Breckenridge septic company expands new drain technologies
December 23, 2013
Bill Tatro has thought about filling out the application for the Discovery Channel show "Dirty Jobs" more than a few times throughout the years.
While Bill and his brother Chris Tatro no longer get down and dirty in septic tanks for hours on a job themselves, the pair is busy running the family septic business out of Breckenridge. Recently, they were profiled in a national liquid waste trade magazine, "Pumper."
Snowbridge Inc., a Roto-Rooter franchise, was started in 1976 by the brothers' parents, when their dad bought his first septic tank pumping truck.
"I don't think we've ever had a normal day," Chris said. "There are late nights and early mornings, this time of year especially. Everybody's vacationing here — things are frozen, there are backups."
With a staff of 13, including themselves, the brothers mostly work in Summit and Eagle counties, but spend time in Park, Lake and Clear Creek counties as well. The company works on any number of day-to-day services — drain cleaning and plumbing repairs; septic, grease and sand trap pumping; trenchless pipe repairs; excavations; and septic system inspections.
"It's that time of year when everyone else is off, and we're running on fumes trying to take care of it all," Chris said. "This is where a majority of the population and vacations are."
"And the majority of the money," Bill said.
While the Snowbridge team works with homeowners, the company also holds commercial accounts with local resorts, hotels and restaurants.
"We deal with all phases of waste water," Bill said. "We're a plumbing company but we're mostly focused on waste, sewer, septic, repairs, drain cleaning. It's really a one-stop shop."
Last week, the company replaced the grease trap for the Starbucks in Frisco, late Wednesday night. Monday, the team did a trenchless repair on a hot tub drain at the Lodge and Spa at Cordillera in Edwards, and later did a trenchless ground repair in Frisco for a sewer line.
A trenchless repair fixes pipes without digging them up, in any number of ways. Sometimes another liner is inserted, and holes or leaks are sealed from the inside out, or the technicians feed a rubber tube that resembles a small dryer hose into the pipe, seal it off and send the water through the new tube inside the pipe.
"We're not just out there promoting one product," Chris said. "We have six different trenchless products we use; we're going to give you options."
Bill said trenchless repairs are often more cost effective when there's more infrastructure on top of the piping — a heated driveway, elaborate landscaping or thick concrete slab.
"If I started this company today I'd call it 'All Things Drain,'" he said. "We always try to bring in new technologies to help us deal with things we haven't seen before."
Back in September, the team repaired and installed one of the highest pipe liners in the world at Keystone Resort.
Waiting for the epoxy to dry, Chris said, meant they had to fight a blizzard going back down. Due to the higher altitude and extreme temperatures in which Snowbridge operates, the company's engines must be bigger, the diesel engines must be turbocharged and the pumps have to be bigger as well.
"It makes everything harder," Bill said.
Since moving to a larger space in 2003, the company has been able to park trucks inside, which was a "dramatic change," Chris said.
"Every truck has antifreeze or the supplies are insulated and in boxes," he said. "It's an investment, but we need to keep everything warm. You don't want to lose five hours because the water in your truck is frozen."
A $10,000 frozen pump is a costly waste of time, he said. Since the winter season is often their busiest, the brothers want to capitalize on every call they receive.
Because people own their pipe, which connects to the town or municipality sewer line, any problems become the responsibility of the homeowner, which is when Snowbridge gets called in.
"In the last five years we've seen the economy do crazy things," Chris said. "We have a lot of experience and we try to keep costs down when we can."
The brothers didn't originally plan to go into the family business. Chris has a degree in aviation technology and Bill studied animal science. But after their father passed away, the brothers returned to help their mom run the business. Snowbridge also opened a smaller shop in Edwards, to help the company gain more market share in Eagle County.
"It's a balance of trying to seem big enough to handle everybody's needs versus being small enough to not be seen as just another national franchise," Chris said. "We can handle a ski area, any hotel, but we don't want the homeowners to be afraid to call us because we seem too big."
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