Smith's Cesspool Services in Wareham changes hands after 46 years

By Matthew Bernat | May 06, 2017
Photo by: Matthew Bernat After 46 years in business, Howie Smith has sold Smith's Cesspool Services, a company his father founded. Here, he stands in front of the businesses' original sign.

Looking back on 46 years in the septic business, Howie Smith has worked his share of dirty jobs. But there’s one – involving a lost diamond ring, a concerned housewife and an unscrupulous plumber – that still doesn’t pass the smell test.

Smith, who sold his business, Smith’s Cesspool Services, in April, wants his customers to know that while there’s a new owner, not much else has changed. They can still rely on the service he’s become known for, such as the time he went “panning for gold.”

Once, a customer living in Wareham’s Shangri La neighborhood called Smith, saying her diamond ring fell down the drain. A plumber searched the pipes, but couldn’t find it. Smith was her next call.

“She said the plumber took apart the trap, couldn’t find it and said it might be in the septic tank. I said: ‘That’s really difficult for me to comprehend,’” said Smith.

However, the customer had called her insurance agency, which was willing to pay for the system to be pumped out. So, Smith arrived, cleared out the tank and climbed inside.

“I got a hose, started taking some of the heavier material and it was almost like panning for gold, but for a diamond,” said Smith. While he searched, the customer stood, watching over his shoulder.

Annoyed, Smith said to her, “I’m telling you, the person you should have been standing over was the plumber, not me.”

Smith’s hunch was correct. He never did find the ring. But the check from the insurance company was welcome.

He’s still a bit miffed at the plumber, though.

“If that plumber doesn’t have it in his pocket today, it’s probably still stuck in a pipe in the house,” he said.

Over the years, Smith said he’s become known for his customer service. His clients now include the grandchildren of some of his first customers. He’s 70 now and decided it was time to sell the business that his father, Bud, founded.

Smith hadn’t always been in the family business. For a short time, he worked at J.W. Hurley Company, a former oil company in Wareham. When his father passed away, his mother attempted to keep it going with hired help. After hearing complaints from customers, Smith said he decided to step in and work part time. He and his wife Claire, who is now the town moderator, were starting a family and thought the extra cash would be helpful.

Three months in, Smith had to quit his job at the oil company – business was that good.

“And here we are 46 years later,” said Claire.

Smith said when he was looking for a buyer, he didn’t want to sell to just anybody after building a reputation over the past four decades. He found that in the Taunton-based Soares Pumping, Inc., a business that’s been in the same family for three generations.

“They have a great record, a great work ethic and are a hard working family,” said Smith.

And though the business is sold, Smith isn’t stepping away entirely. He’ll still be working part time, going on local service calls.

But the couple is looking forward to semi-retirement. They have plans to see their grandchildren more, spend time at property they own in New Hampshire and become more active in the Wareham Militia, a local group of colonial era re-enactors.

Both emphasized that Smith’s Cesspool Service will remain the same, except for one thing.

“The only thing that will change is if you call the number, I won’t be answering the phone anymore,” said Claire.

Howie and Claire invite all past customers to a meet and greet/coffee hour set for May 13 from 10 a.m. to noon in the Wareham Historical Society, located at 495 Main St. For more information on Smith’s Cesspool Services, call 508-295-4356.

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