Grease is the Meal Ticket for This Established North Carolina Pumping Company

Pumping and treating challenging restaurant waste plays an integral role in the continued growth of North Carolina’s Overbey Septic Tank Service.
Grease is the Meal Ticket for This Established North Carolina Pumping Company
The Overbey’s Septic Tank Services team includes, from left, Ronnie Overbey, Juan Mendez, Clay Harrell, Delores McMasters, Roger Hanks, Taylor Overbey, Brian Gerringer and Rickey Cook. Behind them is a vacuum truck built out by Advance Pump & Equipment. (Photos by Al Drago)

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Cultural changes have nudged Overbey’s Septic Tank Service into different directions since the mid-1940s when Bob Overbey and his brothers returned home to McLeansville, North Carolina, after World War II. They picked up odd jobs such as hauling and grading, but their septic work began to dominate as indoor plumbing became more widespread in rural America.

Another cultural shift in the ‘70s and ‘80s led to a new line of work for septic companies. Where once restaurants were few and far between, they became ubiquitous, and along with that came new regulations regarding grease management. For Overbey’s, grease trap pumping went from basically nothing to half its business.

Then there was the technology revolution. Like many other septic service providers, Overbey’s was slow to embrace it. But the handwriting was on the wall and it was only a matter of time before the company had to incorporate it — a good thing, admits Bob’s son Ronnie Overbey, as it really is a help in running the business.

Today, Ronnie Overbey and his sister Delores McMasters run the company, along with Overbey’s 24-year-old son Taylor, who is starting to take on more responsibility. The two men work in the field along with a team of five technicians. McMasters handles the office, dispatch and bookwork. They work out of a 10,000-square-foot shop/office on 2 acres.

On the septic side they do pumping, repairs, installs and inspections. Non-septic services are run under the name Triad Industrial Services and include pumping of grease traps (everything from small restaurants to large institutions) and other nonhazardous materials and jetting of sewer lines. They also operate their own dewatering facility. Their service territory covers about a 50-mile radius.


Overbey grew up working in the business until he was 12, when his father unexpectedly passed away. The company died out with him until Overbey graduated from high school in 1980 and started it up again. “I still knew the business — or knew it all you could at that age,” he says. It took off slowly, but he wasn’t concerned. “When you start off from nothing and you get one job, it’s great,” he says. “You didn’t expect much.” But he says the business grew every year.

He could have made a comfortable living just doing septic work, but fate had other things in store for him. In the mid-1990s, as municipalities in his area began requiring restaurants to put in grease traps and keep them clean, he started getting calls. “The restaurants were just trying to find people to clean them and the septic guys were the only ones capable of doing it,” he says. As the work picked up, he eventually started advertising for it and the revenue accelerated.


Another municipal policy change led to yet another unexpected addition to Overbey’s business. In the early 2000s local municipalities stopped allowing companies to dispose of grease at wastewater treatment plants. “When that was 50 percent of your pumping business, you were either going to have to do something to get rid of it or not pump them,” Overbey says. While a lot of companies chose to get out of the business, Overbey, decided to build a dewatering facility.

“We made it, we did it our way.” He worked with a local chemist to come up with a number of polymers. “We just tried different ones until we got one that really worked good for our waste,” he says. As the grease comes off the truck and goes into a 6,000-gallon chamber, the polymer is added, binding the solids together. “Then it’s run through 20, 30 feet of piping and it starts separating,” he says. “It’s really magic.”

The mixture then goes to a 20,000-gallon underground concrete storage tank. Fine mesh screens in the walls hold the solids while the liquid flows through into the tank. From there the liquid is pumped into tankers and hauled to the municipal treatment center, and the solids are taken to a commercial composting operation where they’re combined with yard and food waste, and paper and cardboard products.

“They’ll put it in windrows and just keep turning it over and it’s compost in about a 90- to 120-day period,” Overbey explains. “When it’s all said and done it comes out like black topsoil.”

The company-built system served them well until 2015 when it started reaching capacity and Overbey found himself at a crossroads yet again. If he wanted to continue growing that part of his business he’d have to get a new system. This time he decided to buy one. So far he’s got the building and storage tanks in place at the new state-of-the-art facility he’s building, and he’s getting ready to purchase a 6,000-gallon In the Round Dewatering tank, a system he’s been eyeing at the Water & Wastewater Equipment, Treatment & Transport Show for the last few years. It will be less labor-intensive, handle more grease, remove more water and save them money on weight-based disposal fees.


Meanwhile, back at the office, other changes in the business were taking place as McMasters started incorporating technology into their processes and automating procedures. Phone book advertising gave way to website marketing, bookkeeping was computerized, and customers could order service through email.

Overbey admits he’s not real comfortable with computers and all the new technology, but he’s forging ahead on it anyway. “We’re transitioning into it,” he says, “which for us older guys it’s a little tougher than the new generation where that stuff’s just natural to them.”

Their latest purchase is Summit Service System software from Ritam Technologies, a scheduling and billing program. At this time they’re just planning to use it for their grease trap work because those customers are on regularly scheduled maintenance plans. After a grease trap is pumped the driver will log it in, then the software will create an invoice, schedule the next service and determine the most efficient routing. As soon as McMasters finishes inputting client information into the system and the drivers get trained on how to use iPads to pull up their schedules and log in work, they’ll go live with it.

“This has never been an industry that’s got all the technology to it,” Overbey says. “But it’s slowly getting there.”


One thing that doesn’t change much at Overbey’s is the people. The company has a very dedicated and loyal staff — Roger Hanks with 28 years of service, Rickey Cook 22, Brian Gerringer 11, Juan Mendez six, and Clay Harrell two. Overbey says the company provides good benefits and management lives by the golden rule, treating workers like they would want to be treated. “When you’ve been here that long, you’re family,” he says. “In fact, you work with these guys, you see them more than you see your family.”

He’s very careful about hiring the right people. “We don’t advertise,” he says. “We just try to be patient and find local people we know a little something about.” Because all the drivers have a CDL, in some ways they come prequalified, he says. “To have CDLs nowadays, you’ve got to be pretty clean. You have to have a good driving record and no drugs. You’ve got to be a pretty good person.” A good work ethic is one characteristic Overbey looks for and promotes. “We try to do every job like it’s our own job,” he says.

Equipment assets include a 1993 International with a 3,000-gallon steel tank and Battioni 720 pump built out by Lely Manufacturing; a 2007 International with a 3,600-gallon waste/400-gallon freshwater aluminum tank and ROBUSCHI pump, also from Lely; a 2009 Kenworth with a 4,500-gallon steel tank and National Vacuum Equipment 4310 blower built out by Amthor International; and their most recent purchase, just picked up at the latest WWETT Show, a 2017 Western Star built out by Advance Pump & Equipment with a 3,800-gallon waste/400-gallon freshwater aluminum tank and NVE 4310 blower. They also have two vacuum tankers, a 1995 Mac and a 1997 Freightliner, from Polar Tank Trailer with 6,500-gallon aluminum tanks and Fruitland Manufacturing pumps.

Other equipment includes a John Deere 225 excavator, one mini-excavator and two skid-steers from Takeuchi Manufacturing, two Case 590 backhoes, a Case 650 dozer, three jetters from Cat Pumps, three Dodge pickups with utility beds and pipe racks, one International tandem dump truck and two Rogers Manufacturing dump trailers.


The only way to stay in the septic service industry for 70 years is to adapt to inevitable change. The Overbey family has done that in the past, and whatever challenges or opportunities come their way in the future will be met head on. Overbey admits to being in unfamiliar territory with the technology revolution, but says even the old guys are now getting on the bandwagon.

“It’s pretty exciting when you don’t have to sit here and try to run a business on a piece of paper,’’ he says, “and plan the next day on phone calls and memory.”

Partners in grime

It’s hard to keep a large staff busy in the slow season, yet a company wants to have enough people on hand to keep up with demand when they’re busy. For Ronnie Overbey and his sister Delores McMasters, owners of Overbey’s Septic Tank Service, one solution they’ve come up with is to partner with other companies.

“We’ve got two other septic companies we team up with from time to time,” Overbey says. “If we get on big jobs and need more manpower we can pull them in. It keeps us from having a big staff.” The partnerships allow Overbey to bid on larger jobs than they could handle on their own. And if they’re short-handed, unusually busy or have an emergency on their hands, they know they’ve got a backup crew available. They also sub out work to each other if it makes more sense logistically.

The three companies — located in adjacent counties — started working together about seven years ago. They met at the North Carolina Septic Tank Association. “You meet a lot of people, find out what they’re about and where they’re at, and it’s just building relationships,” Overbey says. “It all started from that.”

Overbey says the collaboration has been a benefit for all parties. “You can be a little more diversified,” he says. “It helps everybody out.”


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