S.O.S.-Save Our Septic® Volume 6: Hungry for Litigation
Synopsis: Changes can occur with commercial properties; when issues arise with under-sized wastewater treatment system at a Shopping Center what can you do to keep the system in compliance?
Application: The versatility of adding onto the FAST® System with additional systems, accessories and screening devices helps to keep the system sized for the property.
Chris Buckner, seasoned environmental engineer from the lower county of Lookout Mountain, scanned the vista outside his window. After 23 years of season changes, the mountainside still treated him to a new view every day.
Today, a small string of hikers snaked along the trail, reminding him that this weekend was trash pickup duty along the trailside stream. Although the numbers of hikers increased each year, the amount of trash had remained steady. Maybe, he thought to himself, people were actually paying attention to those environmental lectures he conducted regularly. He was pretty protective of “his” mountain. It fueled his professional passion as well; over the years, he’d fine-tuned his focus to a preference for wastewater treatment projects.
This slow Monday afternoon, he was reviewing his mail. A certified letter topped the stack. He ran his finger over the expensive-looking embossed return address: Charles L. Kemp and Associates. The name seemed vaguely familiar. Finally, he recalled it was a law firm in the next town over.
Hmm, interesting,” Chris thought as he tore open the letter, wondering what it could be about.
He quickly scanned down the crisp white sheet to the signature of Phil Kemp. He settled back to read. Kemp was representing Mountain Shopping Village. Chris had been lead engineer on that project three years ago. The letter stated the shopping center had been cited for system under-performance during routine annual inspection of its wastewater treatment system.
Chris frowned at the letter, perplexed. He rang for his assistant. “Miranda, would you please pull the file on Mountain Shopping Village before you leave? I have some research to do.”
Getting to the bottom of the problem
After a restless night, Chris headed to his office early. On his desk was the large wrapped green file labeled Mountain Shopping Village.
Waiting for the coffee to brew, he spread out all the drawings and correspondence for the shopping center. The project details suddenly came back to him. Of course! This was a job with Bio-Microbics. Chris smiled, remembering how everyone with Bio-Microbics was as detail conscious as he was. Good products, he mused, so what’s up at this shopping center?
The coffeemaker beeped. “Aaaah, coffee,” he thought. “Now I can really get to work.”
Three cups later, Chris was more puzzled than before. He’d reviewed the initial influent data from the developer and the sizing specs Bio-Microbics team had helped him work up, as they had on many of his large commercial projects.
“These parameters are ideal,” Chris thought, “what could possibly be causing this situation?”
“Time to bring in reinforcement,” he decided, and reached for the phone to call Bio-Microbics, just as Miranda buzzed him.
“Chris, you have a call on line four.”
Chris picked up the phone and discovered Robust on the line.
“Robust! I was just getting ready to call you. How have you been?”
“Never better, I just wanted to check in. But you were calling me? Something going on that I can help you with, Chris?” Robust asked with a concerned tone.
“I’m not sure if you recall, but I worked on a project with you a few years back. I’ve received a letter from a law firm regarding the Mountain Shopping Village, and I need some help.” Chris explained.
“Sure thing,” Robust said, “Let me finish up a couple emails and I’ll be over.”
Two more cups of coffee later, Chris hung up the phone after his sixth unsuccessful attempt to contact the developer. He was shaking his head in frustration as Robust appeared at his office door.
“Okay, Chris, what is going on?”
“Well, after our discussion I was able to look further into the project details. The county claims the system is not performing according to regulations. I have been trying to contact Jeff Wilson, the developer, but I can’t get a hold of him.”
“I’ll tell you what, Chris,” Robust insisted, “Let’s go take a look at the system to get to the bottom of this.”
They hopped into Chris’s truck and were at the site in 20 minutes. Chris immediately noticed a couple of new stores and restaurants that were not there three years ago.
“Hmmm, those are new. I bet they are being fed into the system, too!” Chris said to Robust, while pointing at two new restaurants.
“You brought the project details with you didn’t you, Chris? Let’s take a break at this taco shop if you don’t mind. This may be easier than we thought!”
As Chris crunched through his triple taco special, Robust studied the drawings. They discussed the original project design, which originally had nine clothing retailers, two restaurants (a taco shop and sub sandwich shop), and a public restroom. The new data received from the county revealed entirely too much BOD and FOG going into the present system. It was obviously overloaded. They decided to visit the new restaurants to get a sense of the new demands on the current system and to determine what would bring it up to code.
A platter of loaded potato skins, a Reuben, and numerous notes and photos later, they returned to the truck, where Chris dug through the console for a roll of antacids. He noticed Robust looking amused.
“You’d understand if you ate food,” Chris muttered.
Robust fastened his seat belt. “Well, Chris, now we know what we need to do next to fix the problem at hand. Call the county and schedule a meeting with them immediately.” Robust suggested.
Add on to the property, add on to your system
Two days later, Chris and Robust met in front of the county offices.
“Thanks again.” Chris said gratefully as he shook Robust’s SaniTEE® hand.
“Robust, this meeting is with Jackson Pair, the regulator, and Jeff Wilson, the developer. This will get everyone in the same room. I expect Jeff to bring his attorney along, so be prepared.”
Jackson greeted them as they entered the Lookout Mountain County Health office, “Come on in and have a seat.”
“Well, guys, Jeff will not be able to join us today,” he added. “Something has come up, but we can discuss the issue at hand. There is a problem with Mountain Shopping Village’s wastewater treatment system.”
“There is indeed.” Chris responded as he spread out the original project drawings and plans along with the pictures he and Robust had taken two days earlier.
Jackson looked confused.
“Jackson, according to the specifications on the Mountain Shopping Village, there were to be nine shops, two restaurants, and a public non-attached restroom. This system was sized appropriately based on the information given prior to installation.”
“So what are you trying to tell me, Chris?” Jackson asked. He leaned closer for a better look. “Is that a Reuben?”
“Robust and I took these photos at the shopping center two days ago. Two more restaurants were added without notice. How these were started up without permit is beyond my imagination, but this system cannot handle four restaurants!”
“Well, the system has to be brought up to standards, so what would be your recommendation?” Jackson asked.
Chris began sketching out the system as he explained, “Three items are needed based on the effluent results given to us by the county. First, each restaurant needs a FOGHOG® grease trap. Second, we recommend an additional SaniTEE® be placed in the settling tank. This is inexpensive insurance to prevent larger solids from entering the FAST® tank. Finally, an additional HighStrengthFAST® commercial wastewater treatment system should be added parallel to the existing HighStrengthFAST® system.”
“Sounds simple enough. Will those additions fix the problem at hand?” Jackson asked for reassurance.
“Yes, this should be sufficient to bring the system up to code.” Chris replied. Robust nodded in agreement.
“Okay, then. We know what needs to be done.” Jackson agreed. “Once I get this in writing, we can get moving on it. Chris, please submit this immediately. This is an urgent matter.”
“Oh, one last thing,” Robust turned to Jackson. “I recommend requiring Mountain Shopping Village to have a maintenance contract with a certified operator. At least four times a year, they should have an operator check the system to make sure everything is running properly. With routine maintenance of the grease traps, too, such as pumping out grease regularly.”
Jackson immediately pulled up his calendar and entered dates for regular follow-up maintenance. He looked from Chris to Robust. “Thank you both very much!” he exclaimed.
In a relieved voice he added, “This is a lot more effective than bickering through attorneys. Um, nothing against lawyers, you understand, my brother-in-law is one. Say, you guys in the mood for a taco?”