When Island Marine Construction launched its first barge last summer and began servicing island septics on the Rideau, the demand was clearly there but no one could have envisioned things going so well.
Co-owners Peter Copestake and the father-son team Greg and John Fleming christened their venture in June 2021 as the marine division of the Fleming’s 35-year-old construction company and managed to pump 38 tanks primarily on Big Rideau, Sand and Newboro Lakes. Before then, it had been decades since anyone was equipped, insured and prepared to service island septics.
“It was a highly successful season and we have a long list of property owners on the Rideau still looking to get us out,” said Copestake. “There were a few that needed service, but many were in good shape … Greg is a licenced inspector.”
But demand didn’t stop at the edge of the canal, back lake islanders and associations flooded IMC with requests to bring their operation to their lakes to halt the overflow of old septics into the environment.
“I was out to look at one property on Buck Lake last year that wasn’t working properly,” said Greg Fleming. “Unfortunately we couldn’t pull our big barge and trailer it to the lakes off the Rideau – it’s 40 feet by 16 feet.”
To solve the problem, the company has commissioned a second, smaller vessel that will be able to serve lakes not connected to the canal. It will be 26 feet long and 10 feet wide with the capacity to carry two 1,000-gallon tanks at the same time. “That’s enough to pump two full septics before having to go unload,” said Fleming, adding they generally work with Armstrong Pumping to haul away their cargo once they get it to the shore.
“It will have a draft of about one foot so we’ll be able to get in close to shore easily just about anywhere,” said Copestake. “It is a steel hull with reinforced bulkheads for stability and safety.” It will have a retractable ramp for loading and unloading as well as a small console to the rear for the driver.
The new barge, which will be powered by twin outboards of at least 40 hp, is being custom manufactured in Parry Sound, Ont., and is expected to be ready by about May 15 – when the locks open on the canal.
That’s when they plan to start pumping on the Rideau this year, again going lake by lake for maximum efficiency. In July and August they plan to pull the small barge and service the back lakes.
“We got calls from Sharbot Lake, Loughborough, Buck, Eagle, all over,” said Fleming.
“Last year we just used my staff to operate IMC, but this year we might bring on a couple of summer students.”
Lake associations have played a key role in helping them identify island septics and they are hoping they can help coordinate visits to individual lakes again to ensure maximum efficiency, Copestake added.
“If the lake associations can help with some of the leg work, we’ll be able to get to many systems in need of pumping on lakes around the region this summer.”
Copestake had previously served on multiple public and private boards in his professional life. He also holds a degree in Limnology, which is the study of inland waters as ecological systems, and he served in the Naval Reserve as an operations officer.
“After all those years in boardrooms dreaming about the water, I finally get to do what I always wanted – drive a tugboat around all day,” he joked.
Adding the marine division to their company last summer has kept Fleming hopping beyond just septic services.
“We’re extremely busy on the construction side,” he confirmed. “We’re now booking out into 2023.”
The new barge also has the capacity to haul a mini excavator and a skid steer and materials when being used for construction – which is good because they’ve also picked up a contract to handle barging in the area for Safeline Utility Services, which manages all subcontracting for Hydro One.
You can reach the Flemings and Island Marine Construction to book your pump-out or get a quote on any of their construction services via phone 613-349-9655 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.