Trade Association Work Slows as Colorado Contractors are Overwhelmed

Unfortunately, there’s little time to advocate for wastewater industry advances as installers and pumpers are stretched to their limits

Trade Association Work Slows as Colorado Contractors are Overwhelmed

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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 Colorado Professionals in Onsite Wastewater.

Name and title or job description: Clint Britt, owner/operator

Business name and location: The Britt Company, doing business as TBC Septic, Elizabeth, Colorado

Services we offer: We are licensed in seven counties to do septic design, installation, inspection and repair, as well as soils testing.

Age: 46

Years in the industry: For my own company, six years. I also worked for my dad’s engineering firm as a soils engineering tech for eight or nine summers from middle school through college.

Association involvement: I’ve been a member of the Colorado Professionals in Onsite Wastewater for six years. I served on the strategic planning committee for two years and am now serving on the board of directors as the director of membership/marketing.

Benefits of belonging to the association: For the county regulators, the CPOW membership, classes and certificate ensure that installers are being taught installation standards from the same organization and have a vested interest in quality installations. And I personally like to hear what new materials and supplies are coming down the pipeline.

Biggest issue facing your association right now: It’s simply just time. Every member of our board of directors is slammed. We all realize plenty of work is a good problem to have but we’re all so busy that projects and initiatives get pushed off. The Colorado Front Range has seen double-digit growth in new home starts. Repairs are on the rise as COVID-19 increased at-home employment, and this continues to stress onsite wastewater treatment systems. This all leads to increased designs, permits, installations and inspections. We are all feeling the increased workload demand and our time becomes scarce.

Our crew includes: Matt Walters, field supervisor and backfill operator; Noah Gregg, field technician; Debbie Britt, office manager; Paul Sorensen, P.E., design engineer (contracted); Travis Britt, materials delivery and field technician.

Typical day on the job: Every day is hectic and controlled chaos. From 5:30 to 7:30 a.m. I’m usually working in AutoCAD on designs and as-builts. My brain works best in the morning with coffee and quiet. Around 7:30 a.m. I’m text-communicating to staff on the goals for the day, or communicating with suppliers on delivery of needed materials. I’m also working on emails to prospective clients, our engineer or county regulators, and completing proposals. From 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., I’m typically at job sites, excavating and setting tanks. Since we are not big enough to have a full-time estimator, I do all estimating and bidding from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. No two days are the same.

The job I’ll never forget: We were awarded a contract to install (expand) a system for a large dog kennel in a rural area in Watkins, Colorado. The system was designed to be installed next to the outside play yard which was about one acre and fenced. The OWTS was a large timed-dose, dual pump, pressure system with 12 125-foot trenches with an additional 2,500-gallon tank and a new automatic distribution valve. When I bid the job, there were no dogs in sight. I could hear dogs barking in the large kennel building, but it was a muffled bark. Upon arrival on the first day, there were still no dogs in the yard. But the second my backhoe teeth touched the soil, she released the hounds and now there were 75-plus dogs barking, jumping and snarling at us. We couldn’t even hear each other. We had to use sign language (which we don’t know). Our heads started throbbing on day two. By day three, all we heard was dogs barking in our heads on the drive home. And by day five, it was 24 hours of barking — in our sleep, eating, in the shower. I don’t know how kennel owners do it.

My favorite piece of equipment: This is not real exciting but operators will understand. After years of hauling just a single piece of equipment to jobs (often having to make two or three trips), we finally invested in a Landoll 950 50-foot drop-deck trailer. No more manually lifting heavy ramps or being worried about weight. This thing has two automatic ramps and can haul two-plus pieces of heavy equipment. It saves tons of time — and my back.

Most challenging site I’ve worked on: This was for a repair. I should have planned this one better — so, my fault. The homeowner was in a hurry. In the week leading up to Christmas we had to install a high-level treatment system in a small corner lot. It was engineer-designed to be one foot off the old failed soil treatment area (that was full), exactly 20 feet off the house (per regulations), exactly one foot from a live gas line on the street that fed the entire neighborhood, 16 inches from the power line that supplied power to the house, and 18 inches from a fiber optic line on the adjacent street. We didn’t have the time or budget for a hydroexcavator. This led to plenty of hand digging in the cold with frosty soil. Tons of stress. We miraculously fit it in and didn’t hit anything. I aged 10 years that week.

Oops, I wish I could take this one back: We had to install a system for a repair in Black Forest, Colorado. And, yes, it was in a forest. The owner was emphatic he didn’t want any of the pine trees removed. I was young and hungry so I agreed and thought I could do it. Big mistake. We managed to install the system; however, I banged into several pine trees, damaged all my tractors (broken lights/mirrors/doors), aggravated my staff — and the delivery truck got stuck. To make matters worse, the owner had no sympathy and thought we did a poor job.

The craziest question I’ve been asked by a customer: Here are some of ours. “How does this tank then connect to the sewer?” “Why is my tank always full?” “Can’t I just share a system with my neighbor?” “Can I bury our connection box and use it as a tank?” “Why can’t you just connect me to the sewer?” (city was 45 miles away). “Can’t I just pump the tank into that old creek?” “My dad dropped his diamond wedding band into the sink. Can you please find it in the tank?”

If I could change one industry regulation, it would be: Regarding double-casing mainlines. Due to the installation procedure, we believe it can cause more problems than the good it does.

Best piece of small business advice I’ve heard: “Don’t try to be all things to all people” — said to me by my dad. I try to offer helpful solutions to every client — which generally gets me into trouble, even today. I’m practicing remaining focused on what I’m good at and can control and staying away from challenges that are out of our wheelhouse.

If I wasn’t working in the wastewater industry, I would: Hopefully be a pro baseball player. But aside from that, it would be something in the athletics arena, whether as a scout, sports agent, general manager, coach — heck, even a grounds crew foreman. I always enjoyed sports at the highest levels.

Crystal ball time – This is my outlook for the wastewater industry: I think the industry will continue to evolve with advances in technology for advanced treatment units, dosing requirements, graywater recycling. Costs will come down. I believe counties will continue to push for advanced technologies as well as professional certifications and education. I think it’s a good time to get into onsite wastewater treatment.  


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