Helping Our Customers and the Environment in Kansas

Stricter statewide regulations are necessary to build onsite systems that last a long time and reduce pollution

Helping Our Customers and the Environment in Kansas

 Clint McCammon and his son Bryson McCammon.

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 Kansas Small Flows Association.

Name and title or job description: Clint McCammon, owner-operator

Business name and location: Solid Ground Excavating, LLC, La Cygne, Kansas

Services we offer: I’m a licensed installer in four counties in Kansas and I’m an advanced system installer in Missouri. Most of the soils in the area don’t allow for conventional systems so most are alternative systems. We also do repairs and maintenance.

Age: 45. I sometimes work with contractors who are in their 80s. It’s amazing.

Years in the industry: 24. I worked for Johnson County Wastewater for about nine years on the treatment side of things, where I became a Class 2 operator. I had worked for the construction company that built the plant and they liked the way I worked so they hired me. Then I was approached by Honey-Wagon Septic Service to run their truck and help operate their business, which I did for eight years. There were a lot of fun projects — the Kansas City Zoo, the Nelson-Atkins Art Museum. Then God opened the door for me to start this business in 2015 and we’re able to support a mission in Guatemala where our pastor works for Rocsana’s Hope which helps orphan girls transition from the orphanage to the real world.

Association involvement: I’ve been a member of the Kansas Small Flows Association since 2015 and I’ve been a board member for three years.

Benefits of belonging to the association: The value is the network of people, the knowledge you get just from meeting people, and the training. A lot of people miss out on that. We all continue to learn. No matter if we’re that 80-year-old person who’s still installing systems, we should still be learning something.

Biggest issue facing your association right now: Getting people together has been challenging because we get so busy. I also have a cow-calf operation and do farming. So it’s hard to keep up sometimes on the association. But we’ve implemented some online training that’s beneficial for the installers.

Our crew includes: My son Bryson operates equipment and does installs. My wife Kendra deals with the office duties, permitting, and making sure everything runs like a well-oiled machine.

Typical day on the job: When I’m not installing tanks, I do bidding and estimating, meet with customers and set up projects with our supply houses to make sure we have the parts we need not just for today but for projects in the near future. It’s been challenging getting supplies and making sure you’re ahead of your feet far enough so you have enough material to keep working. 

The job I’ll never forget: We were doing a tank replacement in Springfield and my employee at the time had a seizure. I called the ambulance. It was a scary thing for him and for me. I later found out he had seizures regularly and had run out of his medication. We had just set the septic tank and he was walking back to the truck to get a drink. At least he didn’t fall in the tank hole.

My favorite piece of equipment: We have a rake attachment with “Dave’s Dirt Plane” written on it. I haven’t been able to contact him but the story is that he was a paralyzed man who lived in Liberty, Missouri, and he welded this attachment. It works wonderfully for backfilling, leveling dirt, and doing finish grade stuff. It speeds that process up tremendously. We also build lagoon systems and have a post driver called “The Hammer” (Danuser Machine Company). I can drive 8-inch wooden posts straight into the ground three feet. Very handy piece of equipment.

Most challenging site I’ve worked on: We’ve had a few projects at a property in Shawnee, Kansas, called Black Swan Estates. It has horrible terrain, horrible rocks, very narrow roads, extreme drop-offs. Getting material in and out is very hard.

Oops, I wish I could take this one back: I’m usually a “dot your I’s and cross your T’s” kind of guy but there was one project Bryson and another operator worked on for a tank replacement at a horse ranch. They missed an extra discharge line coming out of the house. We were able to go back and re-run the sewer line. But I don’t like going back and fixing things, so I try to do things right the first time. Lesson learned — make sure you flush everything after you install the tank.

The craziest question I’ve been asked by a customer: I think every question is important. But we recently had a call from someone who needed a septic tank “down the slope from the house.” We went out to bid the job and the “slope” was about a 40-foot dropoff. It was more like a cliff. It was full of trees and the rocks were the size of Volkswagen Beetles. But we’re going to try to move forward with these customers and give them something.

If I could change one industry regulation, it would be: In some of these rural communities, each county differs on codes and requirements for installers and inspectors. Some don’t have any — which is scary for our environment. That’s probably the main reason I’m on the KSFA board, wanting to move in that direction. So I’m in favor of a statewide code for Kansas and training for all installers. We’ve been trying for years to get that changed. People get scared of that because they don’t want to be told what to do but, unfortunately, I think the time has come where things need to change.

Best piece of small business advice I’ve heard: I had a very wise businessman tell me years ago that the most important part of the business is customers, so building relationships with them is probably more important than what we’re doing, whether you’re a septic guy, a baker or whatever. I do value our customers and what they’re dealing with.

If I wasn’t working in the wastewater industry, I would: I’m a rancher, like my grandfather and my father, and now my son, so I would focus on that and our family.

Crystal ball time — This is my outlook for the wastewater industry: I see the industry going to more alternative systems. And there’s going to come a time for those statewide regulations and training we’re trying to achieve. There will be a lot of other options other than conventional systems — better systems to get cleaner water. That’s the outcome behind why you want to put in a septic system — so we’re protecting our environment. I think regulations are going to get harder, and not just for highly-populated areas — and they need to as the population increases. 


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