Extreme Makeover - Septic System Edition

With an elderly couple drowning in medical expenses and a failing septic system, Wisconsin onsite professionals jumped in to save the day.
Extreme Makeover - Septic System Edition
Participants in the first Rejuvenate a Family Day project gathered for a photo. Shown are (first row, left to right) Aaron Ausen of Dalmaray Concrete Products, Damon Huibregtse of Dirkse and Huibregtse Excavating, system recipients Ron and Barb Josyln, Dan Diederichs of Madson Tiling and Excavating, and Barry Huibregtse of Dirkse and Huibregtse. In the back row (from left) are Lukas Hengst of Dirkse and Huibregtse, Mark Wieser of Wieser Concrete, Steve Jengtes of Statewide Septic Service, Len La

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Except for the bus pulling away to reveal a gasp-inspiring home improvement project, the Wisconsin Onsite Water Recycling Association Rejuvenate a Family Day had all the makings of an Extreme Makeover television show.

A dedicated crew of volunteer WOWRA members worked at breakneck pace to build a brand-new septic system for a family in need. Cameras were rolling from local media watching the project come together. Officials and legislators from the state of Wisconsin were gathered for a ceremony at the completion of the build.

And the appreciation of the family that received the system left everyone a little choked up.

“Seeing Ron and Barb’s faces during the entire process was a priceless moment in my 29 years of life,’’ says Aaron Ausen, of Dalmaray Concrete Products and WOWRA president. “It was a proud day for everyone who was on that site. It was pretty amazing.’’

Ron and Barb are members of the Joslyn family in Cascade, Wis., whose septic system stopped functioning at the same time they were having a difficult time paying off Ron’s medical bills. The couple was thankful when WOWRA board member Damon Huibregtse learned of their plight and brought it to the attention of association members.

Conventional system

For some time, WOWRA members were talking about helping a family in need with a new septic system. Members jumped at the chance to help the Joslyn family and replaced an antiquated and failing drywell and leach bed last July.

“God bless WOWRA and the members who saw our needs and decided to do something about it,’’ Barb Joslyn says in a recent press release from the trade group. “It’s easy to talk about it, but this group is actually doing something about it.’’ Along with the local press, Dave Ross, secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services, State Sen. Joseph Liebham (R-Sheboygan), a local county administrator and the Joslyns watched as the new system was installed in an afternoon.

The new conventional septic system was designed by Huibregtse to utilize a dual-compartment 1,500-gallon concrete tank, donated by Ledgeview Precast, with effluent moving to a drainfield filled with 88 Infiltrator Systems Quick 4 units. Overwhelmed by volunteer installers, the system was quickly assembled and buried, followed by a ceremony with the Joslyn family. The total value of the donations was $9,125.

“It was an emotional-type thing,’’ says Huibregtse. “This was different from installing other systems. Here you’ve got people getting emotional and crying, thanking you and saying they can’t believe this happened to them.’’ And the attention from media and officials was a learning experience, too.

While the legislator and others in government wanted to get close to the action, the installers had to monitor a busy work site and explain each step of the process to the onlookers. But it was a good thing to have the attention of decision makers, including Ross, who has jurisdiction over all septic system installs in the state, and have them see a crack team of installers at work.

Raise awareness

“Ordinarily we don’t want people standing around crowding the site,’’ Huibregtse says. “It was good to raise awareness of septic systems and WOWRA, to explain why we’re members and why we think it’s a value.’’

Ausen echoed the sentiment.

“People take for granted where their waste is going, and that’s when you have problems. These things do work; they’re not just holes in the ground. There’s science behind it,’’ he says. The install gave Ausen and others in the industry a great opportunity to educate people on the complexity of a septic system design. That was a bonus on top of the real reason so many WOWRA members showed up to work that day.

“The thing to take away from [the project] is that even though the economy hasn’t quite turned itself around, there’s still a lot of people willing to give and help out. That’s what a nonprofit should be all about,’’ he says.

The organizers said it’s likely WOWRA will make these donations a regular part of the group’s mission. The board of directors is currently developing an application process for future donations in an effort to spread them across the state and involve all interested members.

“There are lots of good people in the industry who want to help. We’ll try to move it around the state so everyone has an opportunity to do that,’’ he says. They put this project together quickly, and received many offers to help after necessary donations were quickly rounded up.

“We had a plethora of calls from WOWRA members who wanted to give money and time. We had to turn a lot of people away because we had too much,’’ Ausen reflects. “That speaks volumes for WOWRA and the membership. I was very pleased to see that.’’

Share your story

Ausen saw this type of project done in Indiana, and other state onsite associations have made similar charitable efforts. If your association has recently helped out a homeowner in need or is planning to do so in the near future, let me know and we’ll share your good news.

Like Ausen says, these projects reflect positively on the individual state association, and the contractors who offer their products and services. But the feelings of goodwill extend to the entire onsite industry.


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