Septic service is a family business
by Tristan Schmid
For Frank Powers III and IV, septic work is a family affair. The father and son team started Powers Septic & Sewer in Noblesville eight years ago when they couldn't find reliable help to maintain the septic system at their family-owned Suburban Estates Mobile Home Park in Cicero.
"A lot of people that get out of the [septic] trucks would probably scare housewives," says Frank Powers III, 53. "So I knew there'd be room for a different kind of company." The duo had the experience required to successfully compete in the field: the 29-year-old Powers drove a concrete truck and worked for an excavation company, and his father ran a sewage plant for more than two decades.
Neither complains about the unavoidable smell. "You get used to it," Frank IV says. "The septic tank itself doesn't smell very much - the smell is back by the truck where the exhaust is." He says dropping loads of sewage at the treatment plant in Indianapolis is a different matter. "If you're down at the dump in Indianapolis next to a portable toilet truck and they're dumping, that is a smell you'll never forget."
The Powers don't deal with portable toilets, but they do stay busy driving their red, white and blue trucks to cleaning jobs. "I usually run one septic truck almost all day, every day, six days a week," Frank IV says.
Over the years, the Powers have seen some interesting things in septic tanks, including Maglites, cell phones and a dead squirrel. "I've pulled some condoms out: People say they didn't use them, and they look at their teenage daughter or son," Frank IV says.
One couple also almost lost their 14-year-old blind, deaf cattle dog in a tank. They had two dogs and the wife was worried about the little dog, so she put it in the house. Then the husband came home and the bigger dog walked over by him and slid into the septic tank.
"But the man reached down, grabbed the dog and got him out. He said he wouldn't have gotten that dog out if it wasn't a good dog."
The guys say staying clean is easier than it sounds. "The rookies like to wrangle the pumping hose," Frank IV says. "You tell them, 'Keep everything away from you. Don't do any sudden movement if your gloves are wet, because those drips, they go flying and they're going to get on you.'"
He might some day share this advice with his 3-year-old daughter and 6-year-old son, who like to ride in the truck. "They just like to spend time with Dad or Grandpa."