Follow the Golden Rule With Customers

Wastewater professionals should heed this solid advice shared with Andrew Andriola, president of the Long Island Liquid Waste Association.
Follow the Golden Rule With Customers
Follow the Golden Rule With Customers

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Name and title or job description: Andrew Andriola, president/sales/service tech
Business name and location: Andriola’s Cesspool Service, Holbrook, New York
Age: 61
Years in the industry: Lifelong
Association involvement: Long Island Liquid Waste Association member, board of directors, and currently president

Benefits of belonging to the association: Since its inception in 1974, the Long Island Liquid Waste Association has been the advocate for the septic waste industry in Nassau and Suffolk counties in New York. Most of our member companies can be considered small businesses, with many having less than five employees. Companies of this size are often at a distinct disadvantage when being represented to national, state and local governments. There is, however, strength in numbers, and Long Island Liquid Waste Association has established an excellent working relationship with the government. The septic industry nationally and locally is now dealing with nitrogen intrusion and the environmental problems it causes. By working closely with the government, environmental groups, and the public, we are addressing these issues.

Biggest issue facing your association right now: In Suffolk County, 70 percent of private homes are served by onsite septic systems. Many are old, deteriorating, and greatly in need of service or replacing. Sewering the whole county is neither affordable nor practical. By working together, we are developing pragmatic solutions to these problems. By sewering where practical and affordable in critical areas, and through development and installation of innovative onsite septic systems — along with education of the public and industry workers — we are establishing practical and realistic answers to this problem. As one would expect, this problem will not be solved overnight. We are in the second year of this program, and naturally, there have been growing pains. Reasonably, this is going to be a long-term effort.

Typical day on the job: On the service-end of my business, my day most of the time is not planned. I rely on the phone ringing every day, and lucky for me, it does. It could be anything — pumping, repairs, an installation project, drain cleaning.
The job I’ll never forget:
Late one afternoon, we got a call from a woman crying frantically that she knew her earrings fell off the shelf and were flushed down the toilet. When we arrived on the job, it turns out she was in her 80s and her husband just bought them for her before he passed away unexpectedly about a month prior. So, we went to work. Turns out it was not that hard to fish them out. She had a clean-out at the end of the pipe. So, we used a camera to locate the earrings and a sewer jet to flush them down the pipe and found them in the house trap. She was so happy, crying and hugging us, that I didn’t have the heart to charge her.
My favorite piece of equipment: I like them all — excavators, pump trucks, sewer jet trucks. There is a vast array of septic products and manufacturers of equipment for the septic industry, and most are equally proficient for the job at hand. However, some of my personal favorites are a 2011 Case Construction Equipment excavator along with a 1994 Ford L900 4,000-gallon vacuum truck. Presently, I have been using a Grumman Olson step van and a 4,000-pound Harben pressure jetter. Most sanitary systems on Long Island are buried, so for locating, I have a Spartan Tool camera and a RIDGID transmitter.                                                                                                                                                      

Most challenging site I’ve worked on: Due to the broad pattern of soil conditions found on Long Island, which was formed by a glacier, sometimes ground conditions are not favorable for installing sanitary systems, and you end up doing quite a bit of digging before you hit clean sand and gravel. And now you must haul all that material offsite and truck in clean sand and gravel and fill in the hole that you just dug before you can set the sanitary system and backfill the rest. You were only supposed to be on the job for one day, and now it took two or three days. It’s just very time consuming.

The craziest question I’ve been asked by a customer: Not so much crazy, but “Where does the sewerage go?” In our area, most sewerage is either hauled or piped to a treatment plant where — after proper processing — it is then piped out into the ocean. When I explain it to them and how it works, they usually say that can’t be good for the ocean. Then I have to explain it again, and for the most part, they understand.
If I could change one industry regulation, it would be: To bring all sanitary covers — residential and commercial — to grade for easier locating and access.

Best piece of small business advice I’ve heard: That would be from my father when he retired. We have a large residential customer base. “Continue to treat them the way you would want to be treated and be fair-priced, and they will always recommend you and always come back for future service” — and that’s held true for the last 16 years.

If I wasn’t working in the wastewater industry, I would: I’ve been in this business most of my life. I guess I’d say firefighter, cop, school teacher. I’ll let you know in my next life.

Crystal ball time — This is my outlook for the wastewater industry: Sewers will be installed in environmentally endangered areas where practical and/or affordable. As on Long Island, the septic industry in many areas of the country will see the development and installation of innovative and alternative onsite systems. These systems will require a more involved installation and yearly servicing along with additional education for service people on the new technologies.


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