A day in the life pumping septic tanks

Almost 55 years ago, Pat Tyndall Sr. started his own wastewater treatment company. He was only 20 years old at the time and was looking for a job. Today he is 75 and two more generations of Tyndall men work for the Brewster-based company.

About 20 percent of Americans own septic tanks, but the number is much higher in the Hudson Valley, where 50 percent of residents rely on septic tanks, according to T. Webber. By its very nature, pumping a septic tank is definitely not the most glamorous job. Who wants to empty a tank of poop? Most people don’t run for it.

The brave septic tank cleaners are also in for a few surprises, especially one that has been in the industry for decades. Pat Tyndall Jr. began working for Tyndall Septic Systems while he was studying economics in school. He has been working full-time since graduating and has worked side-by-side with his father ever since.

Tyndall Jr. starts his day with an empty truck, drives to the septic tank that needs pumping, dumps it at a Connecticut factory, and then picks up new ones. “You do it again the next day,” he says.

Is it a “stupid” job? Depends who you ask.

“For someone who’s never done it before, that would be it,” said Tyndall Jr., who can enjoy mid-septic pump lunch. “It is not so bad. It’s easier than cleaning up after a baby or cleaning up vomit or anything.” Though there’s a caveat: some septic tanks are worse than others.

Pat Tyndall Sr. with Pat Tyndall Jr. in 1973. Tyndall Sr. has worked in the wastewater treatment industry for over 50 years.

Pat Tyndall Jr.

Having been Tyndall Jr.’s day job for decades, he’s used to it. However, when a newcomer comes along, sometimes they’re not there – at least initially. It takes about a couple of septic tanks before it doesn’t bother them. Tyndall Jr.’s son, Jack, who has now been working with excrement for almost 10 years, said it wasn’t great at first, but now “it’s not that bad”.

Aside from the smell, interesting things are discovered floating around: toys, money, jewelry. “It’s amazing what people can flush, that’s one thing I can say,” Tyndall Jr said. “Some things I don’t even know how it got down there.”

Tyndall Septic Systems has a number of employees in addition to family, but recruiting for the job is difficult.

“Nobody wants to do it,” Tyndall Jr said. “It’s very hard to find someone who would even want to work, whatever it is, even just to drive the truck, and then you have to find someone who can drive that.” truck and will work with shit.

And as more transplants move from New York City to the Hudson Valley, demand is increasing. Every day more people are calling with septic questions.

“There are a lot of people who have no idea what septics are,” Tyndall Jr. said. “They don’t know anything until they can flush and call because they didn’t even know they had a septic.”

He said they either learn the hard way or if they look at properties in the area they call ahead to make sure they don’t have any septic tank problems.

Will Tyndall Septic Systems continue with Jack and the rest of the next generation of Tyndall boys? Pat Tyndall Jr. hopes not.

“I hope it ends with me,” he said. “My dad is stuck in it because I’m doing it. If my kids do it, I have to stay with them. It is much work.”

Tyndall Jr. said he works seven days a week. Once he’s done field work, he comes home to take and answer calls. Holidays are not holidays.

“Thanksgiving, Christmas, I’m pumping out tanks because someone backed up in a house full of people,” he said. “I’d rather my kids go to school and find something that’s a lot easier to have more free time.”

Tyndall Septic Systems serves Putnam County, Lower Dutchess County and Upper Westchester County. In addition to pumping, the team performs installations, repairs and maintenance of residential and commercial wastewater treatment plants, power/water/sewage supplies, excavation and landscaping.

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