We Could Use Speedier Site Inspections in Virginia

Unfortunately, it can be a game of hurry up and wait when the crew at Garcia Excavation Services installs drainfields.

We Could Use Speedier Site Inspections in Virginia

  Jamie Garcia and Caterpillar 312EL.

Interested in Onsite Systems?

Get Onsite Systems articles, news and videos right in your inbox! Sign up now.

Onsite Systems + Get Alerts

Name and title or job description: Valentino Garcia, chief executive officer and co-founder along with my father Greg Garcia, brother Rudy Garcia and wife Jamie Garcia

Business name and location: Garcia Excavation Services, Fredericksburg, Virginia

Services we offer: Septic system installations — mostly new systems. About 5% of our business is repair work. 

Age: 37

Years in the industry: I started as a laborer for a septic installation company in 2004. A year later my boss gave me a crew. The company went out of business in 2009 when the recession hit, and that’s when we started Garcia Excavation Services.

Association involvement: I’ve been a member of the Virginia Onsite Wastewater Recycling Association since 2006 when my former boss signed me up for the orientation classes.

Benefits of belonging to the association: We learn new things and stay informed about regulation changes. It provides education opportunities and helps to make the industry more professional.

Biggest issue facing your association right now: It’s hard to get members. And it’s hard to get the existing members together for meetings and training. Some have to travel an hour or two. Classes were being held in September and October but that’s when we’re busy trying to get systems in before winter, and for some guys it’s hunting season. 

Our crew includes: My father runs heavy equipment and is in charge of part of the materials. My brother is foreman of the crew, runs heavy equipment, and makes sure installations go correctly. My wife handles paperwork and phone calls and runs materials out to the field when we’re busy. Luis Bernal is a full-time laborer and runs the grade laser. And Sergio Gonzalez is a part-time laborer. 

We have enough equipment for two more crews but haven’t been able to hire anyone for the last two years. There’s a large restaurant chain here paying $18 to $20 an hour. It would be very hard for us to pay somebody that much when they have no experience. We subcontract some of our work — a company that brings in gravel, a company that brings tanks to us. 

Typical day on the job: Every day I’m in the field operating equipment. In the evenings, I’m doing the planning for the next project, as well as scheduling and pricing.

The job I’ll never forget: A soil scientist did a soil test for a drainfield. He put holes in the ground every 6 to 8 feet to do the study and everything was fine. We were going to put in six lines, 80 feet long, 3 feet wide. But when we started digging the first line, 5 feet from the line we hit bedrock. So we went to the next trench — same thing. And the rest of the trenches were all the same. It turns out where they poked the holes it was OK but there was bedrock in the middle and the sides. If they moved the auger 6 inches they would have hit the rock. Something like that happens once in a lifetime. The whole drainfield needed to be redesigned for another spot.

My favorite piece of equipment: In my free time I work with lathes and milling machines and I invented a little track machine that weighs less than 200 pounds, goes 15 to 20 miles per hour, and fits in a pickup truck — my “Track Buddy.” It took me a couple years to design and build it but now I use it all the time. It can go anywhere on the job site, whether it’s wet or dry. We work on a lot of three-acre lots. The drainfield is usually in the far back of the lot but we park our trucks on the road, so when you forget something it could take 10 or 20 minutes to walk back to the truck. But now we just get on this machine. I also like our Caterpillar 312EL excavator and our Takeuchi TL10 skid-steer (not too big, not too small, not too heavy) which work together.

Most challenging site I’ve worked on: There was a drainfield where the slope was at least 40%. For the trench, we put in 13 inches of gravel with a pipe in the middle, six inches of gravel around the pipe, and two inches over. It was so steep that the only way to do it was with the Takeuchi TL10. We put a berm at the bottom and the machine would just slide down, crash through the berm, and then dump the gravel in the trench. To go up, we had to push the machine with the bucket. You put the bucket down in the ground and at the same time activate the tracks to go back up. Normally we can do a septic system in one day; this one took close to two weeks.

The craziest ques-tion I’ve been asked by a customer: Most of our cus--tomers are homebuilders so they’re very knowledgeable. But one homeowner asked me why we had to put in a DVD box for his drainfield. Maybe he thought it was to record the water passing by or something. I said I’d never heard of a DVD box but I explained what a distribution box was and he was satisfied.

If I could change one industry regulation, it would be: After we put in a system, it has to be inspected before we backfill. Inspections are very important but I’d like to see the process be a little easier and quicker. Right now it takes a lot of time. We have to leave everything open waiting for the inspection and if it rains it fills with water. Or sometimes we have to hurry to finish a job because bad weather is coming and we don’t want the new homeowner to have any issues. We have to give three days’ notice to the inspectors and if you cancel you have to wait even longer. 

Best piece of small business advice I’ve heard: A mentor who told me a few things: “Give a good product to your customer and the profits will follow,” “You want your customers to hire you because you’re good; not because you’re cheap,” and “Never confuse movement with progress.” 

If I wasn’t working in the wastewater industry, I would: Probably be either a diesel mechanic or a machinist doing metalwork. Working on my lathe machine is my outlet for the stress that owning a business can bring. 

Crystal ball time – This is my outlook for the wastewater industry: I think the industry is going in the right direction. There’s nothing wrong with the (municipal) sewer and water, but we believe septic systems help more with the environment because whatever you take out of the ground you’re putting back in, which is good since it stays in the soil and doesn’t go to the sewage plant and then the river. The other thing about this industry is I think there’s going to be a shortage of people doing it, which is very unfortunate. 

- Compiled by Betty Dageforde


Comments on this site are submitted by users and are not endorsed by nor do they reflect the views or opinions of COLE Publishing, Inc. Comments are moderated before being posted.