Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Think about this from the homeowner's point of view: An addendum to yesterday's post

I am adding this to yesterday's post because I don't want an important point to be lost inside one of my usual rants.

The homeowners having the septic system installed saved $10,000 because they questioned their engineers work and decided to install an Eliminite denitrification system rather than one from the "Big Guys."

This is significant because the total installed cost of the entire system (Building sewer, primary tank, Eliminite treatment unit, drainfield, pumps, control panel and labor) was about $21,000.  This is a huge savings.  

The two systems, Eliminite and "Big Guys", are regulatory equivalents meaning in the eyes of DEQ they are equal.  However, I have years of data comparing the effluent from the two systems showing Eliminite has far superior nitrogen removal results.

So why is the other system so expensive?  My opinion is that they have, with the assistance of your state and local health department, enjoyed a near monopoly. 

In Maryland, the agency charged with permitting these system actually lowered the standard to accommodate a system that they had previously approved but could not meet the original standard for which it was permitted.

Generally, these systems are approved for installation by providing ONE data point, NSF testing.  The problem is once the system has passed NSF's fantasy test, the state agencies don't bother exploring REAL WORD numbers from the installed systems and it is a well know fact, though only spoken in dark corners of empty rooms, that certified systems generally do not meet real world nitrogen standards.  Hence the shenanigans in Maryland.  (The certification is pricey...it would cost a company in the neighborhood of $150,000 to complete the 6 month test.   Who pays for this?  You do.) 

In Rhode Island it is reported that residential denitrification systems cost $35,000 to $45,000. http://www.thewesterlysun.com/news/shoreline-building-hurt-by-dem-rule/article_227ed8b8-0955-11e1-9058-001cc4c03286.html

Here is a breakdown of the types of systems installed in Charlstown, RI taken from:  http://www.charlestownri.org/index.asp?Type=B_BASIC&SEC=%7B57BE787A-1F23-406A-906B-4FBC5BCACF34%7D&DE=%7BA376CA24-20CF-48FA-B83B-5FC3F0F62459%7D

Monopoly?   You decide.  I can tell you that based on the pie chart, Eliminite would provide dramatically lower effluent nitrogen numbers than the vast majority (90%+) of the systems being installed (I can't speak to every system listed because I am surprised anyone even uses them any more) and cost thousands less. 

This means that Rhode Island would see an immediate reduction in the cost of residential denitrification systems of about....you guessed it $10,000 to $25,000. 

That is real money in the homeowners pocket and less nitrogen in the environment. 

Oh..and for the record, Montana's water is better.

Monday, November 14, 2011

A letter from the Client to the Engineer. File this under, "I told you so."

A little background:
Client hires Mr. Engineer to design an advanced onsite wastewater treatment system for her property.  The system will serve three homes.

Mr. Engineer decides that he will not show Eliminite on the plans and opts to only show the "Big Guys" onsite wastewater system on the plans. 

During the process of obtaining cost proposals for the treatment system, several contractors suggest  Client look into Eliminite as an option because they prefer Eliminite advanced onsite treatment systems to those manufactured by the "Big Guys."

Eliminite provided a  price to  Clients contractor and offers to help have the system re-permitted if Client decides to work with us. 

Client decides to use Eliminite and authorizes re-permitting.  Re-permitting takes a few days.

The Smackdown
The system is installed and, apparently, Mr. Engineer, noticing the construction activity on the property asks Client if he should come out and certify the installation.  Client sends Mr. Engineer the following letter:

Mr. Engineer,
They are just finishing putting in the Eliminite system this week. In response to your inquiry, we went with this system because it was $10,000 less than the other system. They are a Montana company & have been very professional with us. They should be included in the options you give people also.
Mrs. Client

That's a fairly strong rebuke and I doubt Client will be recommending Mr. Engineer for future work.

The Problem
In general, larger firms prefer to specify systems that cost more because their fees are based on a percentage of the overall cost. So a system that costs $10,000 more, represents an additional $2000 to $2500 in the engineers pocket for doing nothing.

Clients, whether public or private, must be aware of this practice of deliberately designing with more expensive components for no reason other than that they cost more.  A case in point is a Montana firm that is designing a public onsite wastewater treatment system and is only designing with the "Big Guys" on their plans.  They refuse to even call us back even though they have already been smacked down by other clients that they pulled these shenanigans with.  

The bottom line is, because we are able to provide better systems for less money, they make less.  In fact, the installed cost of one of our systems was less than the cost of their engineering services, and they did not even design the system.

This firm just lost a big public job that they did the preliminary engineering report for.  The clients decided not to use them on the design and construction phases.  The firm that won the award is a competent, ethical group that has worked with Eliminite on several projects.  Their approach is to allow several manufacturers to present a design for review and the best system wins the job.

Eliminite almost always wins the fair bids.  The only ones we do not win, are the ones that are rigged from the beginning.   This ultimately ends up costing the client a lot more money initially, more money for operation and maintenance and, after the "Big Guys" system has been installed and is not meeting permit requirements, more money because the engineers are forced to "de-certify" the non-compliant system.

Want to know more?  Give me a call.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Ten Days in October

This project has a long history so I'll provide a short background.  It was built in the 90's as a mixed use residential and commercial development in a resort area. It consists of cabins, condos, retail and a restaurant. 
Back in those days recirculating sand filters were all rage and the DEQ required one to be installed for wastewater treatment. 

You remember the design...a goofy little frame wall built around the perimeter of the excavation to which plywood or drywall was applied so that a 30 mil PVC liner could be draped over the whole thing.  Then there were the layers of sand, gravel, pea gravel, more gravel that had to be meticulously placed, leveled and smoothed.  

Well it failed, just like they all fail.  It was rebuilt.  The new one failed.

When the owners decided they had had enough, they installed an Eliminite as a retro-fit to the existing primary and recirculation tanks. 

The photo on the left shows the wastewater in the recirculation tank before startup.  It looks so bad you can almost smell it through the screen. 
The photo on the right shows a sample collected from the Eliminite just ten days after the system was started.   It is clear and there is no offensive odor. 

This means that in ten days or less the Eliminite system turned a tank full of filthy, stinky, nasty wastewater,  into a clear, odor-free effluent.   

Try this with one of those air bubbler systems and the aeration tank would have looked like  Yellowstone Mud Pot.  I can only imagine what a filter fabric or foam cube system would look like after a week of receiving this type of wastewater.  Can you say, "Time for the Tyvek suit?"