Illinois GPD Onsite Permit Rules Are Outdated, Need Revising

Installer and pumper Rick Maguire calls the 200-gallon per bedroom regulation “excessive” with modern septic systems and reduced water usage

Illinois GPD Onsite Permit Rules Are Outdated, Need Revising

 The service crew includes, from left, Rory Rossi, Nick Watson, Kaden Gray, Steve Matli and Craig Jordon. The vacuum truck is a 2020 International with a 2500-gallon FlowMark aluminum tank and NVE 607 pump.

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In Snapshot, we talk to a member of a state, provincial or national trade association in the decentralized wastewater industry. This time we visit a member of the Onsite Wastewater Professionals of Illinois.

Name and title or job description: Rick Maguire, co-owner with wife Jane 

Business name and location: Maguire Wastewater Solutions, Virden, Illinois

Services we offer: Installation of all systems, pumping, service contracts, inspections, sewer jetting, sewer camera and utility locating.

Age: 58

Years in the industry: 34

Association involvement: I have been a member of the Onsite Wastewater Professionals of Illinois for 15 years. I was president 2010 through 2012 and have been president again for the last four years. 

Benefits of belonging to the association: Membership in OWPI allows us to provide input on code changes, stay in touch with current regulations, and meet great people in the industry.

Biggest issue facing your association right now: In 2014 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency took over handling surface discharging if the effluent went to the waters of the U.S. The process for filing for a permit typically took about 30 days. The U.S. EPA was only going to do it for five years so in 2019 the Illinois EPA took it over. Now the process takes anywhere from four to six months. It’s really hindered us. OWPI was active in trying to get the permits processed faster. It has gotten better but there’s still a lot of room for improvement.

Our crew includes: Jane Maguire, assistant general manager; Scott Connolly, operator; Steve Matli, service manager; Doug Bennett, installation manager, operator; Colean Smith, operations manager; Nick Watson, service tech, pump truck operator; Craig Jordon, service tech, pump truck operator; Rory Rossi, service tech; Aaron Lake, construction labor, pump truck operator; Kaden Gray, service tech; Justen Jorgenson, laborer; Skyler Maguire, administrative assistant.

Typical day on the job: I’m in the office one or two days a week and the rest of the time I’m in the field installing systems or sewers. When I had a heart attack two years ago, Doug Bennett, Steve Matli and Colean Smith stepped up and ran the business for a couple months. They did such a great job I let them continue in those positions. Now I’m more of an operator/laborer and try to stay away from the stress of the office work.

The job I’ll never forget: Doug and I were working on a project by a lake and lost a chlorine barrel. We set it out and it rolled downhill, hit the water and started floating away. We both ran like we were half nuts. We saw a boat at the neighbor’s and commandeered it. We jumped in the boat, paddled out and got the barrel. 

My favorite piece of equipment: Our Caterpillar 305 mini-excavator is great for getting into tight places. It’s also nice for any compaction issues we have installing systems.

Most challenging site I’ve worked on: At the Benton Coal Mine we ran into really wet and poor soils. We ended up having to plow the zone we were going to lay the sand on. We poured two big septic tanks in place because of the water table and proximity to buildings and duplex-paneled it out to a field that was comprised of eight different cells. We rotated the cells through a K‑Rain valve where we dosed 1 and 5, then 2 and 6, 3 and 7, 4 and 8 to spread it out. 

Oops, I wish I could take this one back: A contractor had installed a system at a multiple-duplex site that failed in about a year. They tried different things, but the ground just wouldn’t handle the effluent. It was bleeding all the time. We designed a newer system but tried to utilize the old aeration systems. We set lift stations behind them and then went to a low-pressure pipe system. Looking back, we probably should have just started from scratch instead of trying to save the customer some money. Another problem was, with a duplex scenario you’re dealing with renters who don’t really care what they do or don’t do and so we couldn’t control the water usage. We had a really hard time getting these existing units sealed. We got it under control after about three years. It was just one of those times where you’re trying to help some people and it winds up costing you a lot of time and money. But in the end we got it.

The craziest question I’ve been asked by a customer: “Can’t you just put a system in that breaks down the wipes?”

If I could change one industry regulation, it would be: Right now we design systems at 200 gpd per bedroom and I think that’s excessive. I think it should be more around 125 to 150. This number is antiquated in our code. OWPI is working on it but changing a law is a long process. 

Best piece of small business advice I’ve heard: You’ve got to take care of your employees. They are what this company is today. I started the company with a backhoe and dump truck as a one-man show but when you make the transition to having employees, you must trust them. They are the key to a successful business. Another bit of advice — before you walk away from a job, whether you made money or lost money, make sure it was done to the best of your ability and find employees that will do that. If you stand behind your work and do a good job, you’ll be successful. 

If I wasn’t working in the wastewater industry, I would: Drive quarter-mile race cars. I built my first car in high school. We had five kids and I told my wife when they were done with college I wanted to buy a car. So I did that and I race it at the track.

Crystal ball time – This is my outlook for the wastewater industry: The industry will continue to thrive as reuse systems become more important to protecting our natural resources. 

The technology regarding cleaner wastewater will launch a whole new landscape for soil treatment areas. 

I’m hopeful the younger generation will get involved in the industry. 

A lot of people are moving out of the cities and into rural America. 

With antibiotics and cleaning supplies going into the systems, maintenance is key. Typically people don’t want to take the time to maintain their systems and are happy to let someone else do it. 

The average system out there is probably 40 or 50 years old and is going to need to be replaced at some point. 


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