Pumping Is a Family Affair for This Successful Indiana Wastewater Company

The lure of working together and growth potential of the wastewater industry keeps members of the Lappin family pulling on their work boots every day

Pumping Is a Family Affair for This Successful Indiana Wastewater Company

The Lappin Septic Service crew includes, from left Mackenzie Stephenson, Ben Lappin, Phill Lappin, Jessica Lappin and Bryan Wagner. (Photos by Kate Tillman)

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One of the things customers can count on when they call Lappin Septic Service in Lakeville, Indiana, is help from someone who is part of — or very close to — the Lappin family. And, that whoever it is, the service will be friendly and helpful. It’s what the business has built its reputation on since 1987, when Phill Lappin took over, and it continues now with his son, Benjamin Lappin, and daughter, Jessica Lappin.

The Lappin family prides itself on listening to the concerns of customers and giving honest appraisals and advice about the care and maintenance of their septic systems.


Phill had always been an entrepreneur, first cutting trees and selling firewood. In 1987, when a septic pumping business owner wanted to retire, Phill’s wife, Denise, convinced him to try it. With just a truck and a phone number, Phill, a natural jack of all trades, figured out how to pump and run the business (originally called Lakeville Septic Service). With help from his family, the business took off.

Ben Lappin admits that while growing up he had no desire to carry on his father’s septic pumping business. Instead, he went to technical college for motorcycle repair with an associate business degree for his dream job to own a motorcycle shop. But, after working for others for a few years, he realized the seasonal limitations of Midwest motorcycling.

When his father started talking about retiring in 2015, Ben was ready for a change.

“Dad offered significantly better pay and I came back to give it a shot,” Ben says. “I would call it an apprenticeship for five years.”

The training was similar to what he had done at age 12, dragging hoses and performing odd jobs. Soon he was pumping, cleaning out distribution boxes and leachfields and getting his commercial driver’s license in 2016 so he could drive and pump on his own. In March 2021, Benjamin, now 32, purchased the business from Phill.

The business brought his sister, Jessica, back home too. She worked for big businesses and managed offices, including a commercial real estate company where she handled repair calls, preventive maintenance, etc., for 5 million square feet of real estate. She was working for a tree service when COVID hit in 2020.

“Ben instituted customer service systems online and sent notifications. He brought the business into the 21st century,” Jessica says. “Ben and Dad asked me to please work for them. I started small, taking phone calls and paying bills. As time went on, I built a website and added social media.”

Like Ben, she rode and worked with her dad when she was a youngster, so Jessica, 47, understands the business. Between that and the management skills she gained working for other companies she is well qualified as business manager for Lappin Septic Service.

“It’s nice working with my brother; we work very well together,” Jessica says.


Besides updating the accounting and marketing, Ben recognized the need to upgrade equipment. The main truck is a 1996 International 8100 with a Cummins engine showing 750,000 miles. The truck has a Du-Mar Welding 4,000-gallon stainless steel tank, manways and hose trays, and a Battioni Pagani MEC11000 vacuum pump. The truck has a 9-speed Fuller Transmission (Eaton Vehicle Group) manual transmission. 

“It …  has its quirks to get it to pump,” Ben says. He adds that finding a reputable mechanic (Mike Norris of MD Technicians) has been essential to keep up with regular maintenance and to deal with minor issues before bigger problems come up.

Its large tank makes it efficient to pump up to four septic tanks in rural areas before unloading at a wastewater facility.

But the truck’s size didn’t always work as well in-town settings that account for about half of Lappin’s business.

“The city of Granger has one of the highest populations of houses per square mile that are on septic instead of sewer,” Ben explains. Though it’s about 30 miles from Lakeville, he convinced his dad to invest in a more modern and smaller truck to service that area.

“The challenge is the houses are close, there are short driveways and people don’t want us parking on the driveway so half the time we park on the road,” he says. While Ben is very adept at driving the big truck in tight places, the second truck is easier for others to drive.

The smaller rig is a 2014 Freightliner with a 270 hp Cummins engine, 5-speed Allison automatic transmission, Du-Mar Welding 2,500-gallon stainless steel tank and stainless steel manways and hose trays with a Battioni Pagani MEC11000 vacuum pump.

“I bought the (low mileage) truck as a flatbed and added tool trays, and side trays and replicated the old truck that we had modified,” Ben says, so that both are set up similarly. “The small truck is automatic transition and very user-friendly.”

A 2007 Ford E250, capable of towing machinery, serves as the work van for the repair/maintenance side of the business and is stocked 

with hand tools and DeWALT 20V Max Tools.

“Our bigger, more expensive equipment we use regularly include a RIDGID KJ2200 water jetter, RIDGID K400 and K750 drum machines, a Ferret Pro inspection camera (and Ferret stick) and a Pranite sewer line inspection camera,” Ben says.

In the office, Jessica uses QuickBooks for accounting and payroll and Housecall Pro for scheduling and billing. Because of her past jobs she is very familiar with the area and plans the routing herself. With the GPS mapping system on phones, she can see exactly where drivers are at any time.


With the new truck, it didn’t take long for Ben’s girlfriend, Mackenzie Stephenson, to start driving for the Lappins.

“She’d been helping the company about four or five years before she got her Class A CDL and started driving. She can also do repairs if needed,” Jessica says.

Phill did repair work and maintenance on systems until recently. With strict regulations in their state, there is plenty of local demand. As Phill moved into retirement, Jessica’s fiancé Bryan Wagner started working as a repair tech and state certified inspector.

“Before this I was in retail and one of the things I learned early on with Phill and Ben is that we offer a service and to treat it like it is something that is extremely important. This is a major deal,” Wagner says about the importance of properly working septic systems.

He handles everything from installing risers and safety devices to meet code in one of the counties they serve; to drainline cleaning, cleaning, repairing and replacing filters and baffles; hydrojetting and replacing main sewer lines.

Seasonally, things can get pretty hectic with work seven days a week. This spring with all the rain, Lappin Septic Service was booked out three weeks for drain cleaning. It kept Bryan and Ben busy with maintenance jobs.

They did much of the work by hand-digging until recently when biweekly chiropractic visits and increased demand convinced Ben to invest in a compact Bobcat 418 excavator and a single-axle, heavy-duty trailer with a tilting bed from PJ Trailers.


The business’ best marketing begins with Jessica answering the phone, 24/7.

“After servicing customers we’ve gotten countless remarks about how nice Jessica is on the phone,” Ben says.

“I’ve been in customer service since I was 15,” Jessica notes, adding that her parents were always friendly and went out of their way to help people. “I remember almost everybody and I add private notes about what to do and what not to do.”

Beyond the personal service, she focuses on modern and tried-and-true forms of marketing. The business has a website that clearly describes the services they offer. Jessica regularly posts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, runs ads on Google and checks in on Yelp, Nextdoor and HomeAdvisor. In 2021 she applied for and got Better Business Bureau accreditation for the business. In 2022, she advertised Lappin Septic on a billboard on a major highway. The pumping business also gets exposure by supporting local sports teams and by offering discounts to churches and retired people on fixed incomes. As a Homes for Heroes affiliate, they offer discounts to current and former firefighters, paramedics, EMTs, law enforcement and other first responders as well as military, health care workers and educational staff.


Over the years many family members have worked part time for Lappin Septic Service.

“It works pretty good,” Ben says. “The first person to work with me was my niece Faith. It became her yearly summer job to ride along, drag hoses and even pump septic tanks.”

Since then, he’s hired nephews and pays them well with flexible scheduling.

With many lake properties having holding tanks that require frequent pumping, plus state parks, campgrounds and seasonal pumping along with regular customers, having two trucks and drivers help prevent too many long hours and burnout.

With demand for inspections and repairs increasing, a nephew, Cayden Heckman, on break from college worked with Bryan during the summer.

“Part of our marketing is that we can get you in a day or two and that we offer friendly service and are fair priced,” Jessica says. “I’ve gotten so many compliments from customers (about Bryan). He talks a lot to homeowners about why something needs to be done.”

In his inspection work he often suggests fixes instead of just fails, which save customers money and help them pass inspection.

It’s that kind of service that keeps customers coming back and ensures continued success for the Lappin family business.


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