A Later-in-Life Wastewater Company Owner Aims to Treat His Crew With Respect and Make Customer Education a Priority

Rather than shine up the golf clubs or kick back on the boat, Mark Chase decided to spend his golden years building a pumping business

A Later-in-Life Wastewater Company Owner Aims to Treat His Crew With Respect and Make Customer Education a Priority

Chase inspects an onsite system utilizing a Norweco Singulair aerator system, while Mike Bolen pumps the tank.

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In 2020, after retiring from a career as a refuse truck driver in Phoenix, Mark Chase and his wife Trenna moved to Williams, Arizona, bought a small septic pumping company and soon became valued members of the community.

“It was a single-truck company owned by an older gentleman who was just pretty well wore out,” Chase says. The venture gave new purpose and life to Chase and he, in turn, brought energy and enthusiasm to the company. The business quickly grew and within three months he was expanding services.

Although Chase had a few good mentors in his prior occupation, he also saw customer service and employee relationships go downhill over the years. He wanted to do the opposite — put people first, profits second. He loves being an integral part of the community, not just a cog in the wheel of a large company.

“It’s kind of like Cheers where everybody knows your name,” he says. “When I go into stores here, people come up to me and say, ‘Hey, Mark, how you doing?’ I love that. I love being somebody here that people trust and rely on to take care of their needs.”

The company, Cyclone Septic, is operated out of the Chase home and an equipment storage yard. Trenna, who has a background in accounting, handles the company’s books but also works full time at an investment company in Phoenix. Chase’s father-in-law, Perry Brown, a retired semi truck driver, told Chase to put him to work — “A body in motion stays in motion,” he says. He handles the portable restroom work. Mike Bolen rounds out the team, operating heavy equipment and pumping septics.

“He’s a strapping young man and strong as an ox,” Chase says. “I’ve basically taken him under my wing. I’m teaching him not only the septic business but how to be a good young man.”

They work within a 60-mile radius. The area is rural, mountainous and touristy being located on historic Route 66 and just 60 miles from the Grand Canyon. Customers run the gamut from construction companies and homeowners to off-grid residents and sports enthusiasts.


The previous owner of the company worked with Chase for about two weeks and then Chase was on his own. With his background, he was comfortable driving the truck and otherwise taught himself the business.

“I have one of those minds that, when I read something, I soak it all in,” he says. “I started reading every manual I could, watching everything I could on the internet, talking to people. I’m not afraid of jumping into something and figuring it out.”

The purchase price gave Chase the company name, phone number and one vacuum truck, a 2006 Chevrolet Kodiak with a 2,000-gallon steel tank and Jurop RV360 pump. But the guy wouldn’t give him the customer list. He told him not to worry about it, people would call. So he waited for the phone to ring.

Finally, at wit’s end and wondering if he had done the right thing, Chase, an ordained minister, decided to ask for help from a higher source. “I bowed my head and said, ‘God, please help me out, help my phone ring.’ About a half hour later my phone rang and hasn’t stopped.”


Chase wasted no time adding services. He thought portable restrooms would be a perfect fit. He bought 32 fiberglass units, a 300-gallon waste/150-gallon freshwater Brenner Tank stainless steel slide-in tank and Masport pump for his 2003 GMC 4500 and hired Bolen. He now has about 100 units, mostly used, in a variety of brands but he favors Satellite Industries’ Maxims. Many have a hand-wash unit inside. He also has two wheelchair-accessible units and 10 freestanding hand-wash stations from Satellite.

Most of their work is for construction but they also handle special events — 4‑H activities, a biker rally, a religious revival program, Fourth of July and other events downtown and at a rodeo grounds. They also have a number of private customers who rent portable restrooms or need RV pumping services. The company uses Walex deodorant products and disposes of waste at the local treatment plant.

The slide-in tank Chase bought for portable sanitation work ended up being a lifesaver when the septic truck was out of commission for four months. “I did my septic pumping with that 300-gallon slide-in on the back of my truck just to keep the customers,” Chase says.

But he knew he had to get something more reliable. He bought a 2013 Freightliner Cascadia built out by J. Eagle Tanks with a 4,000-gallon steel tank and Jurop RV260 pump. He eventually also bought a 2001 Volvo with a 2,600-gallon steel tank and Masport pump. Other equipment includes RIDGID SeeSnakes and Scout locators.

Chase also expanded his septic offerings, adding inspections and installations. He works with about 35 real estate agents. He encourages them to invite their customers to be present for the inspections.

“I love to have them,” he says. “I explain the system and answer their questions. While I’m answering these questions I’m building a rapport and a relationship with them. And I know who they’re going to call when their system needs to be pumped.”

Installations are mostly Orenco and Norweco units. A lot of people are moving into the area, he says, especially from California. He gets about 25 calls a week from people wanting to know what it would take to put a septic tank on property they just bought off the internet.


Chase says the biggest challenge in northern Arizona is digging because of the rocky soil. “When we are called to do perc holes for site investigations, often we can’t dig more than three feet deep,” he says. “That’s why most of what’s getting approved these days are the alternative systems. There are times we can’t dig more than six inches with a shovel. We have to use the excavator just to dig up the lids so we can pump.”

He picked up a mini-excavator his first year after a customer, who saw him struggle with shoveling, suggested he needed one — and he just happened to have one for sale, a Bobcat 320. “I looked at it, we came to a price, I got my trailer, got the money and drove it right to the next job. It’s not pretty but it runs great and does everything we want it to. It’s been one of the best purchases I’ve made.”

When he needed a bigger excavator, he’d rent one locally. But one day when the big excavator was not available, he rented a backhoe and was so impressed he bought one about a week later, a Komatsu WB146.

He has three trailers — a Globe military trailer to haul the backhoe and two Top Hat trailers, one to carry the excavator and another to haul gravel and cinder.

Even with equipment, it’s still tough, he says. “Last year we had a tank 14 feet deep. I tore up one of the tracks on my excavator and broke a hydraulic line trying to get down to the tank. I see guys on social media who talk about doing seven tanks in a day. We can’t do that because in most cases we’re spending an hour, hour-and-a-half digging up the lids. Four tanks in a day for us is a big day.”


When he was working for another company, Chase said the management didn’t want employees taking the time to build a good rapport with customers because they were always overbooking the jobs. That was not going to be his style at Cyclone Septic. He is all about serving the community and taking care of employees — and knows the income will follow.

He treats employees the way he would have wanted to be treated. And he enjoys spending time with customers.

“I’m a talker. I like to talk to my customers and they like to talk to me. I like to make them feel like they’re family. I give them a piece of me every time I talk to them or provide a service. They appreciate that.

“I’ve got several who I know don’t have any money. We pump them anyway. We’ve been blessed and if I can make somebody’s day, I’ll make somebody’s day.” He says word of mouth has kept him plenty busy and he does not advertise.


Bad reviews. The company’s previous owner had picked up some negative Google ratings which haunted Chase in the beginning. But when he finally convinced one hesitant but desperate customer to give him a chance, her positive review got the ball rolling and more people started calling, followed by more good reviews. Chase has since enjoyed a 5-star rating. But he admits he did receive a one-star review once because he wouldn’t deliver to an area outside his service territory — “I lost some sleep over that.”

Terrain. Technicians are on dirt roads 60 to 70% of the time, which is hard on them and the trucks. Winter conditions only make things worse. If it’s especially bad, they don’t go out at all. Chase eventually replaced the GMC 4500 with a heavy-duty 2003 Ford F-650.

Phones. Cell phone service on their routes in the mountains is unreliable. They’ve sometimes had to backtrack to a main road to get a signal to contact a customer. Calling in to the office when there’s a problem is not always possible.


Chase says his company is on the verge of significant growth. “What we have now is what I call an explosion from what the company used to be, and I’m right on the brink for my next explosion.” Finding another tech is the top priority. He also needs someone to answer the phones.

Although being his own boss has required personal sacrifices and long hours, Chase couldn’t be happier.

“What I like best is the people — meeting with them, creating that relationship. It really does me good when I have a customer who’s been clogged for a week, didn’t know what to do, and we get out there and get them unclogged,” he says. “What I’m doing now is glorious — helping people. I love what I do.”


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