and would not be lining up perfectly and that would compromise the seal on the butyl ribbon,” explained Koteskey, who goes into the field from time to time to set tanks and to see how his company’s products work under real-world conditions.

Another product is the company’s new commercial filter that is made of perforated PVS plastic. The screen has a forty-one percent open area. Designed primarily for commercial use, the circular perforations provide a better flow than conventional slot-style filterers. On a thirty-inch long filter with a six-inch diameter, there are 80,000 1/16 –inch diameter holes.

Sim/Tech Filter’s other new product is a bowtie pipe stand, which holds pipes six inches off the ground. It slides into the discharge pipe and works like a tripod for chamber systems.

Over at Polylok, President Peter Gavin is enthusiastic about the company’s septic tank components, some of which originated from customer suggestions and others that came from the company’s long experience in the industry.

“We started life in the precast concrete market, and we’re still in it,” Gavin said, of Polylok. The company now is one of the leaders in the industry, designing, manufacturing, and shipping products from its Wallingford, Conn. Headquarters. It supplies plastic-injection molded products for the onsite wastewater industry, along with products for the precast concrete market.

Gavin said the company has four new (or newly redesigned) products. The first is a new style of carbon filter. “A lot of the systems these days mandate the flow of oxygen into the system. The problem is [that] it can lead to a discharge of odor,” he said. The filter, which is placed right on the tank, prevents this so-called “odor leak” from the system.

On the safety side, Polylok is selling a safety screen that offers a double layer of protection over the underground tank entrance. The device, called a Riser Safety Screen, can keep a child or animal from tumbling inside. The problem, though infrequent, is heartbreakingly tragic; a service worker or homeowner may not properly secure the lid, which can thus allow access to the tank.

The Riser Safety Screen fits twenty- and twenty-four-inch covers. The bright yellow, heavy-duty screen comes with a built-in handle.

A third product is the company’s Orifice Diffuser. “For pressure systems that need brown water to be dispersed over greater distances evenly in 360 degrees, this allows it to be possible,” Gavin said. “This was an internal idea; it was common sense, just a better way to [disperse] the brown water.”

The company also has turned its attention to existing tanks, Gavin said, with the introduction of its three- and four-inch Extend & Lok system.  Customers told him they wanted to add Polylok filters but could not install them into existing tanks because the inlet or outlet pipes were not long enough to accommodate the filter tee or baffle. While the Extend & Lok has been available for several years, Polylok recently introduced similar no-glue extenders that will fit three- and four-inch pipes, Gavin said. Operators hammer the extenders into place.

Explained Gavin, “It offers a way to adapt an existing ten- or fifty-year-old septic system so you can put an effluent filter on it. This is a starting hub to mount our filter or to stack filters on it.”

As for the future, he predicts the industry will continue to mature with a focus on providing quality products and components to the onsite industry. For example, “I think there is a tremendous focus in the industry to [ensure] that the same amount of water going into the tank is discharged from the tank.” In other words, the system needs to work as designed with no inflow or discharge that should not exist, as a watertight vessel.

 “The industry is going through an era of cleaning up its act and making sure these systems are designed and maintained properly.  There is a renaissance in the onsite business, so to speak. The onsite industry is here to stay; let’s make the best of it.”

Chris Soland of the BrenLin Co. in Herman, Minn., said his company has focused on expanding the range of product sizes. The company manufactures riser systems and covers for the septic industry. Its products are called the Seal-R Lid and the Seal-R Ring. While BrenLin has had a variety of adaptors, it expanded its offerings to include twelve-, fifteen- and thirty-six-inch adaptor rings because of requests from customers.

“There’s always been a need for them,” Soland said. The extended sizes provide more options for customers. So far they seem to be selling well.

BrenLin Co. has been in business since 1998. Soland oversees the manufacturing of the company’s plastic components as well as supervising sales, marketing, and shipping. Soland agrees that the septic industry in general seems to be moving toward a degree of professionalism and an attention to quality that has not existed in the past. It is a movement he welcomes in the industry.

“Everybody needs to take a big-picture look at the industry. They really have decided to look not only at cost but also at quality of the products,” Soland said. He cites his Seal-R products as an example of quality items that are finding a greater place in the industry. “We have a nice looking product and, it is very, very strong. I have replaced two [of our products] over the years, and both times I saw why; it was an [installation] operator error.”

As for the increased professionalism in the industry that is dictating a demand for higher quality products, Soland said this, “Maybe they are looking at the bigger picture and seeing that cheap isn’t good, and they want to assure the homeowners that they are going to install a good product and have a safe system.”

Story by Marie Elium


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