By Frank Lewis
October 1, 2013
PDT Staff Writer
Portsmouth Wastewater Director Rick Duncan is Ohio’s newest Class IV operator. Duncan was notified by phone Friday, and then received the certificate on Tuesday. A fourth class license is not the result of a test, but instead is the submission of a large binder with the applicant’s history, knowledge and plans. For Duncan it is the end of a long wait and a lot of work.
“They recommend that you take at least a year to put it together,” Duncan said. “My submission was 300 pages. I submitted that in January (2013). They wanted some additional information which I submitted in March of this year. Then they wanted to meet me personally and ask me some additional questions, and I met with them in May. Then they wanted a little more information which I just got to them in August, and they approved my application at their September meeting.”
Duncan said passing the license has a wide-ranging impact.
“It is not a multiple choice test or any kind of a fill-in-the-blanks test. It’s not really a test as we would think of a test. It’s a documentation of my experience and my background in the wastewater industry. Their standard is, when they get what you give them, they feel confident that you can operate any Class IV wastewater plant in the state of Ohio. So that means I would be qualified to run any plant in Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati or Dayton,” Duncan said. “I could step in and I would be qualified by the state of Ohio to operate those plants. So they don’t just just based on Portsmouth. It’s based on any plant in Ohio. That’s why their standards are so high, and they’re very selective about it.”
Duncan said the Environmental Protection Agency only approves a handful of applications per year, and any applicant has only two chances. After that, they must start the process over. So, if he had been turned down this last time, he would have had to begin the process of filing his application over again.
Duncan has only been in wastewater operations for seven years, beginning as an engineer in the city of Detroit, Michigan’s wastewater plant, which is the largest wastewater plant in the world. He was there for two years. He was Public Utilities Director of the city of Portsmouth, but none of his work was at the wastewater plant.
During his seven years in the city’s wastewater treatment plant he has been working on full-time projects such as the Long Term Control Plan and flood defense issues.
“They (EPA) kept coming back with the question, ‘what is your operating experience?’ and that’s what I had to document,” Duncan said. “All my other background they were very satisfied with. But as far as how our plant is operated and our control processes and things like that, that’s where they thought I was lacking.”
The city of Portsmouth had been operating with an exemption from the rule that the plant must be operated by a Class IV operator allowing Duncan, at the time a Class III, operator to still run the plant while applying for his Class IV license. That will all change now.
“We are in full compliance,” Duncan said. “I just have to be there so many hours a month on duty, and we are fully compliant at the Portsmouth plant. Now that I have my IV, if I go on vacation I have somebody that steps in and fills in for me until I get back.”
“I think it’s awesome,” Portsmouth Mayor David Malone said. “He has worked at this for a while. It has been a really tough going the last couple of months, resubmitting the application, and to really get it done we’re just very excited for him.
Duncan smiled as he displayed his new fourth-class certificate.
“It feels very good,” Duncan. “It’s a relief.”
Portsmouth Wastewater Director Rick Duncan’s history:
1976-1981 - University of Cincinnati, College of Engineering, BS in Chemical Engineering
1981-1985 - Goodyear Atomic Corporation (now USEC) in Piketon
1986-1997 - Director of Public Utilities/City Engineer in Portsmouth
2001-2003 - Detroit Wastewater Partners/Ribway Eneginnering in Detroit, Michigan
2003-2004 - Toledo Waterways Initiative/Ribway Engineering in Toledo, Ohio
2005-2009 - Director of Wastewater in the city of Portsmouth (Duncan was fired by then Mayor Jane Murray on her first day in office in January of 2010)
Jan. 2010-Feb. 2011 - Project Engineer for Innovative Solutions in Piketon
2011-present - Director of Wastewater for the city of Portsmouth
Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 252, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. For breaking news, follow Frank on Twitter @FrankLewisPDT.