A Wide Array of Services Keep Missouri Company in High Demand

Keeping up with customer requests has driven the growth of All Clear Pumping & Sewer

A Wide Array of Services Keep Missouri Company in High Demand

Technician Job Parson uses a Spartan 2001 cable machine to clean a residential lateral.

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In the heart of Missouri, All Clear Pumping & Sewer has repeatedly demonstrated to customers what good service means.

“I am extremely pleased with all that you did,” customer Joe Brown writes in a testimonial on the company website. Brown goes on to praise company technicians for professionalism, honesty, sticking to quoted prices — and doing the job well: “The basement has remained completely dry since you left; I am very pleased with that.”  

Similar testimonials crowd the All Clear website. What that means for owners Shawn and Tracy Chilton is an ever-expanding lineup of offerings that keeps the company working steadily to meet demand.

It all began with straightforward cleaning of sewer lines and septic systems. Shawn Chilton had become interested in the industry at age 21 when he applied for a job with a sewer cleaning firm in St. Louis. He worked several years for that company, learning skills, honing expertise and awakening a desire to work for himself.

His focus shifted when his wife — who was managing the family’s funeral home in Troy, west of St. Louis — asked him to assist her. Still a sewer man at heart, Chilton worked at it part-time while helping at the funeral home. In 2009, the Chiltons decided to move west to Jefferson City, the state capital, and opened All Clear.

Missouri is largely a rural state with fertile farmland and rolling topography. Farm and livestock operations nestle among stands of trees on surrounding hills. The university town of Columbia, 29 miles north of Jefferson City, is the region’s largest urban center with some 120,000 residents. While the core of business is in Columbia and Jefferson City, All Clear responds to calls from as far away as Cape Girardeau (233 miles east on the banks of the Mississippi River) and Joplin (209 miles west near the border with Kansas). “We’ll go anywhere,” Shawn Chilton says.

All Clear technicians drive vans and trucks that are essentially billboards, serving as the company’s principal marketing tool. Splashed in ocean blue and a light mossy green, the eye-catching vehicles feature the All Clear logo with the “r” resembling a faucet and drops of water. The slogan “Clean Courteous Pros” floats above the company name.

On service calls, Chilton and his techs do everything from uncovering and repairing a municipal sewer line with a Vac-Con hydroexcavator to installing engineered septic systems at rural homesteads to inspecting commercial lines for invasive tree roots. “I would say working on septic systems is 60% of the business,” Chilton says, a reflection of the farm homes dotting the region.

Even so, the diversity of the company’s services gives All Clear a competitive edge that is driving growth. “We are the only pump and sewer company around here that is a one-stop shop. We have it all.”

Chilton is state certified to perform septic tank inspections for real estate transactions. To install engineered septic systems, he would need another level of training, so an outside contractor engineers All Clear systems. Nonengineered septic systems are usually installed in flat, unobstructed lots with agreeable soil conditions. In the region’s rolling countryside with high concentrations of clay, septic systems must be engineered — about 90% of All Clear’s installations fall into this category.


The Chiltons are a team, and they both love what they do. While Shawn still spends a lot of time in the field along with the company’s nine technicians, Tracy and a secretary keep the books and answer phones in the office. The couple started All Clear working from their apartment and moved the operation into a stand-alone office after three years.

This move corresponded with the company’s expansion of services. Having started the company in the immediate aftermath of the 2007 recession, the Chiltons stayed small until they felt they could bank on the slowly improving economy to expand their work.

As they grew, the number and types of machinery in the equipment yard swelled. The biggest machine in the inventory is a 2005 Vac-Con hydroexcavation rig on an International chassis. It features a 1,000-gallon water tank, 14-cubic-yard debris tank and an 80 gpm jetter. The fleet includes a dump truck and vans by Ford, Chevy, GMC and Nissan; the oldest vehicle is from 2002, the newest a 2019 F-450.

The company’s mini-excavator lineup is all Bobcat — an E63 and 435. The former is a 60 hp diesel 7-ton model with 5,900-pound lift capacity; the 435 is a slightly lighter and smaller-engined (49 hp) excavator. Both are utilized for septic tank excavation work and similar digging tasks. All Clear is all Spartan Tool in its choice of drain cleaning machines — with a Spartan Tool 1065 cable machine that can ream out clogged lines 250 feet away and smaller models 100 and 300 for less challenging blockages.

Company techs employ RIDGID and Spartan Tool cameras to scope out the interior condition of drainpipes and other buried lines. The newest addition to All Clear’s camera equipment is a big step up in functionality: a CUES steerable camera transporter linked to monitoring equipment in an F-350 van. The heavy-duty camera system is utilized to inspect larger-diameter pipelines.

That was the plan, anyway. Shawn Chilton bought the $150,000 unit more than two years ago, confident that sewer line work was awaiting the company across Missouri. Alas, no jobs showed up. “My wife and project manager said, ‘Sell the camera truck.’ But I said, no, we just need a job or two to pay for it. My wife would have sold the truck and camera a long time ago.”

In the end, he proved prescient. The company finally landed a $50,000 contract in 2018 and in the coming months will undertake a $300,000 camera job in Cuba, Missouri, about two hours from Jefferson City. This “buy it and the jobs will come” approach was successful in this instance, but it isn’t always Chilton’s operating philosophy.

Sometimes the demand for a new service is so obvious he can’t buy equipment fast enough. Such was the case with the purchase of the Vac-Con hydrovac truck. Municipal officials had repeatedly expressed to Chilton that they would like the opportunity to work with All Clear. “We mainly got the vac truck with a jetter on it because the municipalities kept calling us,” he says.

Overnight success

All Clear has become a company with a diverse range of services, though that was not the initial goal. “We never planned to do this. It just happened,” Chilton says. “Something would come up and we hoped we could find a way to do it ourselves rather than sub it out. We finally worked our way up to where we could buy our own stuff and not have to turn to subcontractors.”

By 2014, the switch to being a self-sufficient provider of numerous services was well underway, and it isn’t finished. Now that the mainline sewer inspection system is beginning to make the company some money, Chilton is ready to jump into pipe lining work. “We have the jetters and the hydrovac, the cameras and expertise. Pipe lining naturally follows. I would buy the liner machine tomorrow if I could. I certainly will in the next six months.”

Chilton’s business philosophy is simple: Never burn any bridges. “You should get along with your customers and your competitors. You should try to maintain relationships with everybody in the industry. That way they know they can call when they need my help and I can call when I need theirs.”

All Clear answers calls for help across much of Missouri, but Chilton has no plans to open a satellite office. “We have enough work. In fact, I sometimes wonder if I could make as much money as I am and be a smaller company. The bigger you are, the more workers you need to have and the more responsibilities you take on. There’s a trade-off if you’re smaller: You have fewer headaches.”

The growth of the company and expansion of All Clear services still seem to surprise him. “There was never any plan. We never ever thought we would be as big as we are today. It just happened overnight.”

Growing pains

Shawn Chilton worked for a sewer cleaning firm in St. Louis and, later, part time with another sewer company. He learned the trade working in those positions, but there’s nothing like owning a company yourself to really understand what it takes.

After Chilton and his wife, Tracy Chilton, went all-in and launched Jefferson City-based All Clear Pumping & Sewer, the meaning of being on their own came home to him on a hillside in south-central Missouri. He was on his very first call to pump a septic tank. It was situated on a residential property at the Lake of the Ozarks.

The region’s Osage River was dammed in 1931 to create a hydroelectric power source, creating the 54,000-acre Lake of the Ozarks that reputedly was the largest man-made body of water in the U.S. at the time. The main channel squiggles through 92 miles of Missouri countryside with some 70,000 homes squatting on its shoreline.

It was at one of these homes in 2009 that Chilton found himself with a pump truck. “I was on my first job and was scared to death my truck was going to go rolling down the hill and into the house and lake,” he recalls. “That hill was so steep. I was excited, but I kept thinking about all the bad things that could happen. They didn’t happen, though, or we wouldn’t be talking about it.”

All Clear is a big success story now, but it was a one-man operation at that time. Or, rather, a two-person operation. “It was just me and my wife,” Chilton says. “I remember being on another job at the lake and I needed a pump truck for a sewer call in the snow. Tracy crawled in the truck and drove it to where I was. And she was eight months pregnant.”


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