A Round of Applause For Jim Anderson and Dave Gustafson

Our septic expert columnists are calling it quits after many years of education excellence

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This month marks a big change for our Onsite Installer editorial family. This issue carries the final Basic Training column in the long careers of Jim Anderson and Dave Gustafson. Anderson, Ph.D, and Gustafton, P.E., have deep roots in the industry working through the University of Minnesota onsite wastewater treatment education program.

Jim is the former director of the university’s Water Resources Center, retiring from full-time work in 2017. Dave continues as Extension Onsite Sewage Treatment Educator. Together they formed a formidable onsite training team that traveled the country bringing the latest wastewater treatment techniques to installers. Between 1997 and 2017, they were really the backbone of education for the industry.

Many installers were lucky to see the pair work a crowd at memorable seminars, especially in large rooms at the Pumper & Cleaner Environmental Expo International, now known as the WWETT Show.

Like the great comedy duos of the past — Abbott and Costello, Laurel and Hardy, Stiller and Meara — these two knew how to entertain, conducting lively and educational training sessions. I was fortunate to sit in on many seminars with Dave and Jim and always came away with a smile on my face and many valuable nuggets of onsite information.

Dave is the gregarious performer, working up the crowd to participate and always cracking jokes. Jim is more professorial in his demeanor, but not above sharing some dry humor of his own. Together they were effective presenters, introducing hundreds, if not thousands, of installers to the principles of decentralized wastewater treatment.

Their contributions to the industry in 30 years are immeasurable, but not unrecognized. Both men were bestowed one of the decentralized wastewater industry’s highest honors, the Ralph Macchio Lifetime Achievement Award; Jim in 2007 and Dave in 2018.


Under then-editor Ted J. Rulseh, Jim and Dave introduced Basic Training in May 2004, a few issues into the run of the new magazine dedicated to the installing community. They continued to produce the tag-team column uninterrupted for nearly 20 years, discussing a wide variety of technical topics. Throughout the run, they have kept pace with new techniques and technologies as they have emerged. But they have always stayed true to the basic principles of wastewater treatment.

So it is fitting that this issue’s column repeats the simple rules they introduced in their first column, elaborating on the three acronyms that offer a common thread to all of their training over the years, KILL, KINN and KISS. You’ll have to turn to their column for more of an explanation.

We all owe a debt of gratitude to Jim and Dave for many contributions they’ve made to advance the onsite industry. Their career-long dedication to educating installers has boosted professionalism among technicians and ultimately resulted in more reliable, more economical systems and cleaner effluent moving into the environment. 

Just because Jim and Dave are stepping away from the monthly column, that doesn’t mean we’ll be without someone to take on the role of onsite expert in the magazine. Stay tuned in June when we’ll introduce a new columnist ready to address important technical issues and answer your questions. We’re excited to be able to continue offering advice from a respected educator in the field and in the classroom. More to come on that later.

And now for a few Onsite Installer house-cleaning items:

We need your feedback

A trade publication is better when communication goes two ways. It’s not our duty to simply speak to you, but to carry on a conversation with you to help the installer community. For that reason, I’d like to invite you to share your opinions freely with the group. That can take on a number of forms.

For example, please feel free to send comments or story suggestions to me at editor@onsiteinstaller.com. We are always grateful to hear from readers and use that feedback to make this a better publication. Also, you can write a letter to the editor on topics of importance to you and the industry. Keep them to 500 words or less and send them to the same email address.

Would you rather post your comments and reactions to stories immediately? Visit www.onsiteinstaller.com and start a discussion at the end of an article. It’s quick and easy and we reply to comments or questions as soon as possible. Or go to our Facebook page and comment directly for others in the industry to read and respond. Our social media channels are a great place for installers to come together virtually, the same way they might meet up at the WWETT Show.

A video reminder

About a year ago, I invited readers to share videos of their crews working with an offer to post those videos on the Onsite Installer website. That offer still stands, as we would love to populate the website and our social media with videos of your folks working machines, laying down a drainfield, or showing any other field procedures you think would be interesting. This is a great way to share working techniques you find effective so we can all learn something new. It’s also gratifying to showcase the teams you rely on every day. We’d like to honor them for their hard work. Just grab your smartphone and start shooting, then send me the files. We’ll do the rest.

What’s in the works for 2023?

We’re calling out for interesting system installations this summer! Take a look at your project list for the coming months; is there a job you think would be unusual or interesting for our readers? Challenges could include unusual site restrictions, massive gpd rating on a small footprint, a waterfront property with many treatment requirements, utilizing a new technology for the first time in your area. Or maybe you’re set up to contribute a system for a charity project, something like Habitat for Humanity, giving a veteran a helping hand, or supporting a worthy nonprofit group. Whatever the case, we want to know about the interesting projects on the horizon that we might choose for a System Profile story. 


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