Installers Rick Tipple and Tammy Bovay Utilize Cisterns Where Wells Are Impractical

RT Septic & Water Systems delivers wastewater and drinking water infrastructure for homeowners in Alberta, Canada

Installers Rick Tipple and Tammy Bovay Utilize Cisterns Where Wells Are Impractical

RT Septic owners Rick Tipple and Tammy Bovay are shown with a Kubota SVL75-2 compact track loader and KXO80-4 excavator. (Photo by Stephen Defoe)

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For RT Septic & Water Systems there’s more to serving homeowners than treating wastewater.

The company, founded in 2016, installs about 100 septic tanks and complete onsite treatment systems per year in Alberta’s Sturgeon County, near Edmonton. Many jobs also include installing a cistern for drinking water, since the local groundwater is of poor quality.

“There’s a lot of sodium in it, and it’s very high in iron,” says Rick Tipple, who owns RT Septic with his wife, Tammy Bovay. “A typical well around here has to be 300 to 400 feet deep. So people put in cisterns. When we install a septic tank for a new home build, usually we put in a cistern at the same time.”

The business thrives despite abundant competition. In 2020, Tipple and Bovay added a vacuum truck and for septic tank pumping. Besides the owners, the company employs vacuum truck driver Darcy Breitkreitz and summer workers Trevor Kowalski, Brian Crozier and Adam Gnauk.


The couple entered the onsite business with substantial help from neighbor Mourie Hooper, who owned All Complete Excavation, a company that specialized in excavation for new homes and did some septic installations.

Tipple was working as a picker and heavy haul operator in the oil fields near Edmonton, while Bovay was a veterinary technician and later certified as an educational assistant. When they bought a house in 2013, they had to install a new mound system.

“Our neighbor, who we had never met before, was a certified installer,” Tipple recalls. “I went over one day, knocked on his door and said, ‘I need to install a septic. I wonder if you could help me out.’”

The two built the mound system together and in the process became friends. Hooper took note of Tipple’s work ethic and suggested he give up the oil field work, which often kept him away from home, and install onsite systems for a living. Tipple began helping Hooper with jobs on his days off. Then in 2014 a slump hit the oil patch and Tipple took a big cut in salary.

“I said to Tammy, ‘This is the best time. If we’re going to do this, let’s do it now.’ Mourie offered to help us in any way he could.” So Tipple took a certification course from the Alberta Onsite Wastewater Management Association and earned his installer certificate from the provincial Ministry of Municipal Affairs.

In the meantime Hooper, who preferred to focus on residential excavation, referred his onsite system leads to Tipple and allowed him to use his earth-moving equipment for the jobs. When Tipple received his certificate in June 2015, he gave his two weeks’ notice to his oil field employer. RT Septic & Water System was incorporated the next year.


In the company’s service area in five counties around Edmonton, high water tables and clay soils are common. In many cases that calls for mound systems, or at-grade systems with advanced treatment. RT Septic installs several advanced treatment units per year and has settled on AdvanTex systems from Orenco.

They chose the AdvanTex units mainly for their low cost of operation — they have no power-consuming aerator pump — and for the effluent quality. “The cleaner the water that comes out the back of the tank, the longer your at-grade system is going to last,” Tipple says.

Many of the company’s projects are new septic tank installations and septic tank replacements. Homes within city boundaries often have septic tanks even though they are connected to municipal sewer systems. The tank effluent is sent into the sewers instead of to a drainfield. It’s a way for municipalities to minimize problems at treatment plants.

“The homeowners are responsible for what they put in the tank. If they have a regular city sewer system, many people dump female products, food, greases, oils and whatever,” Tipple says. “If they have a septic tank, they’re going to be more careful what they use in the house and what they dump into the tank. If they misuse it, sewage will back up into the house and wreck their septic system.”


When replacing septic tanks or installing new ones, RT Septic crews take special care. “We decommission the old tank and put in a new tank with a new pump, new plumbing inside, a pump basket and a new alarm,” says Tipple. “Typically we remove all the excess soil from the site. Then a month to a month and a half later, depending on the amount of settling, we come back with a load of topsoil and clean everything up.

“I make sure that every tank we install sits on 6 inches of three-quarter-inch washed rock. The tank is leveled, and it’s solid. You never have to worry about the tank lifting or shifting. You don’t have to worry about the inlet pipe moving or sagging.”

Many tank jobs are replacements within municipalities where the homes are 30 to 40 years old and the lots are small. “Often we need to get neighbors’ consent to drive on or make a little bit of a mess on their property,” Tipple says. “Sometimes that works to our advantage because the neighbors’ tanks may also be getting close to time for replacement. All our equipment is there, and can do two, three or four houses right in a row.”

The go-to equipment includes a Kubota KX080 excavator, Kubota SVL75 skid-steer, a Freightliner FL60 dump truck, a Southland gooseneck 30-foot tandem tri-axle flat-deck trailer, a Double D 24-foot bumper-pull flat deck trailer, and a Featherlite 22-foot cargo trailer that hauls all materials to job sites and is set up like a miniature supply shop. Service vehicles are a 2022 Ford F-350 Lariat, a 2021 Dodge Bighorn, and a 2013 Dodge 3500 Longhorn.

When creating drainfields, the company chooses high-quality products. “A lot of companies use Series 75 pipe,” Tipple says. “We use Series 200. For any fittings that are underground, we use brass.” Tipple opts for pressure distribution, using Orenco or Little Giant pumps.

For drainfield media he chambers (Infiltrator Water Technologies) and covers them with geotextile cloth: “By code, we don’t have to use the geotextile, but for the extra $80 per system, it keeps the native material away from the chambers and adds to system longevity.”


Cistern installations are a major component of the business: New home projects typically include both a septic system and a cistern. RT Septic installs 3,300-gallon precast concrete cisterns that are delivered in two pieces.

As with septic tanks, crews install cisterns on a bed of three-quarter-inch crushed rock. They also install plumbing to connect the cistern to the house and make sure the pump is easily accessible from the surface so that no one has to enter the tank for maintenance or repair.

Aqua Clean Cistern Cleaning pressure-washes and chlorinates the tank before Reed’s Water Service comes to fill it with water.

Meanwhile their septic tank pumping operation is doing well, servicing six to eight tanks per working day. The vacuum truck is a Kenworth T800 from SchellVac Equipment with a 3,300-gallon steel tank with a Fruitland 870 pump.


The RT Septic team functions efficiently. Bovay runs the office, booking appointments and scheduling all vacuum truck calls, site visits and system installations. Tipple quotes jobs, design systems, operates equipment, deals with homeowners, handles permit approval, lines up tank deliveries and purchases supplies for each project. Says Bovay, “He ensures that the tank and system installation are done to the 110% satisfaction of our customers.”

“Trevor Kowalski has been our right-hand man for the past five years. Brian Crozier, my father, is our equipment mover and operator and all-around major helper, who comes from Ontario to work with us during our summer season. Adam Gnauk is our heavy-duty mechanic who keeps our equipment and trucks operational.”

The company is supported by Glen Armstrong of G & E Excavating, who helps during especially busy times and handles extremely deep excavations. Travis Loewen of Riteway Line Locating does the utility locates. Kory Read and Dave Dallaire of tank supplier Alberta Wilbert Sales help work go smoothly by handling tank and materials supply and delivery scheduling.


RT Septic thrives on astute marketing and a straightforward approach to dealing with customers. Bovay, who had no previous marketing experience, set up an extensive social media program along with multiple sponsorships of community events. Tipple, meanwhile, is a member of the local Rotary Club and the Morinville and District Chamber of Commerce.

“Being part of the community is huge,” Bovay observes. “Even if it’s just sponsoring a kids’ hockey team, it connects us to the community. One winter Rick brought a skid-steer and plowed out a little hockey space for the kids on the soccer field at the school. Doing those simple community tasks goes a long way.”

So does attentive service. That means answering the phone when customers call, and if not immediately available, calling back promptly. “When you provide an essential service, you’ve got to be there for your customers.”

Tipple takes a direct approach when dealing with homeowners: “I tell people the way it is. I don’t sugarcoat anything. A of people like that. I just do what needs to be done. If it’s only a simple float change or pump change, that’s all I do. We spend a lot of time troubleshooting with people over the phone to try and save them money.”

Tipple is also active with industry affairs. Besides membership in the Alberta Onsite Wastewater Management Association, he served on a board with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs that rewrote the onsite system codes in 2021. “I learned so much about the industry by being on that board,” he observes.

RT Septic applies that and other experience with a no-nonsense, can-do attitude. “I’ve been told my whole life that trying is lying,” Tipple says. “You don’t try to do something. You either do it or you don’t do it.”


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