Sometimes the Simplest Tools Are the Most Effective

Why a 7-foot pinch-point bar is a pumper's best friend
Sometimes the Simplest Tools Are the Most Effective

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Jim Ehde’s favorite tool doesn’t have a motor or any electronics, but he uses it all the time.

His pinch-point bar is nothing more than a big chisel, 7 feet long and weighing about 40 pounds. Similar tools will set you back from $15 to $51 at Home Depot depending on what you’re looking for. For Ehde, a bar that big is valuable.

“The soil here is all clay, and in the summer it bakes to the hardness of concrete,” he says.

He lives on Grand Island, New York, an island that sits in the Niagara River a couple miles upstream of Niagara Falls. And it is on the island that he founded Grand Island Waste Management in 2013.

As he starts digging down to the access hatch on a septic tank, he uses the bar to pry chunks of soil away from the side of the hole to make it wider. The bar breaks soil into smaller chunks, and it breaks up roots and other things that block access. His bar is in use a couple of times each week.

“We don’t install tanks, so we don’t have digging equipment like excavators. It’s all hand work,” Ehde says.

The bar makes it easier to dig down and find tank lids, because customers don’t always maintain access or even know where their tank access hatches are. The island has been occupied for a long time, and records of tank location are spotty and sometimes inaccurate.

After the first time digging down to a tank, Ehde recommends customers install risers. Customers save money because they’re not paying for his time to dig, and technicians have an easier time on subsequent visits. For that, he uses Tuf-Tite lids and risers. And Ehde recommends annual visits to clean customers’ filters, which often become clogged with debris.

“We do find the occasional tank that hasn’t been pumped in 40 or 50 years. Pumping isn’t mandated here, but I’m pushing for more education on this subject. We live in an environmentally sensitive area, and there are a number of people who don’t understand the impact of not taking care of their systems,” he says.


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