Your business’s septic system may be out of sight, but you definitely don’t want it out of mind. When the tank gets too full, the wastewater has nowhere to go except back into your building, potentially resulting in lost revenue and productivity as well as an expensive cleanup. Regular septic tank pumping is important to keep the system functioning properly. Here, the team at Service Pumping & Drain Co. shares how often you should pump your tank and what happens if you don’t.
Septic Tank Pumping Frequency Guide
In general, commercial tank pumping should be scheduled every one to three years. The frequency of septic maintenance depends on the answers to the following questions:
How big is the tank?
How many people use the tank?
Do the people using the tank take any medications that can negatively influence bacterial growth in the system?
Does the tank receive gray water from washing machines, garbage disposals, and other appliances?
The material in the tank settles in three distinct layers: solids, or sludge, settle to the bottom; water stays in the middle; and oils float on the top. The water and oils are dispersed into the drain field, but the sludge eventually builds up and must be pumped out before it clogs the system. The amount of time between pumping can be prolonged if you take the following precautions:
Stagger water use by using the dishwasher and washing machine at different times and avoid doing multiple loads of laundry at once. This gives the system time to break down solids and settle appropriately before flooding it with more water.
Avoid excessive use of chemicals such as cleaners and detergents as they interfere with bacteria that are responsible for keeping the system healthy.
Avoid flushing fats, such as grease and oil, through the system.
Fix leaks and other small problems immediately.
A tank that serves a lot of people or sees a lot of chemicals may require more frequent pumping than a tank that serves a small building with no laundry or dishwashing facilities.
Dangers of Not Pumping Your Septic Systems
Not regularly pumping your business’s septic tank will eventually result in a clog by allowing the sludge to build up and block the drain pipe. If this happens, you may notice the following things:
The smell of sewage outside or inside, particularly near the drains
Standing water in the drainage area
Lush plant growth in the drainage area
Slow-draining sinks and household appliances
Sewage backup in the building
Undetected sewage leaks that could contaminate groundwater or marine water
If you ever notice any of the above-mentioned symptoms, reach out to your septic professionals immediately. To avoid the complications and expense of fixing a septic clog, keep up with your septic tank pumping schedule. Doing so is much easier and more affordable in the long run.
Let Service Pumping & Drain Co. Help You
The well-trained team at Service Pumping & Drain Co. has been serving eastern Massachusetts for more than 85 years as a family-owned and operated business equipped to handle jobs of all sizes with personalized care and attention. We’re here for all your septic needs including routine pumping and 24-hour emergency service. Contact us today to discuss your septic maintenance needs.
When left unchecked, stormwater can have devastating effects on private and public property, like soil erosion, flooding, and/or diminished water quality. As such, implementing an effective stormwater management system is critical. The following article provides an overview of stormwater management, including what it is, why it’s important, and how to best to implement it.
What Is Stormwater?
Stormwater refers to any precipitation that stems from nature, including rain, snow, or hail. In natural environments, it is largely absorbed by the ground or into larger bodies of water—such as ponds, lakes, and rivers—where it is quickly filtered and reentered into the natural water cycle. However, in more developed environments—towns and cities—fabricated structures like buildings and roads prevent the water from soaking into the ground. As a result, it has a higher tendency to flow across these surfaces as runoff.
Runoff poses several issues to community members and businesses and the surrounding environment, such as:
It picks up contaminants and debris from the ground, causing pollution levels in local waterways to increase.
It disturbs and displaces soil, causing soil erosion and sedimentation.
It overfills storm drains, causing localized flooding that pours into streets or waterways.
All of the above issues can have devastating effects on human health and property. In particular, overflowing storm drains may result in untreated sewage entering into homes and businesses or local water sources.
What Is Stormwater Management?
Stormwater management is a method of decreasing the amount of stormwater runoff that propagates in urban and developed areas to minimize the amount of pollutants entering local water sources. Some examples of stormwater management solutions include the integration of pervious—rather than impervious—surfaces to help water absorption, additional gray infrastructure—such as culverts, gutters, and storm sewers—to reduce the risk of sewer systems overflowing, and blue/green infrastructure to facilitate the maintenance of the natural water cycle.
Ultimately, all of the above solutions seek to reduce the amount of runoff and/or pollutants entering the local water system to protect communities by preventing the following:
Soil and stream erosion
Design, Installation, and Maintenance Considerations for Stormwater Management Systems
Both homeowners and business owners should implement and maintain stormwater management systems on their lands to effectively safeguard a community from property damage, water pollution, and other runoff-related issues. The exact type employed depends on the particular piece of property, including its needs, the surrounding environment, and the climate conditions.
Catch basins—also sometimes referred to as storm drains—are integral components of many public and private stormwater management systems. They are drainage structures designed and engineered for the sole purpose of collecting and detaining runoff before it is transported through a network of underground pipes, culverts, and drainage ditches to local waterways.
Although simple in design, catch basins can be arduous to install. The installation process is as follows:
Determining and marking the installation area
Digging the hole for the basin and trenches for the drainpipes
Installing and securing the basin with gravel, stone, or concrete
Laying and attaching the drainage pipes
Testing the system
Backfilling hole and trenches
Compacting the soil to eliminate voids that could cause structural or drainage issues
Once installed, they require regular maintenance to ensure the stormwater management system continues to run properly. At a minimum, they should be cleaned and inspected every year. Generally, such operations include identifying and removing any debris flowing through the system and material buildup sitting at the bottom of the drain.
Service Your Storm Drain Today!
Stormwater management systems are critical to protecting your property and the environment. In addition to proper selection, proper maintenance is key to ensuring the systems run as intended. For all your catch basin and storm drain cleaning needs, turn to the experts at Service Pumping & Drain.
At Service Pumping & Drain, we have extensive experience cleaning catch basins, storm drains, and other stormwater management systems. Our service offerings include preventative maintenance and 24/7 emergency maintenance to ensure our customers’ systems remain in proper working order. For additional information about our cleaning capabilities, contact us today.
Grease traps and grease interceptors perform similar functions—i.e., preventing fats, oils, and grease (FOG) from leaving a kitchen facility and entering the sewer system. These compounds are byproducts of cooking that stem from food materials containing fats and oils, such as meat and dairy products. When disposed of down a drain, they can stick to the inside of sewer pipes, which, over time, causes buildups, blockages, and other serious problems.
The following article provides an overview of grease traps and interceptors, including what they are, how they work, key selection considerations, and who uses them.
Understanding Each Grease Device
What is a grease trap?
A grease trap is a small FOG removal unit designed for use in kitchen applications where the flow of water and amount of oil and grease produced is low. It is typically installed beneath the sink inside the kitchen facility.
How does a grease trap work?
Wastewater flows from the sink of the drain into a tank, where the FOG hardens and the solids settle. As FOG is lighter than water, it floats to the top of the trap, allowing only wastewater to flow out into the sanitary sewer or septic system.
What is a grease interceptor?
A grease interceptor is a large FOG removal unit. It is generally installed beneath large-scale kitchen facilities that produce a large amount of grease and have higher flow rates and pressures.
How does a grease interceptor work?
A grease interceptor works the same way as the grease trap but at a much larger scale.
Do I Need a Grease Trap or a Grease Interceptor?
A grease trap or grease interceptor is required for any facility that pushes wastewater with fats, oils, or grease into the sewage system.
When deciding between a grease trap or a grease interceptor for a commercial kitchen facility, there are a few factors to keep in mind, including:
Unit size. Grease traps are much smaller (typically about the size of bread box to a small mini-fridge), while grease interceptors are much larger.
Capacity/flow. Grease traps handle flow rates of 10–50 gallons per minute, while grease interceptors accommodate flow rates of more than 50 gallons per minute.
Pressure. Grease traps work best in a low-pressure water environment, whereas grease interceptors are more appropriate for high-pressure environments.
Installation. Grease traps typically are fitted beneath the sink inside of the kitchen, while grease interceptors are installed outside and beneath the concrete.
Maintenance intervals. Grease traps require regular maintenance every day or month (depending on size), while grease interceptors need it every few weeks or months.
Manage Your Grease Traps & Interceptors With Help From the Experts
When using a grease trap or grease interceptor, it is important to perform regular cleaning and maintenance operations. Otherwise, they can cause blockages, backups, overflows, and/or foul odors that can affect the quality and profitability of the food establishment, nearby buildings, and surrounding environment.
310 CMR: DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION 15.351: Grease traps shall be inspected monthly by the owner/operator and cleaned by a licensed septage hauler whenever the level of grease is 25% of the effective depth of the trap, or at least every three months, whichever is sooner. The owner/operator shall keep all inspection and pumping records.
Each city and town in MA requires individual licensing and permitting for septage hauling. Make sure your hauler is licensed in your city or town.
Septage haulers are required to fill out a System Pumping Record and submit it to the local Board of Health or Regulatory Agency within 14 days of pumping.
For assistance cleaning a grease trap or grease interceptor, turn to the experts at Service Pumping & Drain. We offer grease trap maintenance services for units ranging in size from 20 liters to a few metric tons. Our other service offerings include water jetting, septic system maintenance, catch basin and storm drain cleaning, and 24-hour emergency maintenance.
As we serve the eastern Massachusetts area, we are careful to follow all applicable state codes to ensure our clients remain in compliance. We get it right the first time, so they don’t have to worry. For more information about grease traps or grease interceptors and how to maintain them, contact us today.
Commercial kitchens have the capacity to produce an astounding amount of food—and an astounding amount of waste, including fats, oils, and greases (FOG). These kitchens are in use all day, and in some cases, all night as well, which only emphasizes the need for everything to be in working order.
Regular maintenance and proper disposal of food waste are essential because not maintaining the kitchen properly can lead to sewage backups, damaged equipment, and additional problems including:
Bacterial growth: Both improper cleaning and the creation of bacteria-friendly surfaces lead to the growth of harmful bacterial, viral, and fungal pathogens such as mold. Clogged drains, for example, trap food that can foster the growth of E. coli.
Bad odors: Greased-up drains and old food all contribute to rancid smells. These smells can travel out of the kitchen and drive away customers as well as make kitchen workers feel ill.
Damaged equipment: Backed-up drains increase the risk of sewage overflows throughout the facility. Clogs, especially if the clogging material hardens, can damage pipes, and equipment that hasn’t been maintained will not work as well.
Health hazards: Besides creating foul odors and sewage backups, greasy equipment and floors increase the risk of falling or burning oneself if the grease is hot. Outside the restaurant, these clogs, including the “fatbergs” that can form in city sewers, can expose the public to sewage overflows. A fatberg is a large, hardened lump of FOG stuck in a public sewer; think “iceberg” but made of kitchen grease.
Cleanliness Means Efficiency
Maintenance for a commercial kitchen is a constant and ever-evolving task. By keeping the facility clean, a restaurant or other organization that uses a kitchen makes it easier for workers to run the place efficiently and safely. Drains, pipes, and traps work better when they are not clogged with FOG and debris. And the effect even influences employees; if they know their place of work is clean and safe, then they will often do a better job.
Regular cleaning and maintenance makes the facility look better. Proper cleaning and maintenance also keeps the facility in good standing with local and federal health and safety codes, such as those set by OSHA, the FDA, and Massachusetts Title V.
How to Prevent Backups
Cleaning a commercial kitchen involves shift-based, daily, and weekly tasks, as well as additional periodic tasks like inspections. After each shift, workers should clean grills, line and prep areas, slicing equipment, and cutting boards; they should also empty the trash and stock clean rags and sanitizing supplies. All uniforms that are not going home with the workers (e.g., aprons) should immediately go into the laundry pile.
Daily cleaning includes washing hood filters and can openers and changing foil or other disposable equipment linings. Weekly tasks include cleaning the coffee machine (if there is one), cleaning ovens and sinks, deliming sinks, cleaning drains, and sharpening knives.
Central to keeping drains clear is preventing clogs from building up in the first place. At the very least, these steps will slow down the formation of problems; however, you should still have drains and grease traps cleared regularly anyway.
Always wipe food scraps off plates and other dishes or cookware into the trash or a food waste recycling container—don’t try to rinse them down the drain. This includes oil; that needs to be wiped off with paper towels, too.
Never pour any oil or grease, or greasy foods, into the drain. Cooking oil should go into a container where it can harden and go in the trash.
All outdoor storage containers for oil and grease need to be covered. This prevents outdoor debris from falling in and contributing to clogs.
Try not to use garbage disposals. Not only can they trap bits of food and increase the risk of clogs, but food that goes into garbage disposals can still create problems down the line.
Keep grease traps and the areas they are in as cool as you can. Heat makes greases and fats liquefy and mix, which contributes to the formation of FOG clogs and fatbergs.
Set a regular schedule for grease trap inspection, which you can do yourself; grease trap cleaning, which you can hire a professional pumping and drain company to do; and septic cleaning and inspection, which you must hire a professional to do.
Schedule Your Maintenance Services Today
Service Pumping & Drain Co. offers drain and septic services to keep your commercial kitchen clean and compliant. We can perform hydro jetting to clear out pipes, drain and grease trap cleaning to prevent backups, and septic cleaning to ensure there are no obstacles in any drain line that could create backup issues in your facility.
For more information about our services, contact us to discuss your situation and needs.
Great plumbing and the technology of the sewer system is something that is often taken for granted, but has a rich and fascinating history full of interesting plumbing facts you never knew. We all know that skilled plumbers and drain cleaners are vital to keeping homes and businesses running smoothly today, but do you know some of the more memorable moments in history of our industry?
We’ve put together 7 fun plumbing facts together for you to share with your co-workers or bring to your next trivia night!
Seven Interesting Plumbing Facts:
#1: The World’s Oldest Sewer Systems
The oldest sewer system discovered to date is located in the palace ruins of the Indus River Valley in India, dating back to 4000 BCE.
Evidence of indoor plumbing has also been found in ancient Egypt at the Pyramid of Cheops dating from 2500 BCE. Archeologists have discovered that the ancient Egyptians used copper piping, much like modern plumbing. It seems the Egyptians knew their stuff!
However, the most elaborate ancient sewer system is located in Rome. The Cloaca Maxima, which translates to Great Sewer, was built in the 6th or 7th century BCE. Previous plumbing systems had simply carried away rainwater, but this system was used to drain marshland, and carry waste to the nearby Tiber River.
#2: The First Underground Sewer
You may not be surprised to learn this interesting plumbing fact: the first underground sewer was built in New York City. After residents complained about the smell coming from the open sewers, NYC Health Officials decided to construct an underground system in 1728. We are glad they did; outside of the change that made in civil engineering across the world, we would hate to have to call NYC the Smelly Apple!
#3: Origin of the Word “Plumber”
The word plumber can be traced back to the Romans. The word comes from the Latin term “plumbum” which means lead. Romans who worked with lead were called “Plumbarius”, which has shortened over time to the word we use today.
#4: The Inventor of the Toilet
You may think you know the answer, so let us set you straight with this fun plumbing fact. The first flush toilet was invented in England by Sir John Harington in 1596. His contraption used a flush valve that would release water from a tank.
Sir Harrington was godson to Queen Elizabeth, who was an enthusiastic user of his invention. Sadly the rest of the world did not agree, and the chamber pot continued its reign of popularity. Sir Harrington got the last laugh, however, as the term “the John” derives from the name of its inventor.
Another Englishman managed to do what Sir Harrington could not: he made flushing toilets popular. In the 1880’s plumber Thomas Crapper replaced the old floating valve system with a siphon system. Along with making toilets more user-friendly, he successfully advertised his product to the masses. We know this is true today, as we still use the term “the Crapper”.
#5: Einstein Loved Plumbing
Albert Einstein was inducted as an honorary member in the Plumbers and Steamfitters Union in Washington, D.C. According to The Reporter from November 18, 1954 Einstein said:
“If I would be a young man again and had to decide how to make my living, I would not try to become a scientist or scholar or teacher. I would rather choose to be a plumber in the hope to find that modest degree of independence still available under present circumstances.”
This quote gained him many fans in the plumbing community.
#6: The Most Expensive Toilet
Here’s a fun plumbing fact! You might think that the world’s most expensive toilet is covered in gold (like the Hang Fung toilet), or comes from Japan (where toilets can warm your bum and talk to you), but you would be wrong.
The most expensive toilet in the world lives on the International Space Station. Costing a cool $19 million, this toilet not only straps astronauts in place, it sucks waste away into a tank where it is then converted into drinking water.
#7: Things That Should Never Go Down Your Drain
Although we love it when we get called in for a job, here are some things that history has taught us again and again to never put down the drain:
Storm drains are infrastructure components found in curbsides or parking lots that collect rainwater runoff to prevent the flooding of streets and commercial and residential properties. Once the drain collects the watershed, it moves the water through a system of underground piping, culverts, and drainage ditches into local waterways.
The critical function that storm drains serve necessitates proper installation and implementation of a comprehensive maintenance program to ensure they are in optimal working condition. If a storm drain is improperly installed or inadequately maintained, it can result in severe flooding, causing unnecessary property damage and traffic disruption.
At Service Pumping & Drain Co., Inc.™ we provide complete storm drain cleaning and maintenance services to ensure optimum operation and extend the life of your stormwater management system. We can also develop a customized preventative maintenance program for your system that complies with local regulations to ensure regular cleaning and inspection appointments.
How Does A Storm Drain Work?
The storm drain has many working components, each of which contributes to the overall function of the storm drain. The typical storm drain parts include:
Drain inlet: Generally located at ground level, the drain inlet allows water runoff into the system while filtering out large debris that can clog up the subsequent basin. These metal grate inlets typically open into vaults beneath the ground. The main concern for drain inlets is buildup. A visual inspection of these components can quickly assess whether they are clogged with leaves or other debris that can interfere with their function and restrict the flow of water into the system. This visual inspection should take place at least once a month, and more frequently during the stormy seasons such as the spring and fall, to prevent blockage and subsequent flooding.
Riser: Storm drain risers, also known as vent pipes, are vertical sewer or storm pipelines that allow pooling water to drain from a rooftop down to the ground or sub-ground level into the drain inlet. Once water passes through the inlet, it enters a sump (typically a catch basin).
Basin: In storm drain systems, basins accept and temporarily hold the collected water runoff before pushing it through to the rest of the drain system. These receptacles are connected to subsequent system sections by piping.
Piping: Piping enables water to enter (inlet) and exit (outlet) the storm drain system. Although both inlet and outlet pipes are typically placed above the midline of the system to allow sediment to settle out within a sump, outlet pipes are generally positioned lower than inlet pipes to prevent water from backing up through the system. In general, individual drainage pipes connect to a more extensive storm piping system, which outlets at a single point per best management practices for water pollution control.
Signs Your Storm Drains Need Maintenance
Although a quick visual inspection is sufficient to assess the condition of a drain inlet, evaluating the condition of components beyond the system’s inlet requires observation of specific indicators. If your storm drain system exhibits some of the following signs, you may want to consider consulting with professionals, such as Service Pumping & Drain Co., Inc.™ for inspection, maintenance, and cleaning services:
Consistent clogging. Clogs are commonly caused by a buildup of debris in the system, which prevents water from properly draining.
Slow drainage. Similar to clogging, slow drainage may be attributed to the accumulation of debris in the system, reducing the ability of the system to drain properly.
Water accumulation. Water spots on residential or commercial properties affect the aesthetic quality of the area, as well as facilitate the growth of pest populations.
Mildew or odor development. Drainage issues and water accumulation can also lead to the development of mildew and odor.
Overflowing plumbing. If not adequately maintained, drainage systems can backup causing overflowing sinks, showers, bathtubs, and toilets.
Leakage of piping. The backing up of water in a drain system increases the amount of pressure within the piping, leading to faster deterioration and a greater risk of leaking.
Water damage. Water overflow and leakage contribute significantly to the overall water damage costs experienced by residential and commercial space owners.
Schedule Your Catch Basin Service Today
Properly cleaning and maintaining your storm catch basin system is crucial to preventing flooding and costly water damage to your commercial properties.
If you are experiencing any of the common indications of clogged or blocked storm drain systems outlined above, contact us today to request a quote or schedule your storm drain cleaning service appointment.
If something goes wrong with the septic system in your business, it can be a major expense to replace it. Because of this, proper maintenance is a necessity to protect your septic system from damage. If you take the correct steps to care for your septic system before problems arise, the septic tank will last a long time without extensive issues.
The goal of septic tank maintenance is to prevent solids from building up inside and to stop groundwater contamination. If the septic tank is leaking into the surrounding environment or is clogged up with solids, it can cause a major problem for your business. The team members at Service Pumping & Drain Co., Inc.™ are experts in cleaning and maintaining septic tanks and will make sure your septic tank is safeguarded from considerable damage.
How to Maintain a Septic Tank
Here are several different ways to reduce wear and keep a septic tank in working order:
Conserve water. The septic system doesn’t need to work as hard when less water is used. This will reduce the risk of leaks and other types of failure.
Only flush toilet safe materials. Your plumbing and septic tank cannot handle many common household items going down the toilets. Make sure that all waste is disposed of properly to prevent clogs and damage to the interior of the tank.
Keep a record of all the maintenance. Whenever you have septic or grease repairs, services, inspections, or other maintenance activities, log them so you know what parts of the septic system are in good repair.
Keep a diagram of your tank. When a plumbing service comes to your property, ensure you know the tank’s location. This way, the team can quickly find the system and repair it.
Have your tank cover or tank accessible in case of an emergency. If something goes wrong with the septic system, you will want it repaired right away. Keeping the tank accessible will make it easier for maintenance personnel to access it.
Don’t construct patios, decks, or paved surfaces over the septic system. This can block access to your system and put undue stresses on it, which leads to expensive problems down the road.
Schedule regular tank pumps with an experienced team. This will ensure the tank stays clear of debris and keeps working well.
Proper septic system care is vital to running your business. It will protect the value of your property, ensure the health of everyone in the area, and keep the environment free of contamination. Land and water that are contaminated by bacteria, viruses, and chemicals that come from septic wastewater are a danger to everyone. By taking care of the septic system, you’ll keep your employees, property, and environment safe.
Trust Our Experienced Septic Pumping Team
Service Pumping & Drain Co., Inc.™ has been providing fast, reliable, affordable service for more than 80 years. Our customers return year after year because they trust us to effectively clean and maintain the septic systems for their homes and businesses. None of our customers are locked into any type of contract. We come when you call-whenever you need us. Our technicians will work with you to determine the best cleaning schedule for your tank based on its size, use, and other factors that affect its performance.
A Massachusetts family combines old-fashioned service with 21st century technologies to create a promising future in the wastewater industry.
Dick Mottolo has been in the septic business since 1972, and in the ‘80s was a featured contractor in an early issue of the fledgling Pumper magazine. Since then his business has grown, service offerings have changed and the industry has evolved. Some of his biggest changes came from the next generation, particularly his nudge into the technology requirements of the 21st century. But there was an unexpected twist to the story.
His son, Anthony, grew up working alongside him, but as Dick began to focus more on commercial work, Anthony decided to go out on his own and concentrate on residential septic pumping. Meanwhile, his daughter, Lara, who had never been particularly interested in the business, left a theater career in New York, came home and stepped into the family business. She worked her way up through the ranks, modernizing the company as she went.
Service Pumping & Drain Co., Inc.™ is located in North Reading, Massachusetts. The 14 technicians and eight office personnel, including Dick’s wife, Carolyn, operate out of a 5-acre property and a 10,000-square-foot building, housing offices and a 15-bay garage. They work within a 100-mile radius covering Boston, eastern Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire.
A CHANGE IN FOCUS
Dick got started in the business when he purchased the company from the Hewitt family who had founded it in 1927. His background was raising pigs. “I knew nothing about this business except it was a necessity that probably would survive any downturns,” he says. He laughs when he recalls he only put $500 down. “Nowadays we can spend twice that on just one flotation tire on one of these trucks.”
He started off with two employees and two trucks and has grown every year since. And he’s done it without a sales force. “We just try to give top service consistently, no excuses, and we have a great team of people.”
In the beginning, the work was about 90 percent residential and 10 percent commercial. But gradually Dick began focusing more on commercial, and today those figures are reversed. “It just evolved,” he says. “As your overhead gets higher, you have to have the commercial because you couldn’t afford to pay the benefit packages I do with just residential.”
However, he’s not about to abandon residential customers, some of whom have been with the company for over 50 years. “I have a great deal of satisfaction with long-term customers,” he says. Lara adds it rounds out the hours. “A lot of commercial you can only do in the morning or at night, so it’s nice to have the residential during the day,” she says.
THE FRONT END
The move to commercial has also given the company a more diversified customer base, which Dick says offers protection from economic downturns and keeps the crew busy year-round. Besides pumping septic tanks, they clean catch basins, sediment pits and storm drains. They also work on car washes, parking garage drains and commercial swimming pool filters.
“And we do a lot of maintenance on lift stations and often work with various mechanics, plumbers, engineers, general contractors, municipalities and other pumpers,” Dick says. They are also licensed to do septic system inspections.
The regulatory landscape for storm drains has changed drastically over the years, Dick says, increasing their work in that area. “You’ve got new regulations all the time,” he says, “especially with new construction where they have to have a storm management plan in place. We make up a custom form for each location and number all the structures, and every quarter go in and check each one to make sure there’s no issues, and then clean them once a year. We’ve always done it, but now we’re more focused on it than ever. ”
A fair amount of their work is emergencies, but they always try to turn that into recurring maintenance work orders. “We want to keep the customer out of having a backup and keep them in compliance with regulations,” Dick says. Lara adds it’s also a good way to grow your business: “If companies can create a recurring work order or reminder for every emergency, they have a better chance of increasing the lifetime value of the customer – but you have to be proactive about it.”
Collecting grease was always a small part of Dick’s business, but it now accounts for half their work. “We do hundreds of restaurants, but also colleges, hospitals, food manufacturers, hotels, malls,” Dick says – anything from 10 gallons to 20,000. The industry has changed considerably. “Back in the ‘70s, they just assigned you a manhole and there was no documentation,” he says.
When regulations came in requiring disposal at treatment plants, Dick says it became difficult to find places that would take grease, a problem he finally solved when he came across an opportunity in 2002 to buy a small grease-processing facility. He made major improvements and now runs it as a separate business, Northeast Environmental Processing. The facility removes water from food wastewater and sends the residual material to farm digesters, making electricity. That’s another change he’s seen in the industry – “Now food waste recycling is very vogue,” he says.
MACHINES AND TRUCKS
Equipment includes a 2010 Bobcat S205 skid-steer loader, US Jetting 4018 portable jetters, Spartan Tool cameras, and RIDGID cameras and locators.
The fleet includes eight 1985 to 2006 Mack vacuum trucks with 4,000- and 5,000-gallon tanks (half are aluminum, half steel) and National Vacuum Equipment 866 pumps, most from Andert, TSI Tank Services and Longhorn Tank & Trailer.
For smaller jobs and low-entry situations, they have two Ford F‑350 vacuum trucks (2015 and 2016) with 525-gallon steel Presvac tanks, one with a Jurop/Chandler pump, the other Masport; one Ford F‑550 with a 1,200-gallon aluminum tank and Masport pump built out by Arthur Custom Tank; and two Ford F-350s with trailered US Jetting jetters (300 and 600 gallons).
For larger projects, they have three 9,000-gallon aluminum vacuum tank trailers built by Arthur Custom Tank and a 1969 Fruehauf 8,500-gallon aluminum transport pulled by Mack tractors (a 1993 R713 and a 2006 CHN613), a 2008 Aquatech B-10 (10-yard) and a 2000 Vactor 2112 (12-yard).
To maintain the fleet, Dick works with two independent mechanics who come in at night and on weekends. “Safety is paramount,” he says. “We do whatever it takes to keep them in good shape.” He also likes to have spare equipment. “I usually have one or two extra trucks ready to go in case a truck is down. That way my drivers always have a day’s work and we don’t have to make excuses to our customers.”
THE BACK END
A solid back office is required to ensure the front end operates as efficiently and effectively as possible, Dick says, and it has to keep up with changes and growth. Lara has worked hard to improve operations in this area.
After working 10 years on the administrative side of theater management after getting a degree from Fordham University, Lara was ready to make a change and in 2006 joined her father, a move that surprised both of them. She began familiarizing herself with every back office function, eventually working her way up to general manager, then vice president handling operations, marketing, financial and back-end functions.
One major contribution was taking a deep dive into technology – a real game changer for the company, Dick says. “When I first started I had a beeper, and then I went to a pay phone and put my quarters in and called the answering service. Now everything’s on the cloud.”
About eight years ago the company installed Fleetmatics REVEAL vehicle-tracking software and in 2015 added Fleetmatics WORK, a cloud-based customer relations software and computerized dispatching program that integrates with QuickBooks accounting software. Drivers access schedules and route information with an app on their Samsung Galaxy Note smartphones. Dick says the value of software like this can’t be overestimated.
“Your key to profitability is efficient dispatching, efficient routing because traffic is a major issue, and efficient handling of the customers so they feel like they know you, you know them and you know what their needs are,” he says.
Lara also implemented an Internet-based phone system and refreshed the website created by Anthony and his wife, Mary. She says technology in a large company is a necessity, but cautions that it doesn’t run on autopilot. “You really do need to have someone in the office who has some computer knowledge and is willing to take the time to learn and work with these programs.”
As critical as technology is to a business, Dick and Lara never lose sight of the fact that employees are their best asset. “Without good people, you can’t provide the high level of service,” Dick says. “And you can’t afford turnover either. It takes a couple years to train a guy. And customers like to see familiar faces.”
Besides good pay and benefits, Lara says Dick treats people fairly and respectfully. “They’re our eyes and ears – they’re the ones representing the company. They all know they’re valued.” A number of employees have been with the company 10 and 20 years.
Dick credits Lara with upgrading company handbooks, formalizing the hiring process, and professionalizing the human resources function. “Years ago, management was by the seat of the pants,” he says. “But as you get a little larger, you really do have to manage.”
The mom-and-pop business Dick bought more than 40 years ago looks nothing like the sophisticated commercial operation he has today. Even Lara has seen big changes in just the last 10 years – customers are more savvy, they expect faster turnaround and 24‑hour accessibility, and there’s increased regulations, recordkeeping and reporting requirements.
At 73, Dick says he still has his commercial driver’s license and could jump in a truck if he had to, but he mostly looks out for the big picture. He has no plans to retire but is comfortable he’s got a great team, led by Lara and 27-year veteran General Manager John Nicholas.
Lara’s grateful to be there. “I wasn’t expecting to like it as much as I do, but it’s a very challenging industry, it’s fast-paced and it’s constantly changing.” She’s also proud she and Dick have developed a great working relationship. “Family businesses can be so difficult, and a lot of it really does come down to communication and respect and treating each other as professionals.”
Lara says the future will be more of the same – continue to grow, evolve and take on new challenges. “Our foot is still very much on the gas pedal,” she says.
Little changes make a huge difference in efficiency for Massachusetts pumper
Dick Mottolo has seen a lot of changes to vacuum trucks over the 43 years he’s been in business with his company Service Pumping & Drain Co., Inc.™ in North Reading, Massachusetts. But he says it’s sometimes the small innovations that can have the biggest impact: improving efficiency, customer relations and safety – and they just make life easier.
One device he now has on all his vacuum trucks is a SeeLevel gauge from Garnet Instruments, which allows a driver to see how full the tank is.
“There’s a digital gauge under the driver’s seat facing the driver’s door and he can see how many gallons are in the truck when he gets done at any particular pumping job,” Mottolo says. This provides a way of showing customers exactly how many gallons the technician pumped, giving them proof as well as peace of mind that they’re being charged accurately. He prefers the gauges to sight glasses, which he says are more difficult to deal with. “I wouldn’t want to have a truck without one,” he says of the SeeLevel.
Another problem Mottolo no longer has to deal with is frozen valves. Massachusetts winters can be brutal on trucks, and although he has a 15-bay garage to store his vehicles at night, he can’t protect them out on the road.
“In the old days, during the winter we’d be out there with a torch unfreezing the valves between jobs,” he says. Those days are gone with the invention of non-freeze valves. “It’s kind of a water-jacketed fitting next to each valve. Basically you circulate the water from your cooling system of the truck.” He says you wouldn’t need them down south but it’s definitely the way to go for anyone who can’t afford to shut down for a few days when bad weather hits. No temperature is too cold, he says. “We’ve had very good luck with them.
“The SeeLevel gauges and non-freeze valves I think are huge,” Mottolo says. “These things, although they don’t sound like much, have been a big improvement on pump trucks.”
Dick Mottolo, President of Service Pumping & Drain Co., Inc.™ with part of the company fleet.