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Canadian septic system maker opens in Williamsport

A Canadian company picked Williamsport for its first American septic manufacturing plant and hired 12 people so far.

Premier Tech Water and Environment also plans to expand into plastic and injection molding production. When that happens, the company expects to add more jobs and offer internships. Pennsylvania College of Technology offers a plastic and injection molding engineering program. Injection molding is the process of producing parts by injecting molten material into a mold. They are made out of plastic, metal, glass or rubber.

“The college’s plastics and polymers program will help us hire and develop our technologies,” operations director Don Hockenbury said.

The 24,000-square-foot plant opened in January. The property was made available by its owner, Don Lundy. The structure’s layout fit Premier Tech’s needs, Hockenbury said. The higher ceilings accommodated the large production machines and cranes. The warehouse section was separated with a loading dock. The rear and side lots allow them to stock inventory, receive and distribute shipments.

Premier Tech chose Williamsport due to its surrounding highways. With Pennsylvania a core market, the company’s president, Luc Langlois, searched for locations with good highway access, hotels, restaurants and industry to support the startup, Hockenbury said.

“Williamsport is conveniently located near I-180, I-80 and Route 220 to move our product into areas of the state with little disruption. The city also has the businesses surrounding us to support our business and projects,” he said.

Pennsylvania’s Department of Community and Economic Development did not provide funding but educated the company about the state, department spokesman Chad Newton said.

“We provided our office of international business development for technical assistance… coaching these companies from Canada or internationally - telling them more about areas, which places might be better for them based on different things like tax issues or what the business environment is like in different places,” he said.

The company manufactures residential septic tanks with the name brand EcoFlo.

Based in Quebec, Premier Tech specializes in sustainable water treatment and waste recycling. They are a 1,500-employee private company with facilities in 28 countries including Portugal, India, Germany, France and the United Kingdom.

“There is a lot of that going on within our division and we'll be able to support that locally here. The products being manufactured will be residential-based but we're going to support commercial-based projects out of here as well,” Hockenbury said.

Normally, septic tanks break down waste by using sand mounds. Premier Tech’s tanks use coconut husks. The company’s plant in India produces the husks. They last longer than sand, making it a beneficial system for rural areas. Septic systems using sand mounds get strained more often during filtration, Hockenbury said.

“When you get into rural PA, and even some of the smaller communities that do have city sewage programs or systems, they're getting to be at max. It’s putting a strain on those systems as well with the sewage treatment plants,” Hockenbury said.

The tanks are made of polyethylene and contain the husks and a biofilter. The husks filter out the solid waste. The wastewater flows into a chamber and then into a field, Hockenbury said. The EcoFlow system is especially beneficial for homeowners with little on-site space or properties with low-quality soil.

“Sometimes if your soil is good, you don't have a large area in your front yard or back yard where you see the sand mound with the pipe sticking up - it looks like a ski slope or a tabletop jump - you can maintain the profile of your yard without consuming all the space for a sand mound,” Hockenbury said.

A new EcoFlow system can cost between $20,000 and $30,000, about the same as others, but lasts between 12 and 15 years, longer than others, he said.

“Sometimes if you have a bad area that doesn't, your soil's not as good, you can get into like $20,000 to $30,000 just for your sand mound. So economically, you could be at an advantage at a reduced cost as well to have a permanently installed system,” Hockenbury said.

Premier Tech has had sales, maintenance and client service people for about 25 years, working in western and eastern Pennsylvania. The company also sent maintenance people throughout the state when necessary, Hockenbury said. They will continue to do that from Williamsport.

“It was decided that we need to have all three facets of the business into the United States and Central PA was the prime location,” Hockenbury said.

For the company, Pennsylvania is second only to Iowa for maintenance and servicing of its tanks. The company plans to branch out into New Jersey and New York next.

The company’s main manufacturing site is in Quebec. Because the Canadian province’s main language is French, logistics and shipping became a hurdle, Hockenbury said.

The push into Williamsport also allows closer contact with American-based clients.

The addition is a part of the Shapiro Administration’s goal to bring in global industry to the state, according to DCED. Governor Shapiro budgeted $500 million to add more commercial and industrial sites.

According to the DCED, 643 of the state’s companies exported more than $584.6 million in products. It has helped 20 international companies moving to the state invest more than $489 million. Over 12,600 jobs were supported. The company had over $1.8 million in global sales in 2023.

Premier Tech focuses on sustainability and recycling to help reduce waste and emissions.

“We're doing a lot of recycling of the unused polymers - any of the pieces that come when we demold. They're going to go get sent for recycling, regrinding and being reused into the tanks,” Hockenbury said. “We're recycling all our cardboard and pallets that come in.”

For more information on Premier Tech and the septic systems they make, visithttps://www.premiertechaqua.com/en-us. They are located at 210 Arch St. in Williamsport.

Chase Bottorf is a graduate of Lock Haven University and holds a bachelor's degree in English with a concentration in writing. Having previously been a reporter for the Lock Haven news publication, The Express, he is aware of the unique issues in the Lycoming County region, and has ties to the local communities.

You can email Chase at chasebottorf@wvia.org