Better Grease and Septage Disposal Infrastructure Needed in Mississippi

Grassroots pumping and installing association is working closely with state officials to build smart regulations and identify local wastewater treatment options.

Better Grease and Septage Disposal Infrastructure Needed in Mississippi

Chase Reynolds (left) and Steven Melton are shown with a 2017 Ram 5500 with a 1,250-gallon steel tank and Masport pump. The truck was designed by Melton and built by a local welder.

In States Snapshot, we visit with a member of a state, provincial or national trade association in the decentralized wastewater industry. This time we learn about a member of the Mississippi Pumpers Association.

Owner: Steven Melton

Business: Melton’s Pumping Service, Summit, Mississippi

Age: 38

Years in the industry: 20

Association involvement:

I’ve been president of the Mississippi Pumpers Association since 2010. That’s when the association was formed. I had been appointed by the chairman of the Board of Health of Mississippi to the Wastewater Advisory Board and worked with different groups and associations, and in 2010 we decided to come together and get organized. Today we’ve got about 40 members, both pumpers and installers.

Benefits of belonging to the association: 

The biggest benefit is that we’ve got a voice. If one person goes to the Board of Health or the Legislature with a problem, they’re less likely to get anything done. But when one person is speaking for a group, there’s a much better chance. We go to four to six Wastewater Board meetings a year; we work with state legislators on laws; and we work with the Board of Health on regulations.

Biggest issue facing your association right now: 

The biggest thing we face right now in the state is having a local place to dispose of grease. Many pumpers have nowhere reasonably close by, and they can’t pump it if they can’t dispose of it. Septage disposal is also a problem in some areas. My county has a state-of-the-art wastewater facility pumpers can use but other counties don’t, and if you have to drive 1 1/2 hours down the road, that’s a problem. It increases your costs dramatically. I’ve had meetings with different county supervisors and they say there’s not enough money to build lagoons or wastewater facilities.

Our crew includes: 

Myself and Chase Reynolds.

Typical day on the job: 

Typically we go from phone call to phone call with our pumping work. We schedule them out throughout the week. Then when we don’t have anything on the schedule, grease traps are what keep us going. Some we do every month, others every two or three months, six months, depending on what kind of grease these restaurants have.

Helping hands - Indispensable crew member: 

Chase Reynolds is as good as I can ask for. He’s been with me about 3 1/2 years. I’m usually in the office handling the calls and taking care of the bookwork. Reynolds is the one running the truck. He’s a very important part of the business.

The job I’ll never forget: 

When I was brand new at this and just learning the business, I had to pump a grease trap I didn’t know anything about. It was above ground. I didn’t have the right equipment and it created a leak. To keep it from spilling all over the ground, I tried to stop the leak and that’s when it all broke loose. I had it all over me from head to toe. Grease is much worse than sewer — it’s really nasty. I swore that night I was getting out of the business. I hadn’t even been doing it a year. But then I did some research and rethought my process and got some better hoses on my truck to keep that from happening again.

My favorite piece of equipment: 

Without a doubt it’s the Crust Buster (Crust Busters/Schmitz Brothers). We’ve got two of them and we use them daily. I got one a number of years ago after trying to pump a grease trap at a restaurant that had not been pumped in over a year. It was a solid pool of grease and I spent three hours mixing it with water and a hoe and trying to get it to where I could pump it out. I had seen the Crust Buster advertised and decided to get one. It’s one of the best tools I’ve ever bought. It takes a three-hour job down to 20 minutes. We use it mostly for grease work but also on septic tanks.

Most challenging site I’ve worked on: 

We don’t normally do this, but because we have a pump truck, we’ve been called a few times to handle spillages at the local chicken processing plant — when the guts and stuff from chickens spill and dump all over. It’s nasty; it stinks; you smell to high heaven; and it sticks with you for a long time. That’s what makes it challenging — when it’s really nasty and you’ve got to do it anyway.

The craziest question I’ve been asked by a customer: 

“Does the state pay for this to be done?” I showed up to a home to service their tank and when I was just getting ready to pump, I found out they thought the state was going to be paying for it.

If I could change one industry regulation, it would be: 

Right now Mississippi has a good state law that the pumpers have worked really close with the legislators on so I’d say we’re currently satisfied with the way the law is.

Best piece of small-business advice I’ve heard: 

It’s an old saying, but “Treat the customer like you’d want to be treated.” It’s just like if you walk into a restaurant and they welcome you and treat you right, you’re more apt to go back than if they don’t.

If I wasn’t working in the wastewater industry, I would: 

Be working with my wife, Robin, at our lumberyard. Her father started the business in 1986, and I started helping out there in 1997. A few years later, one of the customers who was a pumper and installer wanted to sell his equipment and we saw it as an opportunity. That’s what got us going.

Crystal ball time – This is my outlook for the wastewater industry: 

I see this industry growing and the pumpers and installers becoming more professional, which I think may be a result of the regulations, standards, and licensing requirements we now have.



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