He’s a Designer, Installer, Pumper … and Dancer?

High-stepping Dwayne Crocker preaches professionalism and hard work through involvement in the Georgia Onsite Wastewater Association

He’s a Designer, Installer, Pumper … and Dancer?

  Dwayne Crocker (right) with his father G.L. Crocker, and technician Shawn Thomas. The equipment is a CASE 55B excavator and Massey Ferguson L105E loader.

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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 Georgia Onsite Wastewater Association.

Name and title or job description: Dwayne Crocker, owner/operator

Business name and location: Crocker Septic Tank Service, Kathleen, Georgia

Services we offer: We pump, install and repair septic systems. We also manufacture 70 to 90 concrete tanks a year, anything from 500 to 3,000 gallons. And my favorite thing is designing. I love drawing and laying out designs. 

Age: 57

Years in the industry: 34 years. But the business is 40 years old, started by my dad, G.L. Crocker. 

Association involvement: A member of the Georgia Onsite Wastewater Association for eight years, currently serving a third term on the board of directors. And I teach continuing education classes.

Benefits of belonging to the association: I enjoy being able to participate in building a bridge with others in the industry. But, most of all, it’s having a voice that’s heard. Being on the board carries weight working with the Georgia Department of Public Health. If we have to function under the regulations placed on us, it’s nice to know that our experience in the field is taken into consideration. And we have somebody sitting at the state level in the legislature looking for things that could be coming our way.

Biggest issue facing your association right now: Membership is our biggest downfall — and getting members to serve. GOWA is good for the industry so I don’t understand why our numbers are so low. It’s here to recognize, promote and support the industry. We’re fighting for everybody whether they’re a member or not, so maybe people think, “Why even be a member?” But you need those fresh new ideas, new blood, to energize and move this association to the next level. 

Our crew includes: Shawn Thomas works with me. He and I like to compete with each other to see which one can outdo the other. He’s 20 years younger than me and definitely challenges me every day. That competition is healthy and it makes the job fun. Plus, we have a real good friendship. When we do a job, I’m there from start to finish and he’s right by my side. And my dad just turned 81 and at the last family Christmas announced he wanted to retire. We have worked side by side for the last 34 years so it’s a hard thing for me and I’m trying to make the transition. He still calls every other day and says, “If there’s something you really need today, let me know.”

Typical day on the job: It usually begins at 5 a.m. when I do invoices, estimates and paying bills. Shawn gets here about 6:30 a.m. and by 7 a.m. he’s checked the oils, aired the tires, trucks are loaded and we’re ready to pull out. We do our installs and repairs Monday through Thursday. We try to save Thursday afternoon and Friday for pumping so we have some relaxation. It’s kind of a breather after some of the jobs we put in. We work about eight hours and then the third part of my day begins which is returning calls and texts and making appointments. We work manufacturing in. We may come in early to set up and pour concrete. The majority of our tanks are poured late spring and through summer.

The job I’ll never forget: A mound system for a house where the soil was unusable. To be 2 feet above the water table depth, we had a negative four starting point. The water table was only 20 inches. The drainfield had to go 160 feet from the house. And we had to do this without putting in a secondary tank with a pump. I designed the system, shot the grades and laid it out. The system took 16 loads of certified sand. And we needed 18 loads of sandy fill to cover and build the perimeter walls. The mound was 120 by 70 feet and was four feet higher than any other part of the yard. I used a multi-stack drainfield. We put 350 feet of pipe into that system. It was a three-week process. But I loved it. There’s just something about putting an idea on paper, creating it, and seeing that it works just the way you wanted it to.

My favorite piece of equipment: By far the machine I have the most fun on is my John Deere 455 track loader. I just lose track of time. 

Most challenging site I’ve worked on: I did an installation 20 years ago that was on such a steep hillside that we had to remove the tires on one side of the backhoe so we could dig level ditches. 

Oops, I wish I could take this one back: There was a system we did that had three tanks — a 1,500-gallon, a 600-gallon ATU, and a tank with a pump. We pumped that thing about 120 yards to the drainfield. We spent two weeks designing and putting it in. But I wish I had never taken the job. I knew from day one, just from talking to the owner, they were not going to finish it out and take care of it the way it needed. They ran out of money, couldn’t go any further, left the system unprotected. Within the first two months they couldn’t use it. I went back and fixed some things. They never got everything done but it’s been working the last four years. I learned a lesson that unless someone wants to do it the right way, I’m not the (installer) they want. 

The craziest question I’ve been asked by a customer: The craziest stuff is the misunderstanding by homeowners of just what a septic tank is and how it works. They might have been standing there watching me but they’ll say, “Are you sure you pumped it all out?” Homeowners do not have the understanding that once a tank is full, if you put two gallons in, two gallons goes out.

If I could change one industry regulation, it would be: The state says we have to have a 6-inch minimum cover over a system, which I think is not enough to cover a system safely and prevent it from damage. I’d like to see it be 12 to 15 inches.

Best piece of small-business advice I’ve heard: My dad said, “Watch what everybody else does and find one thing to do above that mark.” One thing I’ve done that goes along with that is created an album of photos showing everything from how wiring should be done on a mechanical pump and how the floats are set, to what a yard looks like before, during and after a repair. If a customer asks a question, they get a visual explanation, and because they can see it, they understand it.

If I wasn’t working in the wastewater industry, I would: I sometimes wonder what it would have been like if I had continued as a dancer instead of doing what I do. I am a choreographer, I have coached couples who have won events, I have judged, competed, taught private lessons. And I’m still heavily into that. This year I’m going to a ballroom competition in Tallahassee, a shag competition in South Carolina, and in December I’ll dance Christmas in Dixie with the United Country Western Dance Council. In April I’m doing the Dancing Stars of Central Georgia, an Alzheimer’s fundraiser. I had a chance to do a movie piece with Christopher Reeve 34 years ago but we declined because my wife Kelly and I were getting married. I’ve danced on stage for Reba McIntyre during her costume change.

Crystal ball time – This is my outlook for the wastewater industry: I wish everybody in the industry would give all they could give for the protection of what they do. For a lot of people it’s just all about money. Money is a huge part of it, but you have to care about what you do. One wrong thing puts a black eye on everybody. I’d like to see installers become more educated and take pride in what they do and how they do it. 


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