Public Officials & Private Companies Collaborate to Develop Efficient Facility Design

Stories in this month’s issue include a great example of public sector/private business cooperation and uncovering an unfortunate septic tank maintenance solution.

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The septage disposal station in Livingston County, Mich., is an example of what can be accomplished when public officials take advantage of the expertise of wastewater haulers on a major construction project. In our Pumper Interview story this month (Dumping Done Right by Scottie Dayton), you’ll read about how this receiving station has become a model for the pumping industry.

Because the county’s five-year maintenance cycle for septic systems was estimated to generate 12 million gallons of septage per year, officials knew they had to develop a facility design that would be convenient for pumpers to use. First, they decided to locate the building near a major highway for easy access and to ensure pumpers wouldn’t face springtime weight restrictions. Then local drain commissioner Brian Jonckheere called on area haulers for input on the design, and their ideas saved the county a lot of money.

“One hauler noticed that all the equipment was on the same elevation as the truck bays, forcing him to pressurize the tank to off-load instead of using gravity,” Jonckheere explained about a review of the preliminary plans. “Without his comment, retrofitting the station for gravity feed would have cost $500,000 to $750,000. We lowered the screening room floor and the hose connection in each bay. We also put a 6-inch depression in the bay floors that tips the trucks backward to empty the tanks fully.”

The station incorporates convenience technologies, like swipe cards to access the building and generate complete recordkeeping, and creature comforts for the hardworking drivers as they wait for loads to empty.

“Besides a clean bathroom, a hospitality counter has free coffee, tea, and chilled or frozen Gatorade in summer,” Jonckheere says of some of the pumper perks. “Our safety equipment includes eye wash, safety shower, sinks and carbon monoxide monitors.” Supportive pumpers were even awarded Christmas bonus gallonage in 2012.

When pumpers are given a seat at the table with government decision-makers, good things can happen, and Livingston County is proof of that.


I’ve always been a big backyard griller, and my grill of choice is the classic Weber Kettle. From bratwurst to a 15-pound turkey, there’s nothing you can’t turn into a delicious charcoal-roasted delicacy using the Weber. And its unmistakable rounded design – made to cook with convection – was perfected in the 1950s and hasn’t changed since.

I never imagined the cover of a Weber grill as a septic tank lid … until a Pumper reader posted a photo of a tank he unearthed recently. There it was, sure enough. The top half of a Weber grill covering the opening of a 500-gallon steel septic tank. The pumper found the oddity during an inspection done for a real estate transaction.

You can see the makeshift lid and read about the discovery in our Overheard Online column this month. The sight made me chuckle, and also got me to wondering, what’s the strangest thing you’ve dug up on the job? Drop me a line and let me know at

Perhaps the funniest part of the story is that it appears the pumper put the Weber lid right back where he found it and the home sale went through. How many health departments would allow that situation to continue and how many mortgage loans would go through if the lender knew a Weber grill was part of the septic system?


For me, the first few weeks of March is the time to come down from the high of the Pumper & Cleaner Environmental Expo International and look forward to how pumpers are preparing for the busy season to come. I also take time to reflect on what I learned at the Expo, especially from talking to pumpers on the exhibit floor and during the roundtable discussions.

If you have any feedback about what you learned at the Expo, I’d enjoy hearing it. What’s the best piece of advice you took away from Education Day that will help your business this year? What tool or technology on display has the most potential to help you provide better or more efficient customer service? Drop me a line to share your Expo observations.


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