‘We All Saw a Need and Pitched In’

Illinois onsite contractors and suppliers make a difference in the lives of a family in need.
‘We All Saw a Need and Pitched In’
Jim Kneiszel

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Every now and then, the generous actions of contractors and manufacturers remind me that so many good people populate the onsite wastewater industry. And it happened again recently when I read about a handful of our people in western Illinois who pitched in to build a new septic system for a family left reeling by a rare and devastating disease.

I’d like to share their story, but not to boast about the individuals involved. The guys made it clear from the outset they are uncomfortable getting media attention for their good works. Rather, their story is a reminder of how any of us can have a huge positive impact on the world around us by donating a little of our time and talents. A day’s work on the mini-excavator and joining pipes together is routine for these hard workers, but it’s seen as an amazing gesture for those on the receiving end of the good deed.


Our story starts last winter with the Fisher family of Geneseo, Illinois: Dustin and Angie, and their two children, Jorden, 11, and Hailee, 5. According to the Dispatch-Argus newspaper in the nearby Quad Cities, Iowa, area, Angie is stricken with an illness that attacks her central nervous system and causes seizures. And both kids suffer from a rare genetic blood disease that makes them allergic to light, so they have to live in darkness or their skin and organs are damaged.

Dennis Sullivan, owner of Clean Earth Septic Service in Geneseo, didn’t know about the Fisher family’s medical challenges when he was called to their house to bid on an addition to their septic system. He was there to figure out how to connect a bathroom that is part of an addition to the house to the existing septic system.

A change in elevation between the addition and the existing septic system would have required a lift station, so Sullivan chose instead to add a separate, small septic system serving only the new bathroom, utilizing a 1,000-gallon tank and 300-foot of absorption field using ADS Ark 24 chambers.

While waiting to get a permit for the new system, Sullivan read a story about the Fishers. At that moment, he decided he would donate the $4,800 onsite system and reached out to his friends and partners in the industry for help. They all were quick to oblige.

Dustin DeKeyrel, owner of Triple D Excavating in Orion, Illinois, offered machines and manpower. Tom Anderson and Steve Elmer, of A & E Soil Consultants, Geneseo, provided the soils testing. Wilbert Vault Co. of Milan, Illinois, discounted the tank. And the men’s Bible study group at Heritage Church, where Sullivan is a member, helped out. Sullivan had the chambers, so he donated them along with other materials.


“It was one of those things where you just have to do something,” Sullivan recalls approaching DeKeyrel, who he often teams with on projects. “His guys were slow at that time of the year and I had the rest of the materials in inventory. I said ‘You furnish the manpower and machinery.’ We all saw a need and pitched in.”

The Fishers didn’t know about the donation. So Angie Fisher was surprised when she asked how much it would cost before the machines and crew showed up last December.

“It’s Christmastime and I don’t think you’re going to need any money,” he recalls telling her. Her gratitude was matched by the good feelings of everyone working on the project.

“You look at their health history and what’s going on with them, and it kind of makes you appreciate the health that you have,’’ Sullivan says. “There’s so many facets to having that disability that it just boggles the mind. There are so many things you take for granted and it’s just hard to envision.”

Sullivan, 69, started his business in 1995 when his own onsite system needed work and he became a licensed installer to complete the work. Previously, he was a union pipe fitter, and started the new career to make some extra money. He mostly pumps tanks and provides point-of-sale septic system inspections.

Sullivan says the job “wasn’t a big deal for us, but we got a bigger feeling of gratitude just knowing we did something to help.”

DeKeyrel says he and Sullivan were both thinking about donating their time to the family when Sullivan brought it up. The allergy to light and what the children were missing because of it struck DeKeyrel as particularly cruel.


“It’s one of those things that really hits you. I’ve got to be outside — that’s the reason I do what I do,” he says. “These poor kids, to go outside have to be covered up like it’s winter. They definitely need help. It’s been a strain on the whole family.”

DeKeyrel enlisted the help of his installing crew, Nathan Williams and Zach Brown, to complete the job. He started Triple D in 2001 to do construction site work, and septic installations have gradually grown into the biggest part of the business.

The onsite industry has been good to DeKeyrel, and he says it’s important to share that success with the community.

“The whole point of this is not just to make money. If we can give a little bit of that back, it’s perfect for me,” he says. “That’s what we’re here for, to help other people.”

The Fishers are planning to have a party this summer and invite all the folks who helped out with the project. Angie told the newspaper that the family is grateful for the donated system.

“I am so thankful for all the people who have helped us,” she said. “With all the bad going on in the world today, what a blessing it is to know there are people out there who care, and step up and make a difference.”


In this case, those people are our people. If you have a story to share about partnering with others in the onsite community to help a good cause or someone in need, I’d enjoy hearing about it. It’s refreshing to dwell on those “good news” stories and highlight the pride installers take in their profession.


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