Companies Should Involve Technicians in Trade Associations

A member of the Delaware pumper and installer group says bringing more workers into professional groups will improve the wastewater industry as a whole

Companies Should Involve Technicians in Trade Associations

 Jason Guarino with son Giovanni, Carlton Daniels, Jamie Bullock with daughters Sydney and Chloe.

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In Snapshot, we talk to a member of a state, provincial or national trade association in the decentralized wastewater industry. This time we visit a member of the Delaware On-Site Wastewater Recycling Association.

Name and title or job description: Jason Guarino, owner

Business name and location: Jason Guarino Excavating and Septic Services, Millsboro, Delaware

Services we offer: We do septic system installs, Class H real estate inspections, O&Ms (operation and maintenance), replacement systems, lot clearing and grading.

Age: 47

Years in the industry: I’ve had my installer license for five years, but I’ve been in the industry for 17 years working for pumpers and installers.

Association involvement: I’ve been a member of the Delaware On-Site Wastewater Recycling Association for five years. I am now serving as vice president. 

Benefits of belonging to the association: It’s great for the knowledge you receive from the installers, engineers, soil scientists and all the people in the industry. You really learn a lot from them. The organization does a lot for its members — we have an annual convention, and we also have a golf outing, a clay shoot, a crab feast. 

Biggest issue facing your association right now: We’re not getting enough members. And the people who are members aren’t getting involved enough and speaking out. Sometimes people have stuff to say when they’re not in a meeting, but in a meeting, they shut down. We’re trying to reach out more to installers — and their laborers. A lot of installers just use their laborers to do the work but don’t get them involved with the association. 

Since the laborers are not licensed, they’re not required to have continuing education and the companies don’t want to pay to sign them up. It’s a shame because they’re the ones doing the work. They should be members, be involved, go to the shows and see the new tools. Many installers don’t realize there are a lot of new tools in the industry that make our jobs so easy. Without getting the younger guys who are doing the work involved, it’s a dying industry.

Our crew includes: My brother-in-law Carlton Daniels, my girlfriend Jamie Bullock and my son Giovanni.

Typical day on the job: We all get together in the morning and put our game plan together so we can get our day knocked out. We do so many different things, but it’s very rare we don’t finish a job within the day we had planned it and I think that’s one of the things that’s helped my business be successful.

The job I’ll never forget: We’ve seen some septic tanks installed backward — the liquid side was the solid side, and the solid side was the liquid side. In another case, the dosing chamber was actually a septic tank spun around backward. Every day in this industry, it’s pretty crazy what you run into.

My favorite piece of equipment: I love Kubota. DOWRA hosts some backhoe rodeos and I’ve taken both first place and third place because of a Kubota excavator. I don’t own my own excavator yet but I just purchased a skid-steer. I love the power and the strength and the speed of it. It helps me get my jobs done a lot smoother and cleaner and faster.

Most challenging site I’ve worked on: I did a double mound system. It was one house but they had made the garage into an apartment and converted the house into two separate housing units. So they had to design a septic system that was quite large — and they designed it in the middle of the woods. I had to clear the whole lot and then build a double mound, which wound up being 62 loads of stone, sand and fill dirt that we hauled in. We had to cut up concrete and remove sidewalks. It was one of the first systems I did when I started out.

Oops, I wish I could take this one back: There was a 13-bedroom house with two separate families in it. The designer did not realize how big the house was because he didn’t do all his legwork. The state of Delaware had it down as a seven-bedroom home but, come to find out the homeowner added an addition but never pulled any permits. Nobody wanted to take responsibility and it all comes down to you because you were the installer. I still made money on it, but it was just one of those headaches where you question yourself and wonder if this is really what you want to do for a living.

The craziest question I’ve been asked by a customer: Mostly it’s, “Can you get the septic system installed last week?” or “Can you get me my [real estate inspection] by tonight because the closing is tomorrow?” 

If I could change one industry regulation, it would be: I’d like to see the installers more involved with the soil scientists and designers. We have to take something they put on a piece of paper and make it come to life and I wish we had more say-so in the process. That’s why DOWRA was created. It’s a speaker in between installers, soil scientists and engineers. Some of the rules are so outdated. The industry has changed, designs and installs have changed. So if everyone could work together it would be a lot better for the industry.

Best piece of small business advice I’ve heard: A gentleman who taught me a lot when I first got into the industry, Dave Austin, told us to take 100-plus pictures of every septic system we did so if there was any question we had documentation. I also took the advice of my ex-business partner who said don’t try to compete with other installers, just set your price and get what you feel you’re worth. 

If I wasn’t working in the wastewater industry, I would: I grew up in a pizzeria. My dad was born in Sardinia and we flipped pizzas for a living. There are a lot of things out there but if there was one thing I would get back into it would be the restaurant industry. I would definitely get back into pizza. It’s just something we were born into and raised with. 

Crystal ball time – This is my outlook for the wastewater industry: I’m hoping we can get more installers not just using their license to make money but who get more involved in the work. We’ve had a lot of systems lately that are failing within the first year, including my future brother-in-law who bought a brand new house and the system started backing up less than a week later. 

In the future, I hope there’s more discipline for these installers that are not doing the job properly. During home sales, a lot of times the Realtor and the seller want the fastest, cheapest route, and the buyer is the one who gets hurt. Buyers usually don’t have a clue about septic systems. Homeowners need to be taught more and installers need to have a say along with the Realtor, seller, soil scientist and designer. 


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