Doing it right

Published 1:30 pm Monday, April 22, 2013

Forrie Peterson and Kyle Ladlie stand by their pumper truck, emblazoned with their company’s name, P&L Excavating. --Tim Engstrom/Albert Lea Tribune

Forrie Peterson and Kyle Ladlie stand by their pumper truck, emblazoned with their company’s name, P&L Excavating. –Tim Engstrom/Albert Lea Tribune

CLARKS GROVE — P&L Excavating doesn’t claim to be the cheapest septic system workers out there. Instead, the two-man company prides itself on quality materials and doing the job right.

And on educating their customers on how to maintain a septic system for the long term.

They have pulled all kinds of junk out of septic tanks, things people should never flush down their toilets: cigarette filters, baby wipes, diapers, action figures, Hot Wheels cars, feminine products and paper towels, among other stuff.

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“If it doesn’t come out of the body or it’s not toilet paper, don’t flush it down,” said Kyle Ladlie.

His partner is Forrie Peterson. They joke that P&L stands for profit and loss, but it really is for Ladlie and Peterson.

Peterson started doing excavating back in 1965 and owned Peterson Excavating before he sold it to his sons. He then sold Ladlie half his equipment in 2006, and they jointly bought a pumper truck and decided to specialize in septic systems. Most other providers of septic services do commercial and residential excavating or agricultural tiling, then do septic work as a side venture.

P&L, said Peterson, does full-service septic work, from design to installation and from pumping to compliance checking, mainly in Freeborn, Mower and Steele counties.

Watershed districts and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency are seeking greater compliance among rural homeowners not hooked to city sewers, keeping outfits like P&L busy.

The major problem for homeowners, Ladlie said, is simply a lack of knowledge. They cannot judge what’s going on based on out of sight, out of mind.

“Going away and treated effectively are two different things,” Ladlie said.

Here are some tips P&L thinks homeowners should know:

• Rural homeowners should have their septic tanks pumped every three years. Neglecting the tank raises the possibility that the sludge level could reach and clog the outlet going to the pump tank or to the distribution field.

• There is no such thing as a septic additive or cleaner. Never buy them.

• Too much use of antibacterial products can kill the bacteria needed to break down waste in the tank.

• Septic tank owners do not have to have a mount. There are other options available.

• Mounts won’t freeze up, if they are installed correctly.

• A filter system can prevent foreign objects from going to the drain field.

• Often people call a plumber when what they really need is a septic-system specialist. Plumbers take care of pipes inside the house. P&L begins its work on the outside.

• Ask many questions about the septic system when buying a rural home. A big problem is when city dwellers buy a home in the country and fail to realize the obligations a septic system requires. Some, they said, don’t even realize they have one.

A major problem they find with septic systems is installation errors. P&L has a reputation, Peterson said, that inspectors have come to trust the company’s work.

Being a septic system company requires a state license. Peterson said it is not easy to acquire and said the classes require knowledge of soils, sands, bacteria and materials, in addition to installation, design and inspection.

“You got to want to be in this business,” he said.

The state used to allow homeowners to have two feet between the distribution field and a level in the ground called “seasonally saturated soil.” New regulations, created in the interest of clean water tables, require three feet, Ladlie said. A lot of the work they have done has been to get homeowners in compliance.

Does the work stink? After all, this is human waste.

“When you are doing a septic change, you pump out the old tank. It’s all brand new from there anyway,” Ladlie said.

Also, they wear protective gear, which helps, he said.

And where do they take the waste in the pumper truck? They have a permit to take it to the dump station in Albert Lea east of the Freeborn County Courthouse on East Pearl Street.

P&L Excavating is located north of Clarks Grove on Freeborn County Road 45. The best way to reach Peterson and Ladlie is to call them at 383-3385.

About Tim Engstrom

Tim Engstrom is the editor of the Albert Lea Tribune. He resides in Albert Lea with his wife, two sons and dog.

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