David Meints, owner of Meinco Waste Water, went back to college at age 42. He’d started Meinco in 1996, and the business has grown steadily since. But then in 2006, the state rules and regulations for wastewater systems changed.

Meinco provides several different options for wastewater systems, all dependent on the location’s soil. “If a person buys five acres, and they want to build a home on it, we can’t do it if the soil won’t take the water,” David explained. At the time, the Arkansas Department of Health provided basic training for wastewater system designers, like David. They were taught how to read the soil and when they couldn’t use it. “And that’s it,” David said. “There was really no why. I didn’t understand why.” Two years later, David found himself standing on a job site with a couple who’d bought the land for their home. “His name was Charles,” David shared. “And I told them they were going to need a $15,000 septic system. I saw both of them start to cry. And they asked me why. And I said, ‘I really don’t know besides the soil’s not good.’ And I had to look away. I had to look down.”

He called the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. He explained he had no science background, just a degree in business management–and a degree in life.“I was sitting on a
distribution box on Harrison Road, talking to Dr. Brye at the University of Arkansas,” David said. “He let me in the program.” With their children out of the house, David’s wife, Rene, encouraged him to go. “I went back to school in 2012,” David said. “I lived on campus in a campus dorm room. I did that for one whole year and I got enough credits.”

His professional soil classifier’s exam required 15 more undergraduate credits. After the year in Fayetteville, David passed the test. He worked as a soil classifier in training for two years while continuing to work the business. He soon realized he wasn’t done. “I went home, and I was sitting on the couch, thinking how I really liked school,” David said. So he went back for his Masters degree. “It took me five years to get 26 more hours,” David shared. “There was some online, some done by traveling to Fayetteville.” David finished his classes and research in May of 2019. He defended his thesis for three hours in front of six doctors, earning his Masters in Crop, Soil, and Environmental Sciences.

Then one of those doctors called him and invited him to speak at the university this fall. And his thesis will be published in the Journal of Environmental Science. “I’d just wanted to be recognized as someone who knew what he was talking about,” David said. “I got what I asked for.”

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