Adding to a Legacy

A 70-year-old New Mexico installing company takes on renewed vigor and growth when the next generation comes on board

Adding to a Legacy

The AAA Allied Septic Service crew includes, from left, Roman Cardiel, Juan Alvidrez, Steve Sandoval, Chris Marin, Gina Dotson, Ralph Dotson, Gino Dotson, Kassie Garcia and Giovanni De La Paz. The fleet of vacuum trucks were built out by KeeVac, COLT by IWS and Imperial Industries. Pumps and blowers are from National Vacuum Equipment, Moro and Masport.

Interested in Business?

Get Business articles, news and videos right in your inbox! Sign up now.

Business + Get Alerts

AAA Allied Septic Service has been a thriving business since its founding in the Santa Fe area 70 years ago.

Today the company, owned by Ralph Baker Dotson and Gina Dotson, installs up to 125 new onsite treatment systems per year, pumps 1,000 to 1,200 septic tanks per year, and performs numerous system inspections for property transfers.

The company’s reputation is so strong that most of its business comes through word of mouth; the book of projects is full despite minimal advertising. And now a new source of energy has arrived the Dotsons’ son Gino, a couple of years removed from general business, marketing and management studies at New Mexico State University.

As general manager, he brings youthful energy and business acumen to a company that specializes in advanced systems. Meanwhile his father helps blaze a trail for the state’s onsite industry as president of the Professional Onsite Wastewater Reuse Association of New Mexico.


Onsite Installer profiled AAA Allied Septic in 2012. It was founded by Ralph’s father, Carl Baker. Ralph began working beside his dad at age 14. When Carl died suddenly, Ralph and his mom, Florence, kept the business going. A few years after graduating from high school, Ralph bought his mother out and took full responsibility for the business.

Much has changed in the past 11 years. The equipment fleet has grown from one vacuum truck to three and from one excavator to three. There are now seven team members, four more than in 2012. Still, the essentials that drive the business remain: dedication to quality, belief in training and professional education, and deep involvement with the industry through membership in associations.

Gino carried on the family tradition, working with his father during summers starting at age 15. Among his contributions since coming to the business full-time are improved contracts designed to protect both the company and its customers.

“I took some business law classes in college, and I realized that a modern business can’t operate without a solid contract,” he says. One provision enables AAA Allied to file a mechanic’s lien on a property if a customer fails to pay for services by a set deadline. The contract also covers responsibilities around location of utility lines. 

Gino has also devised an improved scheduling system that team members can access and modify in the field. He’s also planning to install dash cameras in all company vehicles to record any road accidents and protect team members in case of false claims by other drivers.


To Ralph Baker Dotson, a key part of being professional is being a reliable and credible resource. “I have found over the years that consumers really are looking for somebody who can help them out of problems,” he says. “We see part of our role as educating the public on why it’s important to do the job right.

“We’ll come to a property and the owner will say, ‘I had two other companies out here, and they told me this and that.’ I scratch my head at some things they tell people that just aren’t going to work. It gives our industry a black eye. When we can educate people and give them confidence in us, when we can solve problems from simple to the hardest, that gives our industry credibility.

“We shouldn’t be working for cheap because we work in wastewater. What I have learned, and what I’ve passed on to Gino, is that if you do a better-quality job and build the reputation of your company and the industry, you can charge a good price. It’s not about doing it cheap. It’s about doing it right, and having them call you back.

“We can go to a site and bid a job for considerably more money than a competitor, and we will get the work because the consumer has confidence that they’re going to get a good system that they won’t have to replace it in four or five years. People can see the education we have in the industry. They can see the education Gino has in business. And they will say, ‘That’s the company we want to hire.’”


Ralph’s belief in training goes back decades. He credits Gene Bassett, a past president of the National Association of Wastewater Technicians who has also served on the National Onsite Wastewater Recycling Association board of directors, for instilling a dedication to training and education.

“Gene brought NAWT training to New Mexico in the late 1990s,” says Dotson. “I met him in 2003. He helped me understand the training that was available. Now Gene is still around, and he’s bringing Gino into the educational picture.”

Both Dotsons attended NAWT training and certification courses led in New Mexico by Jim Anderson (now retired) and Dave Gustafson of the University of Minnesota onsite program. Gino has completed NAWT programs in design/installer, inspection and vacuum truck operation.

Gino observes, “It’s important when you’re learning to find people in the industry who aren’t just trying to sell you a product. Jim and Dave do a fantastic job of showing you the pros and cons and how to think outside the box.”

The emphasis on training extends to every member of the AAA Allied team. Says Ralph, “We require and pay for our employees to go to NAWT inspector, installer, designer and pumper certification courses.

“We do not let anybody go out alone in our septic pumper truck for a year to a year and a half, until we feel they can represent our company properly, giving good information, knowing what their limitations are, and knowing when to call me or Gino for questions they may not yet know the answers to. It’s the same with installing. Nobody goes out on a job without oversight who doesn’t have three to five years of experience.”


While maintaining and raising their company’s standards, the Dotsons also look to improve industry practices. That includes working with the New Mexico association to update onsite system regulations.

One initiative is to require safety inserts inside risers. AAA Allied already uses safety rope inserts in risers from PolyLok, TUF-TITE and Infiltrator Water Technologies. “It doesn’t add a significant expense, and it could save a life,” says Ralph. “We’ve been installing safety nets in our systems for the last seven years even though it’s not required.”

Another change would eliminate loopholes in a rule requiring effluent filters to have handles. Some installers have used makeshift handles made from pieces of broomstick or sections of irrigation tubing. “We want to clarify that the handle has to meet manufacturer requirements, has to be made for the filter, and has to be fastened with noncorrosive screws,” Ralph says.

A further change would require inspectors of onsite systems for property transfers to have certification for that purpose as well as an installer license. “Sometimes people who have only the certification find themselves doing work that would normally require a license,” Ralph says. “They come out to a site and do an inspection, and the next thing they’re doing is installing risers.”


AAA Allied provides comprehensive onsite service that includes maintenance for advanced onsite systems through a separate business, Water Management Associates; and tank pumping with three vacuum trucks. “Pumping is an integral part of the business,” says Ralph. “It’s a necessity for emergencies and for maintenance. We pump tanks for inspections, which can lead repairs, modifications and replacements.” 

The equipment inventory includes two 2019 Caterpillar 304.5 excavators, a 2023 Caterpillar 300.9 mini-excavator, and a 2018 Caterpillar 249D skid-steer, and six Ford service trucks. The vacuum truck fleet consists of:

2020 M-2 106 Freightliner with KeeVac 2,500-gallon steel tank and Challenger blower

2009 International DuraStar with COLT by IWS 1,850-gallon steel tank and Masport pump

2007 M2 Freightliner with Imperial Industries 2,500 gallon steel tank and Moro pump

Aerobic treatment units play a big role in system installations in difficult soils and terrain, for fitting systems into compact lots, and for including water reuse as part of the system.

Multi-Flo units (Consolidated Treatment Systems) are an ATU for the filtration component they contain that produces extremely clean effluent.

“For nitrogen reduction we put FujiClean USA systems on smaller lots,” says Ralph. “They have controls inside that let me change aeration and flow. I also like SludgeHammer because we can use it to retrofit systems and remediate drainfields. I believe that no single product fits every site. I like to have multiple products so that we and our customers have options.”

For drip systems, the company uses Geoflow tubing (Anua). Ralph likes that interior anti-bacterial coating inside and the rooticide in the emitters. ATUs combined with drip tubing are the recipe for water reuse installations.

Many customers like to subsurface irrigate their landscapes in particular to protect the health of piñon, pine and fruit trees: “We’ve seen some of these trees get healthier when given that extra bit of water, with some nutrient but not too much. There is more maintenance involved in these types of systems, but the payoff of reuse in our desert area can be worth it.” 

Two local concrete precasters supply the majority of septic tanks, although the company uses

Plastic tanks from Infiltrator or Norwesco where site access is challenging. EZflow (Infiltrator) is the drainfield media of choice because it is easy to transport and provides high flexibility, and because gravel is expensive in the area.  


The company’s success is driven by a strong team. Co-owner Gina Dotson works alongside her husband and son as a manager of the business. Other team members are Steve Sandoval, senior technician, pumper and inspector/evaluator; Kassie Garcia, office manager; Ramon Cardiel, lead installer and pumper; Giovani De Paz and Juan Alvidrez, installers; and Chris Marin, pumper. 

The outlook is favorable for AAA Allied septic and other quality installers in the Santa Fe area. “When you study your craft, when you learn from other people, when you are open to ideas even after 41 years in the business, you don’t have a lot of competition,” says Ralph.

“We learned, we went to the classes. We continue to go. We travel to conferences. Even during the market crash in 2008, because we could do alternatives and people with money could still afford them, we were able to continue growing our business.”

Gino adds, “A lot of folks in the industry are getting up in age and starting to retire, and we’re not seeing an influx of new people. I see opportunities for us to thrive. I’m focused on continuing education for myself and any future employees. The future looks bright for us.”


Comments on this site are submitted by users and are not endorsed by nor do they reflect the views or opinions of COLE Publishing, Inc. Comments are moderated before being posted.