We’ve Been Serving the Installing Community for 15 Years and Counting

The onsite industry has weathered a recession and adapted to an explosion of technology to emerge as a force for environmental good

In 2004, Onsite Installer magazine was launched by COLE Publishing with a simple premise: Decentralized wastewater is here to stay and we need to serve the hardworking men and women who design, construct and maintain the private wastewater infrastructure.

The first editor of this publication, Ted J. Rulseh, kicked off the inaugural issue 15 years ago, sharing the message that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had recently determined onsite systems should be considered “a permanent part of the nation’s wastewater infrastructure.”

With improving treatment technologies and the realization that not every home can be served by a sprawling municipal sewer, septic systems would no longer simply be considered a stopgap measure on the way to a better solution. From then on, these systems would serve as a practical wastewater solution for fully one-third of the homes being constructed.

Rulseh noted that the U.S. Department of Commerce estimated annual housing starts at nearly 2 million per year, meaning more than 660,000 new homes with onsite wastewater systems. The market boomed, busted and boomed again over ensuing years, but it has remained clear that expectations are high for the industry you all cherish.

“It follows that if the EPA, and by extension state and local governments, are going to trust onsite systems to protect environment and health, they are going to expect similar rigor from the onsite industry,” Rulseh wrote. “They will demand quality installations. They will expect designers and installers to behave like professionals. They will demand that treatment technologies meet effluent-quality standards reliably and for the long term.”


It has not been an easy road for installers since 2004, but the challenges were not of the making of the guys and gals behind the controls of the excavator. When this magazine launched, home construction starts were shooting up at a record pace. Seldom has there been a construction market as good as it was up through 2007. But then the Great Recession struck in 2008, and those days were dark and difficult for many installers and system designers.

Construction ground to a halt when the bottom fell out of the real estate market. Buyers couldn’t secure mortgages to move forward. Widespread foreclosures threw a glut of recently built homes back on the market. As a result, many installers were left to trim their staffs to a bare minimum to ride out the downturn. Many others closed shop and sold their equipment. Anyone working in the industry in those days will recall the devastation of layoffs, phones that never rang and payments that couldn’t be made for machines that sat idle.

It would be several years before the economy righted itself and installers felt more secure in their businesses. Anything but overnight, the industry gradually got back on its feet. Slowly but surely, many of the small family companies that work in this trade were able to add back jobs, fill out full installing crews and build up an inventory of work.

Today, many of you are at full strength, and I often hear reports of companies with several months of work backed up. Much like 15 years ago, you are now looking to hire new people to become the lifeblood of this industry. The challenge today isn’t finding the work, but broadcasting the message to young people that the onsite industry is a great place to start a successful and profitable career. 


In all of the upheaval, one thing has remained constant in the onsite industry. That’s a commitment on the part of manufacturers to provide better solutions for a cleaner environment. It seems like regulations have stiffened in every U.S. state or Canadian province. Governments and health departments recognize the importance of protecting drinking water supplies and watershed quality and have demanded higher standards for septic system performance.

Answering the call, companies are constantly evolving treatment train components and a broader range of technologies to fit every type of development or replacement system situation. Products are designed to perform better and last longer. Compact and lightweight solutions allow installers to work more efficiently and bring effective wastewater treatment to lots that are smaller and have poorer site conditions. I don’t see innovators relaxing until it’s common for onsite systems to take the precious water resource from the toilet to the tap.

You can see their handiwork in each issue of Onsite Installer. Decentralized technologies are featured in our monthly Product Focus and Case Study stories as well as in advertising throughout the issue. Also, we feature the latest products in our System Profile feature, where we talk to an installer about tackling a significant project challenge.

You can see new products at the Water & Wastewater Equipment, Treatment & Transport (WWETT) Show every February and at state and regional association meetings throughout the year. I have watched the installer side of the WWETT Show grow every year as manufacturers show their latest and greatest technologies. If you haven’t been to the biggest wastewater exhibition in the country, consider going in 2020. It’s one place where you can see and get your hands on the products that are advertised every month in this magazine, as well as talk to the experts.


We have a real treat in store this month to help celebrate 15 years of serving the onsite community. We returned to feature one of our first profile companies, Marut and Sons Excavating in Perry, Ohio. The tale of the last 15 years for brothers Jeff Marut, the president, and Scott Marut, the vice president, is a microcosm of the onsite industry in general.

The brothers are older and wiser than when we first visited them a few years after they bought the business started by their grandfather in 1945. They learned to cope with the ups and downs — getting through the real estate crisis — to emerge with an eye toward profitability and pointing the 74-year-old business to the amazing goal of reaching the century mark.

The fellas told writer David Steinkraus that learning new technologies and evoking smart small-business practices saw them through the tough times. Drip systems were coming into use in 2004; they embraced alternatives to the most conventional systems and it paid off. With new statewide regulations in 2015, the brothers have been working on more elevated systems utilizing advanced treatment units and UV disinfection.

On the business side, they resisted narrowing to serve a few big homebuilders, preferring to spread out their customer base to keep fewer eggs in each basket. This proved beneficial as some of the biggest builders fell the hardest in tough times. Also, in answer to new demands from customers, they refocused the workload away from the excavator to a degree, moving into system maintenance contracts and real estate inspections.

Like everyone in the onsite world, they’ve had to adjust to sweeping technology advances that have forever changed the way any business runs. In 2004, there was no such thing as a smartphone; today, expectations are for communication to be constant and instant, and the pace of the work is swift.


In looking toward the future, editor Rulseh said it well 15 years ago:

“Contractors who prosper will not be those who merely work cheap but those who build systems that function dependably, protect the quality of life and enhance the homeowner’s property. The industry will be driven by value and performance — not price,” he wrote. “That is good news. It means, quite simply, that the industry has grown up. Now, onsite designers and installers have a chance to win the respect they deserve for performing an absolutely essential service.”

What he advocated for then has come true. As for the role of this trade publication, Rulseh set a goal, saying, “Our aim is to help the industry in its continuing efforts to raise its standards and stature.”

Today I repeat that commitment. We want to partner with you to build on the successes of the past and continue to make strides in professionalism and technology in the future. Future construction development and a fragile environment are depending on us to meet those goals.


Comments on this site are submitted by users and are not endorsed by nor do they reflect the views or opinions of COLE Publishing, Inc. Comments are moderated before being posted.