Manitoba Needs to Update Onsite Regulations … Then Enforce Them

Relative industry newcomer Brett Gaudry wants to bring septic system rules from other Canadian provinces to raise the standards of wastewater treatment

Manitoba Needs to Update Onsite Regulations … Then Enforce Them

A 2012 Ram 3500 is pulling a Caterpillar 279 skid-steer and Caterpillar 303.5 excavator heading out to an installation. (Photos courtesy of BNS Excavating)

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Name and title or job description: Brett Gaudry, owner

Business name and location: BNS Excavating, Teulon, Manitoba

Services we offer: Septic installations and repairs

Age: 29

Years in the industry: Two. I worked on the railroad for 10 years as a bridges and structures supervisor. But during COVID I decided to try something else. I always wanted to start my own business and this was the closest thing available because I knew a guy who owned a company that did this. I worked with him for a few months and took the courses.

Association involvement: I’ve been in the Manitoba Onsite Wastewater Management Association for two years and I’m currently a director.

Benefits of belonging to the association: Having connections with other like-minded people in the industry, staying up to date with regulations, and having access to the information needed for a young and growing company.

Biggest issue facing your association right now: The other provinces have updated their regulations according to the newest engineering standards, but Manitoba’s regulations are way out of date. We have been grinding along on the process but there’s no expected completion date. I believe the regulators have finished writing the changes but now it’s going through the editorial process. So our training is shut down. And this makes it extremely difficult for new companies to be competitive. I trained in a different province with more restrictive regulations, which I’m trying to bring into the industry here where customers are used to really relaxed regulations. It’s hard to get the message across.

Our crew includes: My wife Samantha does a lot of the computer and book work as well as marketing and picking up parts. And I hire a friend, Brent Eicle, when I need help with installations.

Typical day on the job: I’m either driving around looking at future jobs to quote, quoting in the office, picking up parts, scheduling jobs or working in the field. We’re mostly replacing tanks and hooking customers up to low-pressure sewer systems near Winnipeg. Some people are being forced to go on low-pressure sewer systems, but they’re also required to keep their tank and pump, to pump into the sewer system. Not too many people are happy about it because they still have to pay for the tank and maintenance on top of a sewer bill.

The job I’ll never forget: Our first tank install was a 4,500-gallon commercial holding tank. I was using an old backhoe so it was quite difficult to move all the soil when you can’t swing all the way around. Not only that, but the ground was in an industrial park that was built up from a low-lying area, so water was pouring into the hole constantly from the high water table. By the end of it, the hole was so massive and so sloped out that we could barely reach to drop the tank in.

My favorite piece of equipment: My 2012 Ram 3500. Without it, I would not have been able to start this company. It’s been reliable for the past 11 years with no issues and pulls all our equipment with no problems. I’m hoping to retire it from the company in the near future, as soon as we get a truck and trailer that can pull larger pieces of equipment, like full-sized excavators.

Most challenging site I’ve worked on: What I find the most challenging is when we need to make a long trench and the customer doesn’t want to directional drill. It always turns out to have the worst soil conditions so the trench is constantly caving in before you get the pipe in, and you’re going back and forth, redigging what you already dug and watching it cave in as you dig it. We have basically three soil types here. The heavy clay is great, it doesn’t cave in and holds up nicely. The gravelly glacial till is more sandy so it’s not too bad. But the silty clay just crumbles away, you can’t pack it or form it.

Oops, I wish I could take this one back: In our first year, we were hired by a contractor to dig a foundation, after which we were going to install a septic system. But after finishing the foundation, the contractor disappeared and we and the engineer were never paid. The whole project got shut down.

The craziest question I’ve been asked by a customer: “Why do you need a permit and a soil test? Just give me a tank and a field.” This is why I think we need more education and awareness of our industry. I beat the drum all the time trying to explain everything. But sometimes people go and find a company that’s fine with skirting regulations.

If I could change one industry regulation, it would be: I’d like to see more in-depth soil testing.

Best piece of small business advice I’ve heard: Imagine your business as a fire. Do you want to build a big hot fire that burns out quickly like gas, or a fire that may take a while to get going but will last a long time by building it slowly and properly like a campfire? I don’t recall who gave me this advice but it has definitely been helpful to me to stay stable as a business.

If I wasn’t working in the wastewater industry, I would: I’d probably still be working for the railroad. Other than that, anything that requires machine operating.

Crystal ball time – This is my outlook for the wastewater industry: I’d like to see Manitoba follow the other western provinces with more education, more onsite wastewater systems rather than sewer systems, and maybe turning this industry into an actual trade which would make it more credible and there would be more public awareness.


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