Sunday, April 21, 2013

RV Parks, Highway Rest Areas, Restaurants, Homes, Recycling Centers and Oil Field Man Camps

The reason I haven't posted to this blog recently is not because I have lost interest. To the contrary, I am more interested now than ever--we've just been very busy designing, building and installing the systems identified in the title. I keep thinking that I need to get a new post written, but it seems that every time I get started, something else pops up.

Thankfully, Eliminite is very busy and our clientele has grown steadily for the past year+, without much of a lull this past winter.  We have been enjoying a tremendous amount of repeat business and one of the companies that provides O&M for a number of different brands of onsite systems, including Eliminite systems,  told me last week that he believes Eliminite is superior to its competitors.  He had apparently related this sentiment to a County Health official after becoming frustrated with consistently poor results/unreliable field performance from other systems.

 Since my last post, Justin Buchanan of Eon-NW, installed the system serving the 220 bed man camp located on the Montana-North Dakota border.  The installation went smoothly and there were no problems, despite the remote location and mid-winter installation date.  I worked with Justin and we were able to install and test the entire system in about one week.    Onsite Installer Magazine is featuring Eliminite in an article focused on the man camp in their May 2013 issue.  I’ll post a link to it here as soon as it is available online.

Onsite Installer Magazine also asked us for a short case study for the current issue.  Here is the link:

There are a few other systems included in the case study article but it is interesting to notice that we were the only company that included actual treatment results. The others either are silent about the actual field results or only supply aspirational numbers…basically, just variations of "this system is expected to meet such-and-such standard", or, "was designed to meet such-and-such standard."  Our case study describes a 68 lot subdivision where each home has its own septic tank and Eliminite treatment unit.  Treated effluent is collected in a small diameter effluent sewer and routed to a central dosing tank.  The dosing tank pumps to a pressurized drainfield.  Samples are collected quarterly and the most recent sample, a winter sample, was tested by a certified laboratory to have a total nitrogen concentration of 9.8 mg/L. 

The interesting thing about this system is that in the early stages of the subdivision the owners allowed the installation of two other brands of onsite wastewater treatment systems.  Initially, there were no Eliminite systems installed on the project, and the subdivision never met its discharge limits.  The systems that were installed initially both have NSF certification and one is NSF 245 certified.  And, despite the fact that the owners spent tens of thousands of dollars on the certified treatment systems, they still did not meet the discharge requirements. 
One of those systems is the proverbial, “$20,000 septic system.”  I cannot even imagine spending that kind of money for a single family residence septic system and NOT meeting the State permitting requirements.  Onsite systems seem to be one of the very few consumer products in that price range that can consistently fail to perform as intended without suffering any real consequences.  The consumer suffers the negative consequences of bad odors, frequent maintenance, additional expenses and reprimands from health departments for failure to meet permit limits, and the environment suffers the negative consequence of degraded water quality and site disturbance, but the manufacturer rarely suffer any backlash when their systems fail to departments rarely de-list approved systems for failure to perform, and owners cannot hope to recover damages from a manufacturer because warranties are generally drafted in such a biased manner that even the slightest deviation from design flow parameters or usage patterns nullifies those warranties and places blame on the consumer, the design engineer, the installer, the maintenance provider, or some combination of the four. 
The average consumer is better off buying a replacement system and hoping for the best than trying to wade into the murky waters of taking legal action against a large manufacturer.  So, usually the expense and frustration fall on the system owner, who in turn contacts the design engineer, who in turn contacts the installer, who in turn contacts the maintenance provider, the latter of which generally receives the least amount of compensation and is the least culpable for the system's failure to perform but is most likely to take on the enormously frustrating task of troubleshooting and attempting to fix problems that are often un-fixable. 
So, the point of this is to explain why I consider a compliment from an onsite system maintenance provider to be of the highest order--when the guy who goes into the field and physically inspects and works on systems says my system works the best, I take it very seriously.  It means all the blood, sweat and tears (and that isn't just an empty expression!) we've expended designing, troubleshooting, testing and re-testing for years on end is paying off.  It means our stuff works in reality, not just under the imaginary, idealized set of circumstances so often contemplated during the design process that almost never actually exists in the field.
Anyway, back to the subdivision that was the subject of the case study.  The owner decided that he did not like receiving violation notices and contacted us.  We started installing systems for homes as they were constructed.  Because our treatment units consistently produce effluent that is substantially cleaner than the permit requires, the Eliminite systems are actually diluting the poorly treated effluent from the other systems and the subdivision has not been out of compliance since Eliminite systems were brought on line.  In fact, it is interesting to see the total nitrogen trend as more Eliminite systems are added.  The numbers improve with the addition of each Eliminite.  Now there are so many Eliminites on line that they control the quality of the final effluent.

 This illustrates the seemingly obvious--but often ignored--fact that slick marketing, teams of government relations people (lobbyists), endorsements from members of academia who are paid to proffer their "expert" and "unbiased" opinions, and even well-regarded national certifications cannot make an ineffective system function.  In the field, each treatment unit must stand on its own and produce high quality results because, eventually, trading on corporate name and long-held market shares, and dedicating more time to manipulating environmental health regulations than to creating a truly effective, reliable system will not be enough.  As clean water supplies dwindle and demand continues to increase, more people are taking an active interest in onsite system performance, and more people are watching.  The worn out excuses, finger pointing and blame games that seem all too pervasive in the decentralized industry will no longer be tolerated, and a few technologies will continue to slowly but steadily rise above the rest.  At Eliminite, we're determined to make sure our system is one of them.