Building a Legacy

Therese Wheaton doesn’t just build wastewater treatment plants. Since 1992, the owner of Crystal Environmental has worked with many septic professionals to build a future and a solution for these hard-working men and women.

Each plant is unique with different regulations, specifications and the needs of the owner. As such, Wheaton says that the plants are not replicas of each other. Most septic professionals build plants to meet a need. “I have a client that was paying 21 cents a gallon to dispose,” says Wheaton. “That adds up to $210,000 a year for them. So, when you compare that with the cost of building and operating a plant and what you make when you take in other’s waste, it becomes a
no-brainer for some.

“Our projects have continued to be the most successful with respect to process quality, optimization and financial feasibility. Our facilities are designed considering reasonable start-up costs and potential market growth. Our approach continues to be proven in processing reasonable values of BOD, TSS, FOG, phosphorous and combined nitrogen. Many pre-treatment processes have started out at 5,000 gallons a day and have grown to over 100,000 gallons per day! Local engineering services are usually needed to fulfill local interpretations of compliance. We provide the experience for your local engineers to finalize your process and meet your permitting and building requirements.”

Why People Build

“The independence and the ability to make more money are two big reasons clients build,” says Wheaton. “If you can get costs down, then it becomes it’s own profit center. Some do it for retirement. If they make a penny a gallon on 4 million that’s $40,000 a year for retirement. The plant is ongoing and self-supporting, because it only takes a couple of employees. Most guys are wasting tons of money by paying to dispose. Some guys already have a building which also cuts down on their building costs, while others can make $195,000 a year.”
Is it Right For Everyone?

“The most expensive is the solids handling,” says Wheaton. “At $25 a ton, it’s cheap to remove solids, but in NYC or Atlanta, it can be $120 to remove solids. Then we have to look at it in a different way by making drier solids, or it might not work at all. If someone only has half a million gallons per year, it may not be worth it to build. The only way to know for sure is to get your own game plan. The solid and water quality and associated expenses (capital, labor, electric, building repair and maintenance, etc) is different for each plant.”

Getting Started

Wheaton’s formula for gathering information will help you determine your return on investment. Sometimes she says that it doesn’t make sense to build. However, most of the time, if someone has come to her it is because of an urgent need to reduce their cost or because there are no disposal alternatives.

“We will begin by developing a Processing Liquid Waste Business Plan, which quantifies the costs associated with your industrial pre-treatment facility,” says Wheaton.

Wheaton sends interested business owners a form to fill out that asks them to collect their cost information. “We look over their costs and some find out for the first time exactly how much money they are blowing out the window each year,” says Wheaton. “Then we look at their needs—how many gallons they take in each year, their local regulations, etc.”

Wheaton has also been called in to improve quality at other plants. “I teach them how to operate and improve. We get the water and solid quality in play. “When I open a plant, I invite regulators on the first day, because if you put in the right components in place the first time, it works.”

Other Considerations

“A plant is built on local costs,” says Wheaton. “Four million gallons is hard to land-apply and isn’t exactly free. There is also a short window that you can do it if you live in a cold area. When you look at capital costs versus what you are throwing out the window to dispose and remembering that costs do change, it can be a great solution.”

“Accurate Dewatering does 2-3 million gallons per year, so you can’t have pumps down. You have to build everything well and responsible. I give my clients a list of parts that they will need to have on hand or be able to get within a certain window of time. Different clients approach this in different ways. Some have $5,000 worth of spare parts on hand because they also have the storage space to hold them. Some guys use old tanks to accumulate volume while parts come in. Another option is to build dual systems. We recommend that you build large enough to give yourself elbow room—at least 50,000 gallons worth. The goal is to bring it in, process it, and flush it today. The plant should be empty at the end of the day.”

Case Studies

Wheaton has several success stories. Some plants that really stand out include Accurate Dewatering, Stoneybrook, and Kline’s Services which has taken wastewater management
to a whole new environmental level with 90 percent of their waste being reused and recycled.

Kline’s, which appeared in our June 2012 issue, began with their Food to Fuel initiative which extracts brown grease from restaurants and food processing plants that Kline’s pumps and converts the waste into a heating fuel. Their next phase was adding a methane digester electrical generation that produces alternative energy providing enough electrical power to operate Kline’s Services. They sell the left over energy to the power grid.

Accurate Dewatering, which appeared in our June 2013 issue, took a problem (prohibitive disposal costs and a ban on land disposal) and turned it into a solution not only for them but also for their local competitors. “Jody had a big growth spurt for the first couple of years and is able to pay his plant supervisor well while still making a nice income for retirement.”

“At Stoneybrook there was a keyman policy,” says Wheaton. “He was interested in building the plant but passed away from cancer. Jane and I continued to fulfill
his dream.”

The effects of these plants on the environment can’t be overstated. Plants like Kline’s and others that reuse and recycle the waste for other uses have a positive impact
for the country, it’s citizens, and the environment. “Every time you put this together it’s good,” says Wheaton.

Story by Jennifer Taylor


For More Information, visit:
■ Crystal Environmental:
■ Kline’s Services:
■ Accurate Dewatering:

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