Keeping It Simple

A Wisconsin liquid waste hauler gives valuable advice to pumpers faced with a full load and nowhere to go.
Keeping It Simple
Gail Temme in a New Holland tractor with an AerWay injection unit. It travels at 0.9 mph while applying treated wastewater from the Maritime Liquid Waste treatment facility.

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Take a look at this Maritime Liquid Waste Transport company article featured 10 years ago in the December 2004 issue of Pumper magazine. We spotlight the company again in a follow-up story to see how the business has evolved over the last decade: “Pumper Rewind: Pumper Makes Leap From Employee to Owner.” 

Troy Temme, owner of Maritime Liquid Waste, in Newton, Wis., wasn’t getting the service he expected at municipal wastewater treatment plants. He found their prices high and their hours out of sync with his operating schedule. 

So, Troy researched what it would take to build his own waste processing facility. The lagoon system he chose operates cheaply and efficiently, saves driver time, lowers fuel and maintenance costs, and allows his company to service twice as many customers daily. 

Nothing complex

After 18 months of securing permits from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and Environmental Protection Agency, taking soil samples, and attending town meetings, Troy built his waste facility on the family's 100-acre farm. The 18-foot-deep lagoon holds 6.8 million gallons and sits on 1.8 acres. “If you’re looking for complexity, it’s not here,” he says. “I keep everything simple, so fewer things can go wrong.” 

The lack of fancy equipment enables Troy to treat the waste properly but at low cost. “Lagoons are more efficient, because they require no electricity,” he says. “Their surface area is so large that the sun’s ultraviolet rays disinfect the water.” He adds more bacteria to the lagoon whenever its reddish tint shifts color, indicating not enough microbes are present to handle the volume. 

Troy’s plant is centrally located within a 50-mile radius encompassing his customers in Manitowoc and Sheboygan counties in eastern Wisconsin along Lake Michigan. Trucks returning at day’s end come in loaded instead of returning empty after hauling to a municipal treatment plant. Having no empty miles saves significant fuel and driver time. “Every trip to the municipal treatment plant cost me 45 minutes of service time,” he says. “The lagoon has paid for itself.” 

Dump and go

When a truck comes in, the driver discharges its load into a stainless steel separator designed by Troy and built by A. H. Stock Manufacturing in Newton. Three screens catch the trash, which is raked out, stored in a 4-cubic-yard dumpster, and deposited in a landfill.

A 12-inch PVC pipe at the bottom of the separator transports the water to the lagoon. Entering through a spillway, the liquid splashes over five concrete steps for aeration. Although Troy had wanted aerators in the lagoon, four DNR engineers looked at his test sample numbers and told him he would be wasting his money.

“Every time the wind ruffles the water on such a large surface, it produces natural aeration,” he says. “Those thousands of methane bubbles rising constantly from the bottom also agitate the water enough to aerate it. It’s simple, and it works perfectly.” 

Bacteria in the lagoon break down the solids, and the clear, treated water rises to the top. A sludge judge – a clear tube that functions like a pipette – lowered into the lagoon reveals the depth of the treated water. Troy uses this measurement to calculate how long to run the pump to decant the layer. Last year, he decanted 7.5 million gallons and irrigated alfalfa and cornfields with it. 

Troy uses the lagoon year-round, even though the top freezes in winter. The major issue then is to make sure the water enters beneath the ice so that it is treated. “The only time the lagoon has a slight odor is for a month after the ice goes out,” Troy explains. “That’s because bacteria slow down in winter and don’t thoroughly process some waste. When the wind hits the top of the water, it carries that odor.” 

No complaints

Troy and wife Gail have been dragline and spray irrigating for 10 years and have never had an odor complaint or DNR citation. “We’re very considerate of other people and what they are doing when we want to spray,” he says. “If the wind isn’t from the right direction, I don’t spray, even if I should.  

“I also don’t spray if the wind is 10 miles per hour or higher. That disrupts the spray’s flow pattern, the liquid isn’t thrown out as far as it should be, and the application is uneven. Also, the fine spray will drift and possibly land on someone’s house or passing car. We avoid those situations, and that’s why we’ve never had any problems with neighbors.”

Troy has always taken the initiative. Born with an independent spirit and entrepreneurial drive, he left his job as a mechanic in 1992, traded in his four-wheel-drive show truck, and bought a straight quad-axle truck. His father-in-law bankrolled the down payment for a 5,200-gallon tank from T-Line Equipment in Reedsville, Wis. When he opened Maritime Liquid Waste that year at age 24, he had secured 50 commercial accounts before the tanker, the largest in the area, even arrived. 

From Day One, Troy adhered to a “clean and sharp” policy. His spotless blue-and-white uniform and truck forced other haulers to either match Maritime’s image or drop out of competition. Today, all six competitors have shiny trucks. 

“A lot of entrepreneurs think small when getting into business. I think big,” says Troy. “Starting with the biggest truck saved money in the end. I made fewer trips to the municipal treatment plant, serviced twice as many customers in one load, and saved time and fuel.” 

Today, Maritime logos are on two Peterbilt quad axles with 5,200- and 5,600-gallon tanks, an Ag-Chem injector truck with 1,600-gallon stainless steel tank, a semitrailer with 9,000-gallon aluminum tank and another with a 7,000-gallon stainless steel tank for hauling manure and sludge, a New Holland 8670 tractor that pulls the AerWay dragline irrigator, and a John Deere 4500 tractor used with the Cadman hard-hose traveler spray irrigator.

Two hose reels hold a combined 5,280 feet of 6-inch irrigation drag and supply hose. “I own a F350 Dually pickup truck for pulling around equipment, refueling pumps, and picking up parts,” says Troy. “We use a Yamaha Rhino to check irrigation hoses and bring food to the tractor driver.” 

Driving a tractor at 0.7 mph while pulling the dragline is boring, so Troy installed a 9-inch LCD DVD player mounted in the air-conditioned cab.

Price war

Troy, the highest-priced waste hauler in the area, doesn’t worry about the competition undercutting his services. “I built my company’s reputation on outstanding service and always having clean, attractive equipment and uniforms,” he says. 

“Our drivers are very knowledgeable in fulfilling the customer’s needs. They never drive over lawns or drag hoses through shrubs and flowerbeds or against houses. They must always leave the property looking as good as when they arrived, if not better,” says Troy.

Troy also maintains loyalty by answering all phone calls. The company’s landline number transfers to his cell phone. “I can juggle routes to accommodate an emergency much faster and more efficiently than someone at the office,” says Troy. “Whenever customers have contact with the owner, that business will do better.”

Troy’s customers all know him because he pumps their tanks. “Hearing the owner’s voice and seeing his face go a long way in stopping your customers from being attracted to the guy who is $5 cheaper,” he says.

Bigger isn’t better

Maritime’s other driver is Kyle Getter, age 20. Gail is the accountant and also drives the dragline irrigation tractor, helps set up irrigation systems, and runs the hose lines with Troy. Their daughter, Brooke, age 12, is the company’s office assistant and groundskeeper. 

Troy is comfortable with the size of his business. “Obviously, we’re always looking for new customers, but I’m not actively pursuing adding another truck,” he says. He’s heard about companies that expand too far, lose touch with what they loved to do because of their managerial duties, and now are back to running the truck themselves or with one employee.

“Many businessmen think bigger is better until they achieve it and their health suffers from the stress,” says Troy. “They then return to the company’s original size. When you figure everything out, you really aren’t making any more money. You’re actually working harder and making less because your overhead is higher.”

Maritime’s customer base is residential, commercial, municipal, and agricultural. Troy and Kyle pump septic tanks, mounds, holding tanks, grease traps, wastewater treatment plant biosolids, and manure. Troy also does septic system inspections for home sales or refinancing. Contaminated waste (greasy water) from catch basins and pit water from machine companies is hauled to the Green Bay metropolitan wastewater treatment plant.

Tee-off time

When the PGA Championship stopped at nearby Whistling Straits golf course in August, Pit-Stop Portables of Fond du Lac, Wis., contracted Maritime to haul the portable toilet and restroom trailer waste. Maritime also supplied and distributed 240,000 gallons of certified drinking water throughout the temporary village and on the course.

Troy contracted with Dean Brennan Transport to haul the water from the City of Sheboygan in two stainless steel food-grade semitrailers. Troy then rented a stainless steel milk tanker, offloaded the water into it, and filled the tanks for the restroom trailers and kitchen areas. He also filled four extra stainless steel tanks that were added capacity.

“Keeping those tanks full was an involved process,” Troy says. “On the busiest two days, two former employees helped us.” The graywater and liquid waste in holding tanks were pumped nightly and deposited in the lagoon.

Innovative ideas like the treatment lagoon, combined with hard work and dedication to customers, are helping Troy Temme stay on track for success in eastern Wisconsin. 


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