Pumpers Promote Best Practices at Discover WILD New Hampshire Day

Outreach at a statewide outdoors and environmental event informs homeowners about the ‘flushable’ wipes issue, promotes routine septic system maintenance.

Pumpers Promote Best Practices at Discover WILD New Hampshire Day

Several members of the New Hampshire Association of Septage Haulers donated restrooms for the WILD New Hampshire Day in 2018.

On April 20, for the third year, the New Hampshire Association of Septage Haulers will staff a booth and provide portable restrooms at Discover WILD New Hampshire Day, a free community event sponsored by the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department. Every year Discover WILD New Hampshire Day draws thousands of people to the Fish and Game Department’s grounds in Concord.

Visitors, including many families with children, check out exhibits to learn about the state’s outdoor traditions and wildlife resources. They can see live animals and big fish, browse educational exhibits set up by environmental and conservation organizations, watch demonstrations by retriever dogs or try fly casting, fly tying, archery or BB gun shooting. Hunting and fishing gear is also on display.

Darlene Johnson of Best Septic in Loudon is on the board of directors of the New Hampshire Association of Septage Haulers, known as NHASH, and she coordinates the association’s participation in Discover WILD New Hampshire Day.

Pumper: What does NHASH do at Discover WILD New Hampshire Day?

Johnson: We set up a booth in the tent operated by the Department of Environmental Services. The department has exhibits where they talk about clean water, how a water treatment plant helps keep the water clean, how to keep wetlands safe, how to conserve water with low-flow toilets and how to conserve water with water collection. We tagged along in that tent, which was all about keeping a clean environment, to talk about how safe septic systems help keep groundwater and surface water clean. We have a (small-scale) model septic system with a septic tank and a leachfield. We also promote what not to flush, pumping frequency and why it’s important to pump, and basic septic 101.

We also provide portable restrooms for the event. Not all the members of our organization are in the portable restroom rental business, but five or six members brought toilets the first two years we did this. I think we had about 20 (units). The city of Concord agreed to accept all the waste from that event for free, as long as the company that did the servicing was registered at the wastewater treatment plant. It is great so see all the companies side by side with all the different toilets and logos.

Pumper: How did NHASH get involved?

Johnson: Ray Gordon, supervisor of residuals management from the Department of Environmental Services, invited us to get involved two years ago. The department showcases clean water, water conservation and the process of flushing it down the toilet and going through a wastewater treatment plant. They put it out there for laypeople to understand how it all works, from wastewater to clean water. Gordon opened up the doors to us so we could put our message out there. The idea was that people walking through that tent might think that this was all about sewers. We bring it back to people who have septic systems in the backyard. We’re pretty rural up here. There are a lot of septic systems. There are probably more people on septic systems than on sewers.

Pumper: What do visitors do at the NHASH booth?

Johnson: We have a little game, Toss the Toilet Paper. They have a toilet paper roll and they have to toss it into a hunter’s toilet. It’s like a 5-gallon bucket with a toilet seat on it. It’s never been used except for display purposes. We open that up and people throw toilet paper into it. We give kids little poop emojis on keychains, and we hand out the toilet paper to the parents. It’s hysterical. The adults are as excited to play as the kids are. The toilet paper rolls are wrapped with a band that says “Flush Only Toilet Paper” and our NHASH emblem to highlight the message that it’s the only thing you are supposed to put down the toilet. We pass the message onto the people who are not only on septic tanks but sewers, too. We stress that it should be every toilet, regardless of what you are hooked to on the other end.

The game helps to stall people. Especially when the kids are playing the game, we’re talking to the parents. We also have a bag that we stuff with free material about what not to flush and a worksheet for calculating how often you should have your septic tank pumped. It’s an educational opportunity. It lets people know how they can do their part to keep the water cleaner.

Pumper: Was it difficult to get participation from NHASH members?

Johnson: Not at all. Everyone was right on board with it. We had eight companies represented. One member drove an hour and a half to get there, and he had a blast. We did two-hour rotations, and we had representatives from two different companies for each time slot. A lot of our companies are mom and pop operations, so a lot of time the spouses would come in and we’d have three or four people working the booth. Someone could help the kids playing the game, and others could talk to the adults.

Pumper: Was the promotional effort successful?

Johnson: We certainly had a lot of traffic around the booth. We promote all of our haulers. Any of our haulers could leave us their business cards, and when we talked to people who approached us, we asked them what area they are in. Then we would tell them which NHASH member serves that area. How many directly go home with a card in their hand from their local pumper and actually call, we haven’t measured yet. We’re going to be able to measure it better when we get another outreach program launched in conjunction with the Department of Environmental Services and we have a new program called Get Pumped, New Hampshire. We launched that as part of a media campaign in March. Then we’ll have some tracking capability with coupons. This new program will be a major outreach effort, and we are pretty excited about it.


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