The 2015 Construction Season Brings Reason For Optimism

At the start of the busy 2015 construction season, there’s plenty of reason for optimism in the onsite industry.

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April is a time of awakening for installers in many regions of the U.S. and Canada. Earth-moving equipment is being tuned up and readied for a busy construction season. For many installers, the project schedule is growing as builders and homeowners confirm orders for new construction and necessary upgrades of older systems.

As soon as the ground is adequately dry, installers working in northern climates will start putting in those sunup-to-sundown workdays that drain the energy and replenish the bank account. It’s time to start bringing in the dollars after a climate-caused lull in many areas.

I recently saw a letter to the editor in a small Virginia newspaper with a message that buoyed my hopes for continued growth in the onsite industry. It added to my optimism for both the upcoming season and the long-term outlook. The words of the writer, a small-town resident, validate the work of the installing community and show we’re on the right track promoting quality decentralized wastewater treatment.


Opposing the annexation of property and the potential for expansion of a municipal sewer system in an area generally declining in growth, the writer implored local officials to consider the important role played by septic systems. He warned that potential high costs for a centralized sewer system in such a population demographic could discourage residential and economic development.

The writer said onsite systems have proven to be a compelling option for economical wastewater treatment in many situations, and beyond that, they are often a superior choice for the environment. He argued this is particularly true in his area in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

“As long as much of the county is on septic systems, the effluent from those systems serves to recharge the aquifer and maintain our water supply,’’ he wrote. “If sewage is diverted to a central treatment facility and the discharge pumped into the bay … our aquifer does not get recharged and we may eventually run out of water.’’

This is a perceptive analysis of the wastewater treatment options for a dot on the map in Virginia, but we could come to the same conclusion in communities across North America. Sure, you’re never going to get away from the Big Pipe sewage systems in major cities where sewers appear to be the best choice for treating wastewater. But it’s equally true that many communities shouldn’t jump to the conclusion that large-scale municipal sewers are the best answer.

And I think there has been a slow and widespread shift in attitude about the role of municipal sewers and decentralized wastewater treatment. With advances in onsite treatment technologies – and greater acceptance from state and county regulators – cities, towns and counties aren’t as quick to make the choice to build new treatment plants and lay pipe.


Every new year brings additional onsite solutions for systems on smaller lots, in poorer soils and built nearer to sensitive wetlands areas. At the same time, more installers are being trained to work with these technologies and feel empowered to suggest them under the right circumstances. Access to these technologies and qualified installers are opening up properties to development that would have had to lay fallow 10 or 20 years ago.

So yes, the onsite industry – its manufacturers, designers and field technicians – is playing a significant role in developing and maintaining infrastructure and driving economic growth. And if communities take a responsible, measured approach to the best way to extend wastewater treatment to suburban and exurban areas, I’m convinced the role of decentralized systems will only be strengthened in the coming years.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, through its Memorandum of Understanding partnership with numerous wastewater trade groups and other entities, reflects a wider acceptance of decentralized wastewater treatment. These interested parties are confirming that private, individual and small-scale cluster treatment systems can be viewed as permanent wastewater solutions.

There’s evidence that changing ideas about regional planning and conservation of natural resources open the door to more creative approaches to wastewater treatment. An emphasis on population density is clearly defining the patterns of municipal sewer expansion. And where sewers are thought to be too expensive to build and maintain, onsite systems are going to take hold. At the same time, a movement to reduce water usage has been successful, backing up the benefit of onsite systems in recharging groundwater supplies.


In addition to more widespread acceptance of decentralized systems comes the need to upgrade older systems that are becoming more outdated every year. Just like the EPA is recognizing a strong role for new onsite technologies, federal and state agencies have a well-founded concern about identifying systems that are failing and causing pollution. Initiatives like time-of-sale inspections and mandatory septic tank pumping intervals will uncover more poorly functioning systems, and the installing community will be there to make necessary updates or put new systems in the ground.

All the indicators point to a bright future for the onsite industry. With proper training, adequate consumer education and marketing of your services, installers should be flush with work for years to come. Now get out there and start digging!


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