Septic tank pumping a family affair
by Jackie Norris
As a child, Ronnie Heyd dreamed of being a big-time executive with a corner office. But when he met his wife, Kimberly, who assisted in her father's septic business, those plans went down the drain. "She told me she loved me so much that she'd give me the best job she ever had," Heyd says. Kimberly's father retired in 2002 and passed his business, Septic Pumping Service in Matthews, on to the couple.
Heyd wouldn't have it any other way. Despite the smell and exposure to the elements, he finds his work satisfying. "The worst part of my job is pumping out a tank on a 10-degree Saturday morning," says Heyd. "But the best part is meeting new and different people every day. We've always tried to treat our customers as if they were family."
Family is an important key to his success. Heyd's nephew Corey shares the workload and Kimberly still takes care of all the paperwork and business decisions.
Heyd enjoys talking to and educating his customers on how their systems work and what they can and can't handle. "The worst thing I've ever seen is a woman who was flushing cat litter down her toilet for five years," he says. "It caused her tank to split on all four sides. I went ahead and pumped it, but after three years, the litter settled in the bottom and corroded the tank in my truck. I had to buy a new truck, but I learned a good lesson. No more kitty litter."
Heyd's available seven days a week and answers his phone 24 hours a day. "When business calls - it calls," he says.
March and April are his busiest times of the year due to the heavy rainfall and melting snow. "There isn't a soul around here with a tank that's working properly once the snow melts," he says. "The water just won't drain as well when the soil is already soaked, so it can cause the tank to overfill. If I had five pump trucks, every one of them would be busy."
But Heyd only has one 3,000-gallon truck that he takes to the the McAlpine Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant at least twice a day. They charge him by the gallon, so his fees are based on the size of the tank pumped. Sometimes, he finds a few other things when he empties his truck. In addition to kitty litter, Heyd once found a dead 18-inch rat. "It somehow got into the tank, but we didn't find it until we were dumping the waste at the treatment facility."
Neither the smell nor the rodents deter Heyd from taking pride in his profession. He compares the stench of sewage to living near a turkey farm: "You get used to it," he says. "Lots of people think this is a pretty bad thing to do for a living, but there is a job that always needs to be done and someone needs to do it. It's not elegant, but a job can be as fun as you make it - I think mine is pretty fun."