Pennsylvania Installers Need Streamlined Approvals for New Technology

Industry advances are stymied by a state government slow to adapt to advanced onsite systems proven to work in other regions

Pennsylvania Installers Need Streamlined Approvals for New Technology

Ned Lang

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 Pennsylvania Septage Management Association.

Ned Lang, president

Business: Enviroventures, Narrowsburg, New York, and 10 Roto-Rooter franchises in the area

Age: 57

Years in the industry: My father bought his first Roto-Rooter franchise in 1960 when I was born, so I grew up in the industry. And then I bought my parents out in 1985.

Association involvement: 
I’ve been involved in the Pennsylvania Septage Management Association since its inception around 1985. It was originally called the Pennsylvania Liquid Waste Haulers Association. I’m currently a vice president. I was the Region 3 representative for many years.

Benefits of belonging to the association: 
The benefits are boundless. The association has so much great representation. I’ve done a number of citizen lobbyist days down in Harrisburg with our lobbyist. You get to meet a lot of the powers that be, both the House and the Senate, both the Republican and Democratic leaders, meeting them face-to-face and bringing forth the issues of our membership — and basically the issues of the public because we do represent the public since 44 percent of the people in Pennsylvania use onsite septic systems. Anything that affects them, the Pennsylvania Septage Management Association is on top of. There are so many facets to the association that if you’re in the on-lot septage industry or doing land application, you definitely should be part of it.

Biggest issue facing your association right now: 
Staying on top of the regulatory climate in Harrisburg is critical. Some so-called environmentalists try to get different regulations passed that are confounding and against good commonsense practices as far as either the operation of on-lot septic systems or the disposal and treatment of septage and biosolids. A current proposal would require operators to go through a hearing process if they wanted to land-apply in an area, which I think is nothing more than a lot of emotional ruckus. The process is fantastic, and it’s the best resource recovery program in the country. It completes the nutrient circle of life because as the products are taken off the farm, they’re consumed, then the residuals from that consumption (your septage and biosolids) are then placed back on the farmlands.

Our crew includes: 
We have two partially retired drivers who have been with me 20-plus years and 18 full-time people. They’re all fantastic and do a great job.

Typical day on the job: 
I usually get out of bed around 5:30 a.m., exercise, then get to work around 7 a.m. Some days when we run to the landfill, we’re on the road by 5 a.m. Then the customers get called, we review the jobs from the previous day if there’s anything that still needs to be done today, we take care of any mechanical issues and then dispatch everybody out. Then I do my bookwork. By noon I like to be where I can either go out and look at jobs or I’m in a truck taking biosolids to the farms.

The job I’ll never forget: 
The most memorable job happened when I was about 8 years old on a job with my father pumping out a restaurant customer’s cesspool. We were on the side of a hill. We didn’t have vacuum trucks back then; we had these centrifugal pumps, and if they sucked air, you would lose the load. My father was checking to see how full the truck was, and I was down pumping the tank. I must have lifted the hose out of the cesspool, and as soon as that air went up and hit that pump, it immediately lost compression and suction. The owner was standing on the other side of the septic tank, and suddenly all that product came flying down out of that 3-inch hose. It actually set me back, and the hose lifted and hit the guy and knocked him down the hill. The poor guy, he was just full of sewage.

My favorite piece of equipment: 
I really enjoy excavators. We’ve got a John Deere 590, John Deere 27, Caterpillar 312 and Komatsu 75. They’re just fun to operate. You can do so many things. The smaller ones have blades on them so you can grade a whole lot easier. They can do so much work in tight places. It just makes your life a lot easier.

Most challenging site I’ve worked on: 
We used to do work for a Sorrento cheese plant when they were here. One time, they had a broken line in their cheese processing area. It was a really tough job. We had to shut down their process. Then we cut about 40 or 50 feet of the concrete floor where all of their processing equipment was and installed a whole new pipe because the other one had rotted out. We couldn’t reline pipes back then, but it would have been tough anyway because there were a lot of laterals. We shut the plant down at 3 p.m., and by 11 a.m. the next morning, we had everything done — the floor cut, jackhammered, the line removed, a new line put in, everything hooked up, concrete put back — and they were operating again by 2 p.m. We had 15 or 20 guys in there just going crazy.

The craziest question I’ve been asked by a customer: 
We get asked to retrieve rings from down the drain. It’s usually a really expensive ring or maybe they’re newlyweds. They set the ring on the side of the sink and all of a sudden it’s down the drain. We go down there with video inspection equipment. I’d say we’ve retrieved 50 percent of them.

If I could change one industry regulation, it would be: 
The biggest problem we have right now is around the state government allowing new on-lot septic system technologies to be easily implemented. These are technologies that have been approved by the National Sanitation Foundation or that are used in other states. Right now it’s a very difficult process, and it really needs to be streamlined. There are a lot of great technologies out there that Pennsylvania isn’t allowed to use because of the regulatory process, and that’s a shame.

Best piece of small-business advice I’ve heard: 
I was introduced to the Franklin Planner a number of years ago. It’s a fantastic tool to run your day, organize, balance and prioritize your life and your daily tasks according to what you hold dearest and what your values are. It’s indispensable.

If I wasn’t working in the wastewater industry, I would: 
Be a skipper on an offshore fishing boat.

Crystal ball time – This is my outlook for the wastewater industry: 
Big companies are buying up the mom and pops and private businesses so I think you’re going to see a lot of consolidation in the industry. And you’re going to see a lot of the processing facilities that are owned by family members get bought up by the larger companies. 


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