Synagro's Bill Massa in the Grossest 'Undercover Boss' Yet [Video]

Undercover Boss This week's episode has to be the oohiest, gooiest, grossest, most disgusting 'Undercover Boss' ever. But it's also the greenest, according to Bill Massa, president and CEO of Synagro, the nation's largest wastewater treatment corporation.

Although his company processes waste, he says the work is anything but. "Most people make widgets. We clean environments. We have a very important impact. In the old days, this would have been dumped in the ocean or gone into landfill. We're recycling and reusing. It's a dirty job, but we're a very green company," he told AOL Jobs.

Synagro's green status provided for Massa's truly original cover story. He posed as a former chemical plant supervisor looking to change his ways, and his coworkers were told he was on a reality program that takes people whose jobs have damaged the environment and trains them to work at environmentally friendly companies. That explained the camera crew following him around.

But just because the work is green doesn't mean it isn't gross at times. On one job, Massa helped unclog a centrifuge that separates liquid from solid toilet waste. He noticed a number of small plastic tubes caught up in there. "What in the world are those things?" he wondered aloud. "Those are tampon applicators," his petite, blond supervisor told him. He was flummoxed.

"As the oldest of four boys and the father of two sons," I'm just not familiar with those things," he laughed.

Waste not want not

Massa's first job involved working at a wastewater treatment plant in Knoxville, Tenn. He worked with an efficient, competent operator named Cindy who runs the entire plant by herself. She processes all the waste from the toilets in the area, which eventually ends up as sludge fertilizer for nearby fields. They sample the sludge and test it for bacteria levels, and go to great lengths to make sure that everything is shipshape, a term Massa appreciates as the result of his service as a U.S. Naval officer, where he spent a good deal of time on a nuclear submarine.

Cindy ran from task to task, and Massa became concerned when he found out she smoked. She said she was trying to quite, and that she values life, especially since her daughter was treated for a brain tumor at St. Jude's. When Massa revealed his true identity, he arranged for the company medical plan to cover all expenses for employees to quit smoking, and encouraged Cindy to take advantage of it. He also donated $10,000 to St. Jude's in her name, and set up a $5,000 education fund for her young grandson.

Next up, Massa worked with a bulldozer operator named Melvin, at a water treatment plant in Shawnee, Kansas. Their job was to clean out a lagoon where waste materials are collected, and load the solids on a truck so they can eventually be taken to farmers to use as fertilizer. Melvin spends a decent amount of time away from home at Synagro's various sites.

Massa was surprised to learn that some of these lagoons, or ponds, have alligators in them. And that's not the only hardship -- ironically, there are no port-a-potties on many of these sites, and workers have to drive away to use the facilities. In the end, Massa arranged for there to be bathroom facilities at all the Synagro sites, and he sent Melvin on an all-expenses paid vacation to Hawaii so he could spend some quality time with his wife.

Recoup the goop

job interviewFor his third assignment, Massa worked in the Back River Waste Water Treatment Plant in Baltimore, Md., converting the waste to pellets that Kirsta, Massa's supervisor, said she used in her garden when planting trees. Massa was particularly surprised when he found they didn't have recycling programs for employees' paper, bottles, and other recyclables in the break areas. After all, Synagro is all about recycling!

Krista told Massa she's a single mom, raising two boys ages 12 and 13, and they both want to be professional football players. After his big reveal, Massa arranged for Krista and her boys to attend all the Baltimore Ravens home games, and the Super Bowl if they make it. He also instigated a company-wide recycling program.

Finally, Massa worked at a wastewater treatment plant in Sparta, Wis., with Rick, a pressure hose operator who showed him how to clean a holding tank that hadn't been cleaned for years. There are different means of storing treated biosolids, and this particular facility stores it in a 2.2 million gallon sludge tank. Cleaning it can take weeks, and, since that facility was four hours away from Rick's home, he would only see his family on the weekends.

Rick said he travels all over the country performing specialized pressure hose duties, and seldom knows where he'll be working from one day to the next--he didn't even know if he'd be home for his birthday. He was considering leaving Synagro because of this. Massa wanted to keep this hard worker on the job, so he arranged for him to have all the high tech equipment necessary to stay in touch with his family, and also arranged to pay for a huge, blow-out birthday party for Rick.

Synagro is growing
AOL Jobs Asks
Undercover Boss Bill Massa
5 Quick Questions

1. What was your first job? Newspaper carrier.

2. What inspires you? Challenges.

3. What is the most important trait needed to succeed? Passion and commitment.

4. What is your biggest challenge? Balance.

5. What is the best career advice you ever received? Always keep learning and growing.

Synagro is one of the precious few companies that has continued to actually expand and hire. Their growth rate is rising, increasing by larger percentages every year. They currently have more than 860 employees in facilities operating in 34 states. One thing you can definitely count on is that humans will always produce waste -- and someone, somewhere, somehow has to process it.

Massa hadn't even been with the company a year when he went undercover, and the experience brought him up to speed quickly. He says he's now able to better appreciate not only the service his company provides, but also the employees who make that service possible.

Next: Top 10 Companies Hiring This Week

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Since the show itself desires not to respond...... are there any loyal "fans" of this (yet another) ridiculous reality show that can explain why Undercover Boss can't tell it's little story in the time allotted? Unless it's just SO important to the so-called story line that they hang everyone on until they get to see someone cry. Personally, I like CSI Miami.......... which NEVER starts at its appointed time slot, because Undercover Boss consistently runs past its little hour. And the makers of the show? Laughing all the way to the bank, since there's no need to pay writers for a reality show.

April 01 2011 at 9:58 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Roof Family

I used to be a turd dunker at the water filtration plant.

March 29 2011 at 5:57 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Hats off to Mr. Massa. Job well done!

March 29 2011 at 5:08 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Some of you people are total morons. My husband has worked for a waste water treatement plant as an electronis technician fro 15 years. Believe me, after everything comes into the plant it goes out very clean. The EPA has very very strict rules and it costs the city hundreds of thousands of dollars for stuff dumped into the river if something happens so don't think we are walking around absorbing poison when stuff is sold for anything. This stuff is cleaned up better than you clean your house. Sheesh, you would think you had more brains, but then you consider the sources and it is no wonder, dead babies, how moronic. Anything to get a rise out of someone.

March 29 2011 at 5:01 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply


March 29 2011 at 3:54 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Thats great that they treat there workers to some extras but what about the other workers that Work for them? They should get something like a raise or something.

March 29 2011 at 2:39 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

It is beyond me WHY any woman/young girl STILL doesn't know NOT to put tampons in the toilet! NO HOME TRAINING I GUESS!

March 29 2011 at 1:50 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

how long has this guy been doing this job ??? sense yesterday ..i've worked the sanitary district in chicago ..every thing comes thru that plant ...even dead black baby"s lets be real hear ....
and as for being green ..make me laugh some more ...they only remove the solid waste ...all the oil from the roads and chemicals that are in the water get dumped in to the river and that heads to the gulf , via the Mississippi ...the water would have to go thru a distilling proses to actually be clean ....

March 29 2011 at 1:30 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to mrskrip's comment

What did you ignore the white ones that came through? What a racist!

March 29 2011 at 1:51 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

In case you have never visited you local sewer treatment plant, here is a brief description of what to expect. All the effluent comes into the plant through a big sewer pipe. The first piece of equipment is a big grinder that would break up anything that could get into the sewer. Tree branches, dead bodies, etc. The second piece of equipment is a hugh settlement tank, where the sludge settles to the bottom for processing and the liquids are on the top. What is floating on top of this settlement tank is rubbers. Once you see this tank, you realize that there is a whole lot of screwing going on. It is unbelievable. Not only how many, but the size of the things. Anyway, a sweeping arm comes around and picks up anything floating on top and dumps it into a pile where a loader picks it up and takes it to an incinerator where it is burned. And it goes on from there through other processes and digesters and ends up as clean as a bag of manure. And, of course, sewer treatment plants use the sewer gas for fuel. They are the only perpetual motion machine.

March 28 2011 at 11:59 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

That show, explained why americans, are having health problems, that they shouldn"t have. They said they sold the driied sludge,(which came from everyones toilets) to factory farms, to grow our food. The troublle with that is everyone I know who is over 40, are taking perscription, and over the counter drugs. These drugs are eventually pooped out by everyone, and becomes this sludge. Also all those caustic toilet cleaners, are allso in that sludge. Heating it only dries it out. Since they are putting this sludge to grow our food, no wonder people are dying of e coli. Where is 60 minutes, on this story? (also cbs show).???????????????????

March 28 2011 at 11:56 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

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