How To Deal With Rising Disposal Costs

How To Deal With Rising Disposal Costs
The cost of waste disposal and treatment are on the rise as regulations requiring human waste be treated before land application are being more strictly enforced. (Photo by Lezlie Sterling)

Prices are going up these days – fuel, labor, health insurance. Added to that is the rising cost of waste disposal and treatment as the regulations requiring that human waste be treated before land application are being more strictly enforced. 

“The laws have not changed for a long time, probably 20 years,” says Sam Warp, superintendent of the Marshfield, Wis., wastewater treatment plant. “It’s just that enforcement has stepped up.” 

As a result companies have to invest in the proper equipment and materials to land-apply or pay disposal fees at treatment plants. 

Although it’s generally considered more expensive to take septage to a treatment facility, Warp says some haulers think it’s actually cheaper than to get set up to do it themselves when you take all costs into account – the rising cost of lime, the extra wear-and-tear on vehicles, the time and labor involved, the effort to get certified and trained. Then there’s just the hassle factor including such issues as pH testing-waiting-retesting, bogging down in mud, carving out snow lanes. 

Consider the options

But taking waste to a treatment facility is not always an option in rural areas. Al Morrison of Geiter Septic Pumping Inc. in Wabeno, Wis., says he’d do that in a heartbeat but the ones in his area are just too small. He land-applies everything he collects except grease. Morrison, a master operator who’s been in the business for 32 years (his company goes back 50 years), says he does four million gallons a year. 

Some companies try to pass along the costs to their customers. But Morrison doesn’t think that’s really feasible at the moment because there are too many non-compliant operators who don’t pay the full price for waste removal and treatment. 

“You can pass it along to a customer but if you’ve got a competitor who wants that business, you lose,” he says. “I’m just trying to run my business tighter and smarter.” He also owns the land he applies on. 

Morrison says the main problem is that there’s not a level playing field. Until everyone’s in compliance and paying the same, he’s at a competitive disadvantage. And he’s willing to put his money where his mouth is. “I wouldn’t mind giving the Department of Natural Resources more money if they’d do something with it,” he says. 

And Morrison says he is seeing some encouraging signs coming out of the Wisconsin DNR lately. “They’re doing a pretty good job,” he says. “They’re realizing the problems that are going on and now they’re actually going out there and performing EPA audits and checking to see what these guys are doing.” 

They’re also focusing on education and training. Warp says he sympathizes with the operators – they’re really caught in the middle, he says – but improper disposal is a health hazard. 

“Change is happening,” Morrison adds. “We’re all trying to work to make the industry better.” 



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