Wastewater management is an important but all-too-often overlooked aspect of compliant cannabis operations. Al Dechard — who created his first proprietary process for mitigating water waste in 1998 — has built a career around helping a wide variety of companies from many different industries manage their wastewater. In fact, cannabis cultivation is only the latest trade to be covered by DeChard’s wastewater management firm Geomat, which has previously worked with rental car agencies, first responders, and others.
In this written Q&A, Al offers a breakdown of Geomat’s scalable and on-site wastewater mitigation systems and explains how the company helps cannabis clients to both stay compliant and reduce their overall environmental footprint.
Scroll down for the full interview, which also covers Geomat’s founding, proprietary services, and more!
Ganjapreneur: When was Geomat first founded and how has the business evolved over time?
Al Dechard: I began working in the marine industry refinishing boats when I noticed some were painted outside of the US and carried a high level of lead content. When working, we had to attempt to prevent the debris and water from running off into the water way, so we started playing with different materials and tools to see how we could prevent this from polluting the water. We eventually perfected this product to comply with the Clean Water Act and in 1998 I applied for and received my first Patent for a waste water recovery system. I then moved from the marine industry to the car wash rental market, where I saw a similar water runoff situation that needed a solution. I started to implement these waste water containment and recovery units for rental car markets around the country. After 9/11 in 2001, Geomat saw a need for hazmat applications for first responders. During this period of time, we worked with the federal government designing and implementing first responder’s containment systems. We started manufacturing hazmat showers as a solution and applied for a second Patent, which was granted in 2007. A third Patent was issued that same year for modular and mobile waste and/or hazardous liquid containment and collection shower systems. We further expanded our Patent portfolio with another issued in 2017, for waste and/or hazardous liquid containment and collection systems. This Patent specifically dealt with how the waste was filtered and reused for multiple industries. In the beginning of 2019, Geomat was issued another Patent for waste water containment collection. Our latest Patent that is pending is a liquid cleaning system designed for living plants, leading us into the cannabis industry.
What is the Geomat closed-loop water recovery system, and how does it work?
The Geomat closed-loop water recovery system is a patented water recycle system designed to capture and recycle all wastewater and runoff used as a result from vehicle or equipment washing. These systems have the ability to be used as a closed-loop system or tied directly into the sanitary sewer line. When Geomat is used as a closed-loop system, the water run off from cleaning collects on Geomat’s surface and filters through the mat’s layers to the drain. The water passes through to a sump pump basin, where it is collected in one of the two 500 gallon holding tanks. As the water rises within the holding tank, the water passes through an inline filter into the second holding tank. The reclaimed, filtered water is then able to be used again for washing purposes. An aerator is submerged in each holding tank to ensure optimum filtration throughout the entire process.
Geomat has implemented water recycling solutions for numerous different business models, such as the auto washing industry and hazmat cleanup industry. How have your solutions for cannabis growers been influenced by solutions for other industries, and how have they differed?
With the different industries I have worked with, I’ve noticed the one necessity they all have in common is water. After speaking with some workers in the cannabis industry, I realized that the environmental and water situation these facilities were facing were similar positions the rental car wash and hazmat industry faced as well. These industries all benefit greatly from Geomat in the sense that their water costs and usage significantly goes down while leaving no environmental footprint or impact from each use. This solution also holds different meanings depending on the industry. Geomat is a versatile and innovative product that brings more than just water recovery to cannabis grow facilities, but acts as a vessel and source for all sanitation and containment needs, which is paramount in this industry.
What are some of the ways that Geomat reduces a cannabis producer’s environmental impact?
Geomat has the ability to capture and filter this water runoff for reuse or discharge in a way that meets environmental compliance, where most state regulating authorities do not want to treat this type of water runoff. With Geomat, we have provided a solution to the issue of excessive water usage and cost that many grow facilities face. This significantly reduces a cannabis facility’s environmental impact while remaining compliant to the environment and Clean Water Act.
Is Geomat adaptable for different environments and site configurations? What types of cultivation facilities would benefit most from using Geomat?
The installation of Geomat is quick and minimally disruptive, scalable and versatile to any work facility or configuration. These systems have the ability for no ground penetration or sewer tie in, making Geomat adaptable and simple to relocate if needed. Specifically in the cannabis industry, Geomat is designed to function in a variety of beneficial ways. Whether it is sanitizing the equipment and cultivation tools or rinsing the plants itself, the system acts as an environmentally compliant product that will greatly reduce any cultivation facility’s water usage and costs.
Once you have implemented a system for a client, do you provide ongoing support or assist directly in managing it? What feedback have you heard from cultivators who use Geomat?
Geomat offers a significant warranty and provides yearly maintenance and cleaning on each system. We had a recent install for a major grow facility that has locations throughout the country. After the installation, they informed us that this technology has revolutionized how they sanitize their tables and equipment after each yield and throughout the daily growing process. When we began working with grow facilities, I was under the impression that Geomat could be used for recycling and recapturing the runoff used in watering and washing cannabis plants. Geomat has also played a role in sanitizing cultivation tools, tables and equipment to thoroughly clean and prevent any mites, pests and bacteria from harboring on these tools. This feedback from this facility opened our eyes to realize that not only is this the biggest, environmentally compliant solution for the industry, but how the Geomat itself can be multi purpose and functional.
What do you think the future of cannabis agriculture looks like in the United States?
I believe this industry will continue to thrive and advance in its technology and impact, but one thing that will remain constant for cannabis agriculture is the need for water. The cost and demand for water is rising in a world where some places see this element as a precious commodity. Any way this water can be reused and recaptured can benefit cannabis grow facilities and the planet as a whole.
Thank you, Al, for spending the time to answer these questions. To learn more about Geomat’s patented wastewater management systems, check out Geomat.com.