Reid Hanson and Cole Ritter Find a Home in the Wastewater Industry

Two young business partners serving North Dakota’s oilfield industry turned to pumping and portable sanitation and found consistent revenue and greater satisfaction.

Reid Hanson and Cole Ritter Find a Home in the Wastewater Industry

Cole Ritter (left), 34, and Reid Hanson, 31, bought A-1 Evans Septic Tank Service in Minot, North Dakota. They are shown with a vacuum truck built out by Imperial Industries. (Photos by Kyle Martin)

When a 30-year-old business is doing well, it’s best not to make drastic changes. And, if you have a good team of workers, make sure you keep them happy.

Reid Hanson and Cole Ritter figured that out immediately after purchasing A-1 Evans Septic Tank Service in 2016. As previous owners of a business that did commercial cleaning and transported water for fracking in North Dakota oilfields, they know the Minot, North Dakota, area. Plus they had hired A-1 Evans Septic Tank Service to clean out tanks for their business, so they were familiar with pumping services. In 2014, when work in the oilfields slowed down, former A-1 Evans Septic Tank Service owner, Sandon Varty, let Hanson and Ritter know his business was for sale. They decided to purchase it.

A couple of years into the ownership, the partners are adapting to their new business and utilizing their oilfield experience and contacts to broaden their market and services across northern North Dakota.


Ritter’s wife, BreeAnna, is Hanson’s sister, and the brothers-in-law worked well together for four years in their oilfield/water transfer business. Ritter handled the office work, while Hanson managed employees and worked in the field. 

Hanson, 31, and Ritter, 34, were just building their business when they lost the work from their main contractor. “We had planned in the back of our minds to transition out of the oilfields so the work wasn’t so up and down,” Hanson says. “Not enough work made up our minds for us.”

A-1 Evans Septic Tank Service was a good option. “It was a turnkey business; that was appealing to us. It took the startup work off of us,” Hanson says. 

The company not only provides regular work, but also opportunity. “We got calls the first day, and at local home and garden shows, people asked if we installed septic systems,” Hanson says. 

Utilizing employees with experience installing systems and who were already making small repairs and pump changes, A-1 Evans Septic Tank Service added installing complete systems within a year after the new owners took over. By the end of 2017, they earned National Association of Waste- water Technicians certification to add tank inspection to their list of services.

As in their other business, Ritter and Hanson divide duties. Ritter handles the office work, and Hanson deals with sales. Both are hands-on and can fill in wherever needed, from servicing portable restrooms to pumping tanks and cleaning drains.


“Dude (Varty) stayed on for a couple of months,” Hanson says, to help with the transition. “He’s been a great help and is a phone call away.” For example, customers who haven’t had their septic tanks pumped for years may not know where the lid is. 

“They say, ‘Dude knows where it is,’” Hanson says. “He has a very good memory.” 

Besides his hands-on help, Varty left the business with another important asset — a good reputation. “He (Varty) definitely had a good client base and a very good reputation for service and cleanliness on the portable restroom side. It’s something we are definitely mirroring as we go forward,” Hanson notes. “We don’t want to disturb that,” Ritter adds. 


Varty also passed on a team of good employees.

“It’s nice with our business being a family operation and close-knit,” Ritter says. 

Though high wages luring workers to the oilfield creates retention issues for some employers, A-1 Evans Septic Tank Service employees have been with the company for an average of six years. 

“We very seldom have a turnover,” says Carson Varty, who first started working for his cousin about nine years ago and works on the portable restroom side of the business. “We are getting benefits, good wages, and they are treating us right. They ask for our opinions.”

Those benefits include a 401(k) match, 100 percent health insurance coverage, and other insurance options, Ritter adds. Employees also appreciate the regular hours and being close to home instead of far off in an oilfield.

“All of our guys are very well-trained,” Hanson says, and most know how to work on both the pumping side and portable restroom side of the business. All can do jetting and drain cleaning. A-1 Evans Septic Tank Service pays for training they need for certifications. Between informal meetings in the morning when getting the day’s schedule and their experience and common sense, workers know their routes, their jobs, and how to dress appropriately for the weather that can be hot or frigid.


One thing that has changed for employees is the expansion of customers. Contacts from their previous oilfield business have been helpful in adding to A-1 Evans Septic Tank Service’s customer list, Hanson notes.

“We’ve gotten busier in the oilfields,” Varty says. “It’s not harder, just more miles.” Working on the restroom side of the business, he is one of four drivers who easily drive 250 miles a day servicing a route. 

“We see the repair and install side of the business as having very good potential,” Hanson adds. “But at the same time, you have to get out there and sell yourself with pumping.” 

Two employees are certified to make installations with a Bobcat excavator and a couple of Bobcat skid loaders. Hanson and Ritter kept one of the Bobcats, along with a variety of shop tools, from their previous business. 

A-1 Evans Septic Tank Service installed eight systems in 2017 and hopes to build up to 20 systems in 2018.

To accomplish the goal, they are taking out ads and promoting their installation services at trade shows.


With the purchase of A-1 Evans Septic Tank Service, Hanson and Ritter acquired a good fleet of trucks.

Because the business serves a big area, the pumper trucks and tanks are large including two semis — a 2005 Peterbilt 379 and a 2006 Kenworth T600 that each pull 5,000-gallon tanker trailers from Troxell and (R-Way) Krain Creek Fabrication, all equipped with Masport pumps. Other large trucks include a 2014 Peterbilt with a 4,200-gallon Imperial Industries aluminum tank and a Masport pump; a 2008 Kenworth with a 3,000-gallon Progress Tank aluminum tank and a National Vacuum Equipment pump; a 2002 International with a 3,500-gallon steel tank with a Masport pump, and 2005 Freightliner with a 3,000-gallon steel tank and Masport pump, both from Transport Truck Sales; a 2011 International with a 4,200-gallon Progress Tank aluminum tank with an National Vacuum Equipment pump; and a 1993 International with a 1,500-gallon steel tank. 

A-1 Evans Septic Tank Service land-applies some septage on certified rented fields. The rest goes to Minot’s wastewater facility. 

The company also has an old International jetter truck with a 3/4-inch line, and hot water/steam jetter trailer and cart jetter to clear frozen and plugged rural and municipal lines and for drain cleaning services for a variety of businesses including car washes, shop drains and mechanic shops. They plan to update jetter equipment in the near future, Hanson says.

For the portable restroom side, the partners acquired four Chevrolet and one Dodge 3500 trucks between 2006 and 2015 with Imperial Industries slide-in units as well as a 2013 Dodge 5500 with a 1,000-gallon waste and 500-gallon freshwater tank (Progress Tank). They purchased a 2017 Chevy 3500 with a Progress Tank slide-in unit. All have Masport pumps. With about half the restrooms in the oilfields, it takes four trucks a day to handle the long routes to service them. 

About 800 portable restrooms are in A-1 Evans Septic Tank Service’s inventory. Most are Satellite Industries Tufway models, including standard skid-mounted units, single and double trailer-mounted units, 20 heated trailer units, washstands and crane units. Being in the center of North Dakota, the crane units work well for projects like a grain elevator that was recently built. 

Restrooms for the oilfields and construction create a steady service schedule year-round. Summertime is busiest for providing restrooms for events throughout the region, including the North Dakota State Fair in Minot.

Keeping equipment and trucks in good shape is important to maintaining a good reputation.

“We have a maintenance program and have started to rotate vehicle inventory,” Hanson says, to make sure trucks are available for pumping, servicing restrooms, and jetting. 

Drivers are responsible for the maintenance (such as oil changes) for their trucks. “They make the place go. Having a truck down costs money,” Ritter adds.

Maintenance is important because trucks put on about 5,000 miles a month. A-1 Evans Septic Tank Service has two shops, one for pumper trucks and the other for portable restroom trucks, so drivers have a dry, comfortable space to work. 


As young businessmen, Hanson and Ritter recognize the benefits of technology and social media for running and promoting the business, but they believe old-school methods are important too. “We’re in the Yellow Pages and run ads on the radio. We feel radio is very beneficial,” Hanson says. 

They also use social media with a presence on Instagram and Facebook, and they plan to update the business website, build on social media, and eventually go paperless with electronic invoicing and e-commerce. Currently, they use QuickBooks for accounting.

The trucks have GPS, but drivers tend to use their smartphones for navigation. 

“With the (oil) boom, cell service is one thing that really improved in western North Dakota,” Hanson says.

To learn more about the industry, the partners were excited about attending their first Water & Wastewater Equipment, Treatment & Transport (WWETT) Show in 2018. “We wanted to see new ideas, new technologies, anything we could bring back to better service our customers,” Hanson says. For example, A-1 Evans Septic Tank Service has a MyTana Mfg. push camera that is mostly used for inspecting residential lines. The partners plan to purchase a bigger unit and grow the camera business in Minot and the small municipalities nearby.


While Varty says the workplace hasn’t changed with the transition to new owners, the company is growing — geographically and with expanded services. Though they are still learning about the pumping and portable restroom business, it’s been fairly easy to adapt, the partners say. 

“We’ve all been around big trucks, so it’s not a large learning curve,” Hanson says. “The hard work and long hours stayed the same.” Part of those long hours includes looking for more work and more growth while balancing serving current customers.

“We’re a 24/7 operation,” Hanson says, so someone is always on call after hours to handle emergencies. “We offer good service, a friendly face, and can talk customers through things.”

By adding installation and repair to their services, A-1 Evans Septic Tank Service is a one-stop business that continues to build on successes the former owner left them. “Our biggest goal is to maintain our good service and reputation and to expand our service area,” Ritter concludes.

Oilfield networking

Cole Ritter and Reid Hanson take advantage of their experience operating a business in the oilfields. When the partners switched to the pumping industry, they sold off most of their equipment and trucks. But they didn’t forget their contacts. 

“We didn’t expand the territory, but we did expand the customer base,” Hanson says, especially with previous contacts from the oilfields.

“We had a good reputation before, and we told them we can take care of all your toilet and septic needs,” he says. “So, they gave us a chance, and it’s been a trickle effect from there. We inched our way in and proved ourselves, when given an opportunity, with good service and pricing.”  

The partners had hired A-1 Evans Septic Tank Service to pump tanks from their industrial cleaning job and to clean out shop drains, so they knew what wastewater services oilfield shops needed. “We make a lot of cold calls in the oilfield and to businesses around town,” Hanson says. 

Between that and putting out bids for work, the partners believe there is one more thing important to be successful. “The harder you work, the more work you get. Keep your nose to the grindstone,” Hanson says. “It’s always worked for us that way.”


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