Jim O'BrienJim O’Brien,Sr., founder of the Sewer Equipment Co. of America passed away on Sept. 5, at the age of 82.

O’Brien’s first job in the industry was as a salesman for his father’s company, O’Brien Mfg. in 1953. This Chicago-based company spent the 1950s and 1960s manufacturing cable, bucket and rodding machines for municipalities and contractors for the purpose of cleaning sewers. Prior to the arrival of these machines, sewer lines were typically dug up or flushed with a fire hose when cleaning was attempted – neither practice was effective or economical. The innovative cable and rodding machines revolutionized municipal sewer cleaning.

O’Brien and the other O’Brien Mfg. sales reps were famous for pulling “demo trailers” all over the United States behind their Buicks and Oldsmobile sedans. “Don’t come back to the factory until you sell your unit!” was the battle cry. O’Brien rose to the rank of president and helped usher in the  “Water Jetting Era,” as well as assist in the invention of the hydraulic root cutter in the late 1960s. He said many times, “The hydraulic root cutter was the greatest invention in the history of sewer cleaning, and still is today.”

In 1972, Jim founded the Sewer Equipment Co. of America with one employee — his wife — and one telephone line. The company has grown tremendously and is now located in a 120,000-sq ft facility in Dixon, Ill. Sewer Equipment Co. of America and its two divisions, Ramvac and Mongoose Jetters, are industry leaders in the manufacture of jetting machines, hydro-excavators and drain cleaners.

O’Brien’s philosophy of treating people fairly, making a dependable product, and servicing that product are alive and strong at Sewer Equipment Co. and evident in the company slogan, “Best Products, Best Local Support.” O’Brien leaves behind many friends in the industry especially at the 30 companies that make up the dealer network. His wife Joan helped him to build the company as did his seven children.

Today, the company is headed by his son, Dan, who said, “Working side by side with my Dad, my hero, for over 20 years was a great honor. He loved the industry and the people in it, especially his employees. He enjoyed the challenge of making innovative equipment and challenging those around him to work hard for better and safer ways to clean a sewer.”