Celebrate the 10th Anniversary of SepticSmart Week

Customer education is critical in keeping onsite systems working and building trust

Celebrate the 10th Anniversary of SepticSmart Week

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It’s no secret to pumpers that onsite septic systems are critical infrastructure. But perhaps just as important is the community education and public outreach that should go hand-in-hand with onsite systems.

Each year, the EPA designates a week in September to give an extra push in the efforts to inform homeowners on proper septic system care, called SepticSmart Week. With this year’s outreach efforts scheduled for Sept. 19-23, there is no better time to start engaging customers and promoting the annual event. Joshua Gunia, owner of A Advanced Septic Construction Services, has been in the septic industry for 25 years. As a past president of Washington Onsite Sewage Association and current NOWRA installer representative, a large part of his career has been representing and advocating for onsite and decentralized systems. 

“I think we have leaps and bounds to go in terms of community engagement,” Gunia says. “I would love nothing more than for SepticSmart week to be a great start to where all of us in this industry and in our community are all speaking the same language to always be septic smart.” 

Greater public awareness of best practices and proper septic maintenance achieves better economic, environmental and public health benefits from decentralized systems. The more the general public understands the importance of sustainable wastewater infrastructure, the more likely they are to support the solutions and regulatory changes that enable onsite system expansions and improvements.

Educate at every level 

Gunia’s experience as a business owner and representative in multiple associations has shown him that public education and outreach is important in every facet of the industry, and that every person involved has the power to influence and promote. “It’s important to recognize that whether you’re pumping or installing, you are the first line of education and often the most sought after by people looking for advice,” he says. 

The A Advanced Septic team are given brochures to hand out to customers that focus on why septic systems are critical. “I’m just super open and frank with my guys,” Gunia says. “I just tell them that if we care about the industry and we care about education, SepticSmart Week is the perfect week to walk the walk.” 

Beyond direct contact between installers and homeowners, it’s always an option to work with local health departments or national organizations to spread the word. Chuck Ahrens, current executive director of WOSSA, believes in using as many outlets as possible, including educating prominent figures that hold positions representing the area.

“We’ve taken part in trying to educate representatives and legislatures in our state,” Ahrens says. “Oftentimes we aren’t the ones that are first thought of, but representatives of the public are, and people will look to them, so their opinion matters.” 

Be social on site and online 

With today’s available online platforms, any business can easily promote and share material. “Social media. Someone on your staff knows how to use Facebook or other social media platforms,” Gunia says. “Use posts to encourage conversation and throw in a link to your resources like the EPA’s SepticSmart Week page.” 

For Gunia, generating topics for social media is as easy as getting the staff together and asking them what they wish the homeowners they serve knew on a regular basis. “Using real-life examples from your staff and what they are seeing in the field and turning it into something short that people are willing to read, turns it into education,” he says. “All of the answers you need in your company are sitting within the men and women who operate it. Go back to them, they will have the ideas.”

The key to success

“Consistency is key, you’ve got to keep that conversation going because if you don’t education often gets put to the wayside,” Gunia says. “If we aren’t speaking it into our lives regularly, then we aren’t out there speaking that consciously into the homeowners.” 

Educating the public is a win-win for service providers. It builds trust between the community and those who service them. “Unfortunately, a lot of times homeowners just think our guys are there to take their money,” Ahrens says. “Once we got to really educate them about what we do and why it’s important, they realized that inspections and regulations are there to help them save money in the long run.” Ahrens thinks that due to recent events the industry is in the right place to gain traction with public education, and that this year’s SepticSmart Week is a good time for businesses to start making more of an effort. 

“Right now, the fact is our industry has been deemed critical or essential, and people are looking at us a little different for the first time in a long time,” says Ahrens. “Use that momentum to show people that we are professionals and help them understand what they are paying for.” 

SepticSmart Week Resources

Outreach Toolkit 

SepticSmart Flyers 

Homeowner Resources


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