Regulations Needed in Nova Scotia For Influx of Onsite Inspectors

The COVID pandemic prompted numerous opportunistic contractors with push cameras but no training or qualifications

Regulations Needed in Nova Scotia For Influx of Onsite Inspectors

Darrell MacKenzie, president and general manager

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Business: MacKenzie Environmental, Alma, Nova Scotia, Canada  

Age: 56

Services we offer: Septic tank pumping, portable sanitation, hydroexcavation, industrial and commercial pumping, high-pressure washing, dust control for roads and bulk water hauling.

Years in the industry: My grandfather James Robert MacKenzie formed the company in 1964. I started traveling with him when I was about five or six years old and I’ve been doing it ever since. My father Charles Robert MacKenzie took over from him and then I took over in 1993.

Association involvement: I’ve been with Waste Water Nova Scotia since 2006. I’ve been on the board of directors since 2006 and serve as one of two provincial representatives for pumpers, portable restroom operators and cleaners.

Benefits of belonging to the association: The association helps keep everybody on the same page and keeps the training up to snuff, which also helps protect customers. And, importantly, we work really well with the government. There’s been great cooperation and it’s very easy to get stuff done. We have our differences, of course, but it’s worked out and there are never any major issues.

Biggest issue facing your association right now: Because of the real estate boom here during COVID, when people were moving out of the cities and working remotely, anyone could go out and buy a push camera and do septic system inspections with no training or qualifications. That situation is at the forefront of what the association is concerned with right now. WWNS is trying to come up with some guidelines for people practicing this type of work. Our hope is to eventually have the government regulate the inspections.

Our crew includes: We have administrative manager Tanya Smith, administrative assistant Karen Marshall, accounts receivable and payable manager Doreen Rector, and operators Travis MacKenzie (my son), Shawn MacKenzie (my brother), D.J. Worth and Blake Kontuck.

Typical day on the job: I’m usually in the office by 4:30 or 5 a.m. I catch up on paperwork and get things organized for the day. I do all the bidding for the contracts and tenders. I look at jobs, perform maintenance on vehicles, and even get in the truck and go do the work myself if we’re busy.

The job I’ll never forget: There are a lot of them. The most recent one was when Hurricane Fiona came through here in September 2022 — the worst hurricane to ever hit Canada, I think. The area had no power for over two weeks. We had seven trucks going non-stop during those two weeks to keep the sewage lift stations pumped down to prevent overflowing. There was a lot of damage in the province and eight months later people are still repairing their homes and waiting to get their roofs fixed.

My favorite piece of equipment: We have a Vactor 2100 combo unit which we use for sewer flushing and hydroexcavation. It’s a real versatile piece of equipment for us. We have a new one ordered but delivery has been delayed due to difficulty of getting parts and the lack of welders.

Most challenging site I’ve worked on: There was a motor vehicle accident here in 2010 involving a half-ton pickup and an oil truck hauling waste oil. The load of oil went into a river. We spent three months with six or seven vacuum trucks collecting the oil. I had to set up a tank farm to hold the oil and water we collected to wait for transport to be shipped away. It was a long three months to organize things and keep everybody working without getting overly tired.

Oops, I wish I could take this one back: There had been a small fish plant here. When the owners went bankrupt they just walked out and left the fish and lobsters. We were contacted to go in and vacuum it out, clean it up and wash it down. But I didn’t realize how long it had been from the time the owners walked away from it and when we got that contract. When we got in there, we quickly realized it was full of dead fish and lobsters. The smell, the maggots, the rotten fish, rats — it was quite an experience. It took us about three days.

The craziest question I’ve been asked by a customer: I went to pump out a tank for an older gentleman. He had a very beautiful property with a perfect lawn. He met me at the truck and asked me if I wouldn’t mind walking lightly across his grass so I wouldn’t leave any footprints. I told him I’d do my best. Obviously I left footprints and hose marks but he didn’t say anything.

If I could change one industry regulation, it would be: Other than the unregulated camera situation, things are really good right now.

Best piece of small business advice I’ve heard: It’s not so much what I’ve heard but my thing has always been, “failure is not an option.” You do what you have to do to make things work and get through the day. You take the good times with the bad.

If I wasn’t working in the wastewater industry, I would: This is all I’ve ever done so there’s nothing else I’d want to do. And since I’ve worked from daylight to dark for years, I’ve never even really gotten into any hobbies. To me, this isn’t work, this is just where I go every day to do stuff.

Crystal ball time – This is my outlook for the wastewater industry: Down the road, there will be more regulations for things that come up. There will be more ATU technology with the advanced treatment units for smaller lots and other places. We’ve got a good working relationship with the government that I don’t see changing. So, it’s a good outlook for Nova Scotia.  


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