Infiltrator Systems Inc. has acquired Ring Industrial Group LP of Oakland, Tenn., a manufacturer of EZflow-brand expanded polystyrene leach field systems. Terms were not disclosed.
Infiltrator of Old Saybrook, Conn., is a portfolio company of Philadelphia-based equity firm Graham Partners Inc.
Infiltrator claims to be the market leader in plastic waste-water-management systems for septic leach fields and storm water. Infiltrator injection molds large chambers used in underground septic systems.
The Ring deal, which closed June 1, gives Infiltrator a product offering to complement its existing business. The EZflow system Infiltrator acquired is identical to a traditional French drain, an underground plastic pipe with drainage holes surrounded by gravel except that it uses expanded polystyrene peanuts instead of stone aggregate.
The peanuts, which are held in place by a PE or geotextile webbing, are denser than those typically found in packaging applications.
The biggest benefit the system provides is ease of installation by virtue of its light weight, said Rob Newbold, a managing principal with Graham Partners, in a June 2 telephone interview. It's much easier for workers to load and unload trucks. You can also make the leach fields themselves shorter, he said.
The technology has been around for about 18 years, Newbold said.
EZflow expands EPS resin into the foamed peanuts. The resin is supplied by a former Ring sister company, which will continue to supply the firm under its new ownership, Newbold said.
Infiltrator and EZflow are battling a long-established material in gravel, and have been growing at its expense. Gravel is still the dominant aggregate, covering about half of the industry, Newbold said.
The septic system industry is a fragmented one, filled with contractors married to the traditional gravel-style systems. They have plenty of mom-and-pop gravel pits from which to choose, Newbold said.
What it comes down to is the contractor's preference. Often, what they prefer using has to do with a variety of factors, he said.
While slow housing growth has hurt the new-installation business, there remains a healthy replacement business, as septic systems have an expected life span of about 20 years.
In today's market, about 60 percent of septic system sales and installations are in replacement projects. In a robust housing market, that will shift down to about 40 percent vs. new installations, Newbold said.