Talkin’ trash

Montgomery firm pioneers new peat moss-based septic system

By: Mike Mathis
   MONTGOMERY — Most people flush a toilet and think nothing of it.
   Douglas Fine thinks about little else.
   Mr. Fine is a professional engineer and an owner of New Jersey Septic Management Group, a Montgomery-based firm that distributes a peat moss-based septic system that Mr. Fine says requires less maintenance and is more environmentally friendly than traditional septic systems.
   The firm has installed 10 of the systems at homes since the state Department of Environmental Protection approved use of the technology in the spring, Mr. Fine said. The first installation was completed in the summer, Mr. Fine said, and company has orders to install six more systems.
   Although the price of the system varies based on site conditions, Mr. Fine said the roughly $30,000 price tag is comparable with the cost of a conventional septic system. The manufacturer, by Eco-Pure Waste Water Systems of Fort Myers, Fla., offers a five-year warranty.
   "The DEP has seen a need to change how septic systems are handled," said Mr. Fine, whose firm has offered design, installation, inspection and repair services for commercial and residential septic systems since February 2002. "They’re trying to promote better treatment for better groundwater quality.
   "We wouldn’t have as many problems (with traditional septic systems) if people weren’t taking care of these systems," Mr. Fine said.
   Although other states have used peat moss-based treatment systems for more than 20 years, the technology is new to New Jersey.
   Barry Chalofsky, chief of the DEP’s Bureau of Non-Point Pollution Control, said the peat moss septic systems presently can only be installed to replace existing septic systems.
   "We think it’s a good system," Mr. Chalofsky said. "It’s a much better system than what’s out there now."
   The Eco-Pure system utilizes a peat moss filter that kills up to 99% of harmful bacteria in wastewater before the wastewater is returned to the ground. Traditional septic systems use layers of sand and gravel to filter bacteria. Naturally occurring fungus and bacteria live and breed within the peat moss.
   The system is odor free, and it eliminates mounds in areas with high water tables because disposal fields must be built above ground, according to New Jersey Septic Management Group’s Web site.
   The DEP requires that the systems be serviced annually, Mr. Fine said.
   Mr. Fine said Montgomery was the logical location for his business to be located and to install the peat moss septic systems because of a township requirement to pump septic systems every three years. The company has five employees.
   The majority of New Jersey Septic Management Group’s business is conducted in Hunterdon, Mercer and Somerset counties.
   "It was just a good place to start," said Mr. Fine, 31, who lives in Readington Township, Hunterdon County. "The people of Montgomery Township are more aware (of the problems with traditional septic systems) because their health department is telling them to be aware. We were already doing what they were asking people to start doing."