wastewater location strategy

Location, Location, Location

Assume: You, as the owner or general manager of a commercial laundry, are in the enviable position of being able to expand into a new market location.

As a business person, you’ve really done your homework. The market you’ve chosen is underserved and industry or hospitality in your target zone is booming. The research you’ve done, plus your own branch expansion, spells sure success from a business standpoint. How does it stack-up from an infrastructure position?

Consider some of the main topics that can impact your profitability and are sometimes overlooked: Water and wastewater. If not managed correctly, these can have a tremendous impact to capital outlay of constructing a new facility and the ongoing operational cost. In the laundry, water is your most important raw material and its economical use and disposal is what can make your operation successful.

Therefore the purchase price of water and its disposal as wastewater need to be at the top of your list when considering the purchase of a building or the property on which one will be built. And if the Devil lies anywhere it is in the details as it relates to water and wastewater and the return on investment of each decision you make. Remember you should always build or buy where your due diligence tells you to sink your shovel.


Water is essential to the facility’s operation; however there are options to how it may be obtained: Drilling a well or purchasing from the local utility. Of the two, drilling may seem like the best option if it is allowed by the local regulatory authority. This may be a factor regarding where you place your facility. Other factors must also be investigated to calculate the investment in a well:

  • Can the aquifer support the facilities’ long term water needs?
  • The cost of the well itself.
  • The permitting, both construction and environmental impact.
  • Will there be an ongoing consumption fee?
  • What additional equipment will be needed to bring the water up to a standard where it can be used?
  • What is the operational cost of the needed equipment?
  • This approach make take additional time and investment and will most likely include engineering that includes hydrology, but in the long run save the greatest amount of money.

Purchasing water from the local utility may be the only option available and requires little leg work in comparison to that required for a well. Water is typically purchased in units of gallons, cubic feet or meters. It is usually purchased in a tiered structure where the more water consumed, the higher the purchase price. Additional factors to be considered:

  • What is the history of the utility in asking for rate increases?
  • When is the next increase?
  • What has been the historical increase percentage?
  • Does the city’s 5-10 year master plan include utility infrastructure improvements that would cause a major rate increase?
  • The ability of the utility to respond to water system failures.
  • What additional equipment will be needed to bring the water up to a standard where it can be used?
  • What is the operational cost of the needed equipment?
  • Is the utility or city willing to work with you to offer incentives to defray costs (permitting fees)?

Unless your Realtor can provide answers to these minimal questions in a thorough manner, please consider the use of a local engineering firm (or the one the city uses to answer these vital questions.)


In weighing the cost of which two functional groups will cost you more money and gray hair, it will be wastewater. Many factors enter into the decision of wastewater discharge and the placement of a new facility that should make it one of the top three influences on the where to buy real estate or how to approach an expansion. During the interview process for this article, it was found that minor miscalculations or oversights can end up in unplanned expenditures of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

A starting point for choosing a facility site should be the examination of the potential location’s Sewer Use Ordinance. It is strongly recommended that research be done for several different locations (or communities) to determine the impact of local pretreatment limits and the necessary steps needed to comply with them. One of the largest considerations when choosing a property to purchase versus an existing building is whether many of the fees that would be imposed by the regulatory agency can be eliminated or reduced through the purchase agreement.

If building a new structure, the imposed environmental impact fees in some cases can reach well beyond $250,000. This is because there is no Federal standard for laundry wastewater effluent; each particular community is given the responsibility to create local standards or limits. This results in tremendous differences in pretreatment standards not only from community to community, but also depends on which publicly owned treatment works (POTW-the wastewater plant your sewage will be flowing to), that lies within the city. In the case of impact fees, their cost may be directly related to the condition of the infrastructure serving the community.

The effluent quality discharge limits may include obscure substances not regulated in other localities, perhaps as a result of a chemical spill that wreaked havoc years before and the city being overly cautious regarding a repeat incident. Others may have limits tied to public health standards rather than a true analysis of the POTW’s ability to reduce the culprit pollutant. And the neighboring town may have no such restrictions. To imply that permit values at times are a moving target would be an understatement. Other aspects that are not obvious to the discharge of your wastewater, but must be considered include many of those mentioned above along with the following (at a minimum):

  • Surcharge cost; how they are calculated; and how often?
  • Capacity limitation and the ability to allow for a greater discharge amount as you grow.
  • The ability of the sewer line itself to handle peak flow periods without impacting the surrounding neighborhood (basement flooding).
  • Is the city willing to partner with you to defray cost related to the possible treatment, in terms of evaporation credits, tax incentive or surcharge variances?
  • The need to increase the sewer lines to handle the additional flow from your plant (very costly)?
  • Storm water and its bearing on costs of operation or capital (operation, if you are buying a building where you must pay for storm sewer flow or capital if you must build a retention pond).
  • Is the city meeting their own discharge permit?
  • When is the city’s next permit being renewed? How do they think it will affect your plans?

This is just a starting point in your due diligence and as with the water portion, seeking an engineering firm that is familiar with city’s own challenges and our industry may aid you greatly in the task of where to build or how to expand. It is also paramount that the topic of reuse be included. At a minimum, the piping for passive reuse can be included to recoup a portion of the cost discussed. Being able to address these types of details will keep the Devil at bay leaving no stone unturned and more money to invest in your shiny new facility.

Stuart DavisStuart Davis
Director Wastewater Division
Gurtler Industries, Inc.
Contact him at
sdavis@gurtler.com or (800) 638-7300